Vail’s Gros family and Vista Bahn Ski Rentals celebrate 40 years
April 10, 2017
Vista Bahn Ski Rentals
278 Hanson Ranch Road
Vail, CO 81657
VAIL — For 40 years Joel and Jane Gros' Vista Bahn Ski Rentals has outlasted lift changes, name changes, and ownership changes of The Company in our Company Town.
They're still there. Actually, Joel and Jane travel all across the world. Joel recently climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and they remodeled a house in France. Their kids, Sacha and Dominique, have been running Vista Bahn Ski Rentals for a decade.
"They're not here, doing this. They have us for that," Dominique said, smiling.
That's not new, either. There's is a photo of two-year old Sacha working on skis in the shop, and another of Dominique doing the same at a similar age. Those three adorable blonde boys bouncing around are their sons: Sacha's and Emily's Gage, 4, and Remi, 6; and Dominique's and Matthew's Blaise, 9 months old. With any luck and a little planning, the family will still be there for 40 more years.
By the way, three generations is the norm at Vista Bahn Ski Rentals. Grandma Marguerite, Jane and Sacha worked the shop in those early days, before Dominique was born. Both she and Sacha took naps under the tuning table. Along with the shop, Joel worked as a ski instructor, because then, as now, working one job is for slackers.
"We love our location," Dominique said.
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Sacha had the very good sense to marry Emily, who's a jet pilot by trade. Dominique married Matthew Underhill and they have a son, 9-month old Blaise. Matthew is the head men's FIS coach for Ski & Snowboard Club Vail.
Their sons are not ski racing — yet.
"We'll let them choose what they want to do," Sacha said, as Dominique laughed.
Dominique spent 10 years on a snowboard before returning to skis. "I think my dad died a little inside," Dominique said, grinning.
The good stuff never changes
Things change during four decades.
The shop is named Vista Bahn Ski Rentals after North America's first high-speed detachable quad lift, which used to run a few yards from their door. Vail's Gondola One is there now. Chair 1 is gone. Former Vail Associates owner Henry Bass is gone. George Gillett is still a local fixture, but not with the ski company.
But the good stuff never changes, and through it all the Gros clan quietly goes about the business of taking good care of people — both customers and staff.
Customer service, for example, stems from having been in the business since they were children, and from keeping the staff together season after season. Jake Dippy has been with them a couple years. He's their newest employee. Like Dominique and Sacha, he grew up here.
"Everyone has worked here previous years," Dominique said.
Most of the time Sacha and/or Dominique are in the shop.
"We still get along," Dominique said, smiling.
They chat easily about growing up in Vail — "Bavarian Mayberry" — about 40 years in business, about success, about life. In between, people wander up to the counter. They've lost their keys, they need help with some boots, they need … all the stuff customers need. Even though they're doing all sorts of things all the time, Dominique, Sacha and their staff look their customers right in the eye, smile, and handle business quickly. Vail Mountain is right outside and their customers want to be out there.
Fun with Jane and Joel
Joel is French and Jane is English, so of course they met in Australia. They landed in the U.S. with $40 in their pockets, when Joel got a job as a rep for Look ski bindings. His territory covered Michigan to California.
They wanted someplace centrally located. Jane migrated to Vail and landed an administrative job with the ski company. Joel joined her after he came off the road, calling on ski areas and shops around the western U.S. as a Look rep.
"They liked it, so they stayed," Sacha said.
Joel and Jane started Colorado Ski Service in Vail's Crossroads building, where Solaris is now. Not long after, they took a chance and bought the space they currently occupy — the last stop before you head up Vail Mountain. They didn't have any money, so they borrowed it from friends and acquaintances.
"My mom thought my dad was crazy," Sacha said, shaking his head slightly and grinning.
"She still does," smiled Dominique.
"To this day my dad still asks my mom, 'Hey, do you think I should have bought that space?'" Sacha said, smiling.
Astronaut Scott Kelly is a regular. So is Ross Perot and his extended family. Richard Dean Anderson, TV's MacGyver, is around. Former NFL defensive tackle Anthony Tony "Goose" Siragusa was loose in there last week.
The celebrity-customer list is long and illustrious, but the staff doesn't make any more of a fuss about notables than they do anyone else.
"They're here to ski, just like everyone," Dominique said.
"We try to be mellow about it," Sacha said.
Sacha's also famous
Sacha is also famous, of course. He's a former U.S. Ski Team member and World Cup racer.
You'll remember him as a forerunner and flag bearer for the 1989 World Alpine Ski Championship, and as a racer for the 1999 World Alpine Ski Championships.
A member of the U.S. Ski Team at the time, Sacha competed in the World Championships combined and slalom, putting on a great show for the local fans in the slalom, which was held in Vail on Lindsey's run, then called International.
"I'll never forget that feeling, coming over International and seeing the whole crowd in Vail in the bleachers," Sacha said this week. "My family was in the stands; it was awesome."
Dominique was 14 at the time.
"It was a very special moment for our family," she said.
"Having my parents' ski shop right there was awesome," said Sacha. "It was our home, right there. It was 20 feet away from the finish line. I went in, changed, unbuckled my boots, then came back out to take everything in and appreciate what it was."
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and email@example.com.
Vista Bahn Ski Rentals
278 Hanson Ranch Road
Vail, CO 81657