Photos courtesy Fanatyk Co
Cold feet suck.
So do painful feet, and for the past 20 years Whistler’s Fanatyk Co ski shop has been doing their best to help Whistler skiers avoid both.
“A good boot can make or break your entire ski vacation,” says Fanatyk Co co-founder Kevan Kobayashi. “It’s important if you are skiing every day all winter but it’s probably more important if you only ski one week a year or ten days a year, because then you definitely don’t want to waste time with sore or cold feet.”
Kobayashi and friend Scott Humby opened Fanatyk Co for the 1996-97 season and for two decades the shop has been a true locals’ favourite: they were voted “Best Ski Shop” in the annual Best of Whistler poll from the local Pique Newsmagazine with staff member Kevin Ahearn winning “Best Boot Fitter” in a very competitive category.
“We have great support staff,” says Ahearn, who has been working at Fanatyk Co since 1999. “All our boot fitters are excellent. It’s just great to be working with and for your friends. The owners and staff are all here for same reasons as everyone else– have a great time in a great place with a great bunch of people.”
Of course, as is often the case in business, today’s success comes from the hard work and trials of the past. “Just because you are a good boot fitter or bike mechanic doesn’t mean you know how to run a business,” laughs Kobayashi, who adds that they hired all their best boot fitting or bike mechanic friends and went from there.
‘The first winter was hard,” Humby agrees. “We had to buy product from a store back east looking to get rid of old stock. None of the lines we wanted to carry would sell to us because they didn’t want to upset their other, larger, client in town.”
A few years into their venture Kobayashi and Humby brought employee Bruce Pegram in as an owner. “He was our first employee and he was integral,” Humby says.
“We got drunk in Vegas and sold him 1/3 share for a dollar,” Kobayashi adds. It was a decision both original owners agree was the right one. After a decade of grinding it out, Fanatyk Co found their groove with strong local support and a premonition of what was about to happen in mountain biking –they sold some of the first full suspension bikes in Whistler and had the first rental fleet of downhill mountain bikes in the world.
Flashback!!: Kevan Kobayashi (left) and Scott Humby (right) translated their extreme 80s energy into one of Whistler’s favourite local shops.
These days they’re turning away brands that used to be on their wish list and the winter focus is freeride, freeski, boot fitting and making sure their customers are met by solid, knowledgeable staff. “Our team are lifers,” Kobayashi says. “They love Whistler, own houses here, and they aren’t going anywhere else. Our average staff stay is 8 or 9 years and that is important because every foot is different and it’s hard to put the right boot on someone if you don’t have the experience.”
“Our philosophy is just to find a way to help our customers have a better experience with the winter,” Humby adds. “If they can enjoy a day without being cold and sore, or if they link turns for the first time in a place they couldn’t before, that is a win for everyone.”
It’s hard to argue with that.
Extreme is possible anywhere with the right boot fit.