When skiers and snowboarders flock to the annual Labor Day weekend clearance sales this weekend at Christy Sports and Epic Mountain Gear, they will be continuing a Colorado tradition that goes back to 1954 and the first Gart Brothers “Sniagrab” sale.
Sniagrab was born that year after owner Jerry Gart wrote the word “bargains” on a breakfast napkin while on a business trip and then noticed what it spelled when flipped upside down. Sniagrab would soon become synonymous with big savings on ski gear.
“It was a big deal for the family,” recalled Ken Gart, whose father died in 1996. “When I was a young man, I was responsible to make sure we had the best stuff. It was all 40 percent off, minimum.”
Eager customers would camp out overnight at the Gart Brothers Sports Castle on Broadway, built in 1970 and touted as the first big-box specialty retail store in America. Lines would form around the block, always attracting attention from newspapers and TV stations.
“My dad would be there early the next morning,” Gart said. “He would let the line grow and grow and grow, because it was kind of exciting, and then we would let people in, a limited number at a time. We would really work hard to make sure those first people got what they wanted. Even if we didn’t have it, we would find it for them to make sure they were thrilled, so they would go tell others and continue to build the reputation.”
The Sniagrab name went away in 2016 when Sports Authority, which had taken over Gart Sports, went bankrupt. The tradition continues to thrive, though. Christy Sports and Epic Mountain Gear will hold their sales concurrently, Sept. 2-11, both promising discounts of up to 60%. Larson’s Ski & Sport in Wheat Ridge will hold its annual sale Sept. 2-5.
Christy Sports will run its Powder Daze sale at three locations: the Littleton Event Center, which is located near Southwest Plaza, plus its stores in Dillon and Vail. Season gear rental packages start at $159 for kids and $229 for adults. At the Littleton store only, customers will be able to purchase exclusive Christy Kids junior bundles, which combine a junior season rental package and junior ski passes starting at $279 for Loveland and $339 for Monarch. Representatives of Ikon Pass, Winter Park, Arapahoe Basin, Loveland, Steamboat, Monarch and Sunlight will be present at the Littleton store, selling exclusive pass deals.
Epic Mountain Sports announced a new name this week for its Labor Day sale: The Epic Drop. Participating Epic stores are located in Westminster, Aurora, Boulder, Littleton, Park Meadows, Colorado Springs and Frisco. Epic will be selling gear for kids as part of its Junior Trade Program, which allows parents to buy gear for their children with the guarantee that when the kids outgrow it, they can apply 50% of the original purchase price toward the purchase of bigger sizes. Epic Pass skiers and riders also are reminded that the price of Epic Pass products will increase after Labor Day.
Because the Labor Day ski sales involve selling inventory left over from previous years to make room for this year’s lines, the quality of the sale from year to year can be dependent on how business went the previous year. Christy’s Powder Daze sales in 2020 were online-only because of the pandemic, and sales were strong last year when the event returned to an in-person experience. Christy Sports chief executive Matt Gold said skiers and riders will find plenty of discounted gear this year.
“We’re in a good spot,” Gold said. “Last year’s event was a new record for us. Given growth and the energy behind winter and outdoor (retail), we had the inventory to fuel it. We have really stayed on the front foot, wanting to inspire our customers with the best gear, the best selection, with what is right for them in our merchandising and our buying. So even though we had a great season last year, we bought aggressively for it, and our inventory position is healthy. We have as much to fuel this year’s event as we had for last year.”
Gold said customers often are surprised at how inexpensive its season-rentals packages are. He considers them investments intended to turn new skiers and snowboarders into loyal customers, which harkens back to the Gart Brothers’ philosophy of previous generations.
“If their experience and their service with us is great, and they have a blast in these sports, they will be loyal, passionate customers for life,” Gold said. “People ask me, ‘How can you do that? That’s too cheap.’ I say, ‘This is how we can do it and why we do it.’ It’s all really intentional and makes sense.”