BEST OUTDOORS SHOP
Early on, Outdoor Gear Exchange might have earned a rep as a place to find lightly used camping gear at bargain prices, but it’s now one of the largest and most highly trafficked shops in the Northeast—and expanding. This year, in addiiton to being named overall Best Outdoors Shop, OGE was also a runner-up for Best Ski Shop, Best Bike Shop and Best Snowboard Shop.
In January, the Burlington shop announced it would be taking over the space on Church Street formerly owned by Panera. That will allow it to grow by 20 percent, giving it even more space for bikes and skis and allowing OGE to display the new lines it recently took on from The North Face and Osprey.
The shop always has something going on: hosting talks on backcountry skiing and riding, doing off-site demos on anything from mountain bikes to ice climbing and has become a leader in the outdoor community. Spurred by owner Marc Sherman’s advisory role in the Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative (VOREC), in January the governor announced a partnership with OGE that will make loaner camping gear available at five state parks. OGE is not alone. Umiak Outdoor Outfitters spends as much time getting people to learn new sports, demo equipment and try new adventures (have you done an “adventure sledding tour”?) as it does simply selling kayaks, SUPs, clothing and outdoor gear at its Stowe and Richmond (summer only) retail shops.
In southern Vermont, The Mountain Goat, the Manchester shop that’s been locally-owned and managed by cyclists/hikers and adventurers Anne and Ron Houser for 30 years, plays an equally key role in its community. Just five minutes from the Appalachian Trail, the shop specializes in everything you need for hiking, from custom footbeds to snowshoes. 1. Outdoor Gear Exchange 2. Umiak Outdoor Outfitters 3. The Mountain Goat
BEST SKI SHOP
You would expect that Skirack would live up to its name. And it does. But what you might not expect is the deep, deep level of knowledge and service that this shop offers—and the gear to go with it. Take bootfitter Doug Stewart. He’s not only a pro bootfitter who will give you honest advice on what you need or don’t need, he’s also a PSIA Examiner and on the Eastern Tech Team (meaning, he’s one of the people who teaches other ski instructors). Ryan Rubino has reviewed gear for Powder. There’s Allison Kozar and a posse of MasterFit-certified boot fitters. The cross-country department, sometimes an afterthought at other shops, is as important in the winter as the bike shop is in the summer and the Wintersteiger Race NC grind machine is the place many of the top local skiers go for ski tunes. Sure, many shops will carry the latest and greatest gear, but Skirack specializes in helping you figure out what’s best for you. 1. Skirack 2. Outdoor Gear Exchange 3. Alpine Shop
BEST SNOWBOARD SHOP
You also might expect Burton to come in as the No. 1 snowboard shop in the state. After all, its giant headquarters features their latest gear and technology, sometimes before it’s available elsewhere. But it’s Darkside (the shop which carries everything from Burton, to Rome, to Yes Greats boards and a huge inventory of clothing and accessories) that earned this honor from our readers. Bill and Teeta Langlands opened the first Darkside in Killington in 1989. Darkside’s access road location now has a lit Dark Park behind it for snowboarding and, in summer, skateboarding events. The shop has since expanded with outlets on the access roads to Stowe and Okemo and is an official Burton retailer. 1. Darkside 2. Burton 3. Outdoor Gear Exchange
BEST BIKE SHOP
This year Earl’s Cyclery and Fitness was voted the best bike shop in the state. Earl’s has been around for more than 60 years and while other shops have diversified, Earl’s has stayed true to its core sport: cycling in all its forms, from bikepacking and fatbiking to road racing and triathlons. With a practice mountain bike track out back, demos and a good spread of fitness machines (ranging from spin bikes and ellipticals), it’s the shop where anyone who’s serious about cycling stops in at some point. Each spring, the shop hosts a legendary bike swap (May 5-6) and Tuesday night rides run from May through September, led by shop’s own team of star riders. Last summer, it also introduced a new, free pick-up and drop-off service for those who don’t have time to bring their bike into the shop.
New to the rankings, Green Mountain Bikes, in the tiny town of Rochester, earned third place in our reader rankings and has been instrumental in working with RASTA to help build out trails in the area. 1. Earl’s Cyclery and Fitness 2. Skirack 3. Green Mountain Bikes