Local business turns 50

Above, Eric Burt, owner and manager of the shop, standing in front of merchandise in the mid-1980s when the store moved to Villa Mall very close to its present location just north of U.S. Highway 160 on the west edge of Alamosa.

ALAMOSA —  If running your ski equipment sale and service operation out of a closet-sized space is not your complete choice in a method of maintaining the life of a business, then the upcoming 50th anniversary celebration of Kristi Mountain Sports at slightly larger base is probably a little easier to understand.

Focus information from longtime owner and manager Eric Burt helped this writer, a late spring and summer resident and visitor to the San Luis Valley prior to 2009, more clearly understand the shop’s extensive personality.  It was exclusively a ski shop in the beginning, “open only seasonally from October to April.” As inventory variety and length of open time expanded, he added, “we experimented with water ski equipment — not boat equipment — for a few summers before the bike opportunity came up. In our industry we are considered to be a ‘specialty sports outdoor retailer’ and not primarily a bike shop or ski shop.”

For all of the mountain bicycling, ski equipment and practical clothing fans visiting the store during the next few weeks, their eyes might have been opened when it started under different ownership in 1969. What had grown into Eric and Lisa Burt’s family owned business didn’t even offer the customers a chance to buy a bicycle.

As a high school student and graduate of Alamosa High School, the primary interest of Mr. Burt was ski racing, so after working in his father’s tire store and also at Baskin-Robbins ice cream outlet in those years, the foundation of today’s store took place when he began to work with the late Jerry Peek maintaining and helping sell ski equipment in a small “closet-sized” space west of the present Safeway store location.

Prior to Burt’s involvement, the original very small spot was in El Cids, a men’s clothing outlet in downtown Alamosa where pub and eatery St. Ives, 719 Main is located, the north side of the street. A second location was in the rear of a no longer in business Alamosa Sporting Goods, on the north and east side of the intersection of Highway 285 and Highway 160.

Mr. Burt summarized that the tire store and Baskin Robbins were in the summers, “while working the winters for Jerry Peek.”

In a tragic occurrence in July 1983, Peek was killed in a motorcycle accident. However, Burt, then only 19 years old, “knew the operation” and with help from his family, chose to purchase the business from the Peek’s estate officially on Oct.15, 1983, and with “orders already were in place” and “tons of snow at regional ski areas such as Wolf Creek, got through that first winter.”

At the point Burt began working for Peek, the business was run out of a third spot, just west of the current Safeway, near where Campus Cafe operates.

Having operated from the tiny location, and having met and soon marrying his future and present wife, Lisa, events got even more complicated. With both having backgrounds in running small, locally owned businesses, they decided in his words “to move, as the store had run out of space.”

So in the winter of 1984, the operation moved to the Villa Mall on the west edge of Alamosa on Highway 160, at the front of where the Valley Food Co-Op existed for many years.

Bicycles came into playing a part in Kristi Mountain Sports in 1986, when two operators of a bike shop, Hobart “Hobie” Dixon and Alan McFadden subleased part of Burt’s facility. Before leasing, they had run their shop, Cool Sunshine Bike Shop, out of a garage for a couple of years, Dixon said. He already knew the Burts, having a purchased a pair of ski boots from them.

About that time, what had been an October-April ski parts and services entity had expanded its hours to do business in the summer, as well. Although changes in design and technology were just taking place that introduced mountain biking to masses of customers, bicycling then was much more seasonally restricted. Almost needless to say, it was prior to the 2 1/2- to 4 1/2-inch bicycle tire era.

The Cool Sunshine only operated “about a year” Mr. Burt said, but he envisioned its potential. He and his wife Lisa then made bicycles’ sales and services part of what was already ongoing.

Stressing the variety of focuses in the business is very important to the Burt family. If as a customer can remember all that is offered, the reader is a step ahead of the that reporter.

The www.KristiMountainSports.com website relates: “Since 1969, Kristi Mountain Sports has been the SLV’s premier location for all your biking, hiking, camping, skiing, snowboarding and sandboarding needs. We are a classic ‘Mom and Pop’ outdoor shop that values your business and strives to provide quality service to all of our customers.”

As this account shows, pretending the 50 years has been a magical success is not realistic.

The website advises, “Please note our Del Norte location is no longer in business.” Operated from 2017 through early 2019, the outlet just did not bring in enough revenue to reasonably justify a continued presence. However, the determination to succeed as a locally owned operation in what is — and can be — a very tough business environment in the SLV is a very favorable testament.

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