Crystal’s RDL (Rossignol/Dynastar/Lange) shop at the summit of the mountain is one of a kind. Not only is the concept unique, but the design is special. And the location, below the top terminal of the gondola–essentially within the working structure of the lift–is spectacular.
First a little history. A few years ago, John, Martin Rand and I found ourselves in Chamonix in the shoulder season after a Haute Route trip. It was raining, and we decided to go into every ski shop in town, ready to be wowed. We figured that retailers would fill the valley with their best designs and products; we assumed we’d find something new, perhaps an idea we could take home to Crystal with us. One shop had turned local topo maps into wallpaper; another retailer used a rotating photograph to illuminate their back wall; all the shops had excellent signs above their doors.
But we weren’t wowed.
Not so say that shopping for gear in Chamonix isn’t a great experience on a rainy day. We just realized that nothing new was being done in retail there.
Over a rainy lunch in a deserted fondue restaurant, John suggested we choose one brand to showcase in our summit shop, while offering the remainder of the fleet in the base area shop. We talked about a ski museum feel and a disco concept and threw in a little industrial gondola mechanism talk. An idea for the world’s coolest retail and demo shop was born.
Then Martin Rand took the idea and ran a marathon with it.
Martin came to us from a long history as a boot fitter and retailer at Sturtevants Ski Shop. Crystal needed a boot fitter and Martin needed to live closer to the slopes. It was a natural fit. His first project was to build the Bootworks, which has already grown into the Mountain Shop, a bootfitting, ski demo and retail shop. Now you can demo a pair of skis, fall in love with them and buy them right on the spot. Meanwhile, you can get custom footbeds and Intuition liners and walk out with the best fitting boots you’ll ever put on your feet.
But Martin’s dream/marathon wasn’t complete yet. He wanted to build and design a one-of-a-kind demo center at the top of mountain. And the basement of the Mt. Rainier Gondola’s top terminal seemed just the place. In a few short months, Martin took the space from a window-less dirt-floored storage room to the coolest shop around.
Thanks to a close relationship with Tim Petrick, President of Rossignol North America, Martin and John chose Rossi, and the brands under the name, Dynastar and Lange, as the hardgoods. You can test out the very latest these brands have to offer without ever having to leave the upper mountain. In fact, Dynastar’s much touted Cham line for next season will be available at the RDL next month, the very first place in the world you can try out these skis.
The interior of the RDL Center mixes industrial metals, killer graphics, ski manufacturing hardware and the work of local artists to create quite possibly the coolest ski shop ever built. Yes, I’m biased. But this place is amazing. An actual Lange boot mold hangs in the window. Real ski molds line the walls next to the very skis that were shaped in them. Original silk screens used to make skis hang on the ceiling. Down the center of the room the shaft of the Gondola is set in concrete, and above it the ceiling tilts to one side to match the shape of the upper terminal.
A television on one wall will allow those that just demoed a Contour POV helmet cam to watch their video while sitting on a couch with friends. The far wall has stair-stepping variegation showcasing photographs that change as you move around the room.
In addition to skis and snowboards, you can also demo boots, helmets, goggles and helmet cams. For those of you that still sport a pair of scratched goggles from the 90s, now’s your chance to try out some new optics. It’s a foggy day? Come into the RDL and try a new pair of goggles. Believe me, it’s a whole new world.
The future is bright for the RDL. I see private parties and events, aprés ski hangouts, POV movie viewing and of course, fire dancing.
Don’t take my word for it. Come into the RDL and see for yourself. Tomorrow the graphics go in and a Grand Opening party, complete with a fire dancer!, will go off next month.
While you’re in there, give Martin and his crew a high-five. These guys really pulled it off. Thanks especially to Martin, Scott, Sharon, Aaron, Joel, Jesse, Erin, Kyle, Damon and Anna. Way to go guys. Bravo.
Now bring on the fire dancing.