The Growth of Steamboat Ski and Bike Kare

Steamboat Ski and Bike Kare has been a facet of the community for over 20 years.  What started off as one man’s dream has evolved to become the epicenter for ski and bike gear in Steamboat Springs.  The store started off as a tiny shop over on 11th street.  It now has arguably the best location in downtown Steamboat, and on the mountain.  The efforts of Mike Parra (co-owner) to push Harry Martin (co-owner) to dream bigger sparked new business opportunities for the duo.

Back when the store was on 11th street, Ski and Bike Kare had a cult following.  There was a small customer base and it was hard for Harry to attract new customers.  Growth over the years was slow, but steady.  The customers that Ski and Bike Kare did acquire became loyal very fast. Customer service has always been the main focus for Harry Martin. Treating customers right is the first step of any successful business; many local customers of Ski and Bike Kare can attest to this. There is a reason that customers have been going to Harry for boot work every year since the store’s original opening.  Unfortunately with a location on the edge of town it was hard to prove to anyone other than locals that Ski and Bike Kare was the best shop in town, that is until Mike Parra came into the picture.

Mike came to Steamboat around 2001. His plan was to become a ski instructor and live the casual Steamboat life style that was lacking from his life in Dallas.  He got his family settled and enrolled his son Josh into Winter Sports Club. Anticipating becoming a ski bum, he ordered all the gear required, unfortunately a key piece of equipment would not be arriving in time for his son to begin skiing.  The ski boots that he had ordered for his son were behind schedule and would not be delivered until after winter sports club had officially started. Desperate to find boots before snow hit, Mike searched around Steamboat for a good boot fitter. Through word of mouth he happened to find Harry at Steamboat Ski and Bike Kare.  After fitting Josh with the proper pair of boots, Mike attempted to pay Harry, but he refused the money. Harry didn’t think it fair for Mike to have to buy two pairs of ski boots, so he insisted that Mike pay after he had returned the first pair of boots. Fortunately for Harry, Mike showed up after he had returned the boots and paid for the new ones.

A few weeks later and a few days before starting his new job as a ski instructor, fate struck Mike Parra. Literally days into his first ski season as a local, Mike broke his leg. Unable to work and unable to ski with his family, Mike became bored out of his mind. He is the type of person who likes to keep busy, but his broken leg kept him fairly restricted. He remembered how friendly Harry was down at Ski and Bike Kare and decided to hangout there for the day. This became routine and he was there almost every day while in his cast. The two hit it off and became very close friends. After watching Harry work with his loyal customers and familiarizing himself on the all of the ski gear in his shop, Mike decided he would work for Harry. He wanted to learn more about the business and wanted to hang out more with his new BFF.

After working in the shop for a little over a year Mike couldn’t stand it anymore. He thought Harry was the most friendly business owner he had ever met. Why did he have so few customers when he was so deserving of running a wildly successful business? Mike decided that Harry needed to expand his horizons and focus on a bigger goal; he believed it was an injustice that someone with such excellent customer service couldn’t reach a bigger audience.

Harry on the other hand was content with the current growth of the store. He knew that he wanted to open another location, but this required working with a good partner. He had different business relationships in the past, none of which worked out very well. He was on the hunt for a new partner when he met Mike. After moving to Colorado from New Jersey, Harry dreamed of becoming a ski-bum. He worked in a few different ski shops in Steamboat and in Jacksonhole, WY. Soon after being promoted from rental tech. to boot fitter to manager, his new goal was to own his own ski shop. He did not dream of building a huge brand, he simply wanted to run a business while spending as much time on the mountain as possible. Luckily for Mike he was easily persuaded. “If you had a better location, you could be much more successful,” Mike would preach. 

After two ski seasons spent together the pair finally agreed to become partners. Mike became co-owner shortly after the mountain’s closing day in 2003. They spent the spring planning and in the summer of 2003 they bought land and began construction of the new Ski and Bike Kare. This location moved the business 6 blocks into town and directly onto main street. The grand opening was on June 28th 2004. After that the business grew over night. All of the previous customers had room to stretch out, and for the first time since it’s opening, Ski and Bike Kare saw foot traffic like never before.

Today, Ski and Bike Kare has two thriving locations, both in the heart of Steamboat Springs. Currently the business employs 32 incredible staff members and has won numerous Best of the Boat awards. The customer service has always been the driving factor behind Ski and Bike Kare. Customer service was the number one priority in 1995 when it’s doors first opened and it will continue to be the business’ competitive edge no matter how much larger it becomes.

Did you know this story? Let us know what you think about it in the comments section.

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Author: Foster Martin

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9 thoughts on “The Growth of Steamboat Ski and Bike Kare

  1. Harry is amazing. Both our sons worked for him and we keep threatening we’re going to come begging for jobs. He is fair, honest and treates ALL his customers in the manner he would like to be treated. Cannot say enough good tihngs about him. Way to go Harry!!!!

  2. I’ve worked at six ski shops in my 32 seasons in the ‘boat. I’ve worked for Harry the last twelve of those. There are many reasons why Ski &Bike Kare is the best. Harry is the main one.

  3. I worked at a couple shops in Steamboat before working with Harry. The things I learned and the fun I had are two of the most important things I preach to my own employees at the shop I run now!

  4. Harry and Mike are a great pair. I talked Mike into moving to Steamboat when he was exiting the car business and am thankful for these 2 uniting for a common purpose. I am also very pleased with the author and his skills. I have never seen Harry look as nice as Foster does in the picture. Great work Foster! Ski and Bike care has a great history and is still going strong.

  5. Love Ski and Bike. My son also worked there when it first opened in the new location. He also would hang out in the old location when he was little as it was only two blocks from our house. A great place with two great owners. So glad they got together and made it such a success.

  6. Wow. Just read this blog for the first time. I must say, I agree 100%. I was a fan of Harry’s when he was on 11th St. I had boot issues and he was way above and beyond the competition as far as customer service. I was hooked. Then when he hired Rich as his bike guy, it was like winning the lottery. I’ve followed Rich around for years, as he was the best mechanic in town. Still am loyal to them today, as all the employees are great. Just took my bike in for an issue I was having, and they fixed me up on the spot! Thanks Ski and Bike Kare!

  7. As the father of three sons who competed with the SSWSC – starting in 1996 – we have been fans and customers of Harry and Steamboat ski and bike for two decades (yikes!), although even then we thought he was part of the essential fabric of the town. It is amazing to think how young his business was back then, We have had great experiences there time and time again, and, now that i think about it, have NEVER had a bad experience there. Great article, thanks for sharing, and thank you Harry and Mike for providing such a great service and business.

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