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Bob Greenwood

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Earlier this month, Greenwood's Ski Haus celebrated five decades in the ski business. From the first days of the T-bar and chairlifts to current science of the ski, Greenwood's has changed with the industry step by step. Founder Bob Greenwood retired in the mid-80s, passing the torch to include his son John, among a handful of others. The current owners, Carrie and Jeff Lewerenz, took over in 2002. BW chatted up Greenwood to find out what his first pair of skis was, how he feels about snowboarders and whether or not the changes in skiing have been for the better.

What is the Greenwood's story?

Well, we started in 1957 and have slowly grown every year. I started in the ski business working at another store. But I sensed that skiing was growing at the time, and I decided to start my own [store], and it's just kept growing and kept growing ever since. That's it; it's very simple. There's a pictorial history in the store for people to go in and see.

Can you remember the first pair of skis you ever sold?

Well, yeah, I sold them at another store. The first pair of skis I sold [in my store] was a pair from Norway called Gresvig. It's not even in business anymore to my knowledge. They came in from a big store in Seattle, Osborn & Ulland. And I also sold those same skis when I worked at a store called C&S Sports Equipment on 10th and State, which is now Idaho Sporting Goods. I worked there from 1950 to about 1957. In August is when I left there and started [Greenwood's] in October 1957.

What was the toughest part of the ski business?

The toughest part was that you used to have to order everything a year in advance, and you never knew if it was going to snow or not, or if you were going to get enough snow or if it would be a good enough season. You were always pretty sure you could sell some of it, but it's like you're farming a crop, and if it doesn't rain, your crop doesn't grow. It's the same basic concept. And, of course, the farmer used to have the government bail 'em out, but you'd never have that in the ski business. You have to run your own business.

What's your best Greenwood's memory?

The best Greenwood's memory I have was when I opened that little store in 1957.

The employees at Greenwood's seem like a close bunch of folks.

That's right. I always paid them a little better than most anybody else in town and took care of them in lots of different ways. We used to have a lot of employee parties, and everyone had a great attitude. One thing we always did was hire people that liked working in the ski shop who had summer employment. So they were outdoors people. We have river guides working with us, and people with the Forest Service with us. They were people from a different walk of life that could do things in the summertime. And all of them are great people persons. We want people that are people persons working in the store.

What was your first pair of skis?

My first pair? Something made out of maple when I was in fifth or sixth grade.

What are you skiing these days?

I've been skiing on some Rossignols; it's a ski called Mutix.

Were you still in the business when snowboarding started to take hold?

Oh, yeah. We could see it coming, and we were kind of negative about it at first. But I started thinking about the business end of it, and it meant more people on the hill. Now, of course, a lot of those people are converting to skiing, or some have gone to snowboarding and have come back to skiing. So there's always some changeover.

Aside from snowboarding, how has skiing changed? How has the technology changed?

The equipment has gotten exceptional. The materials and the engineering and the skis are so much better. And the skis, of course, have completely changed design. They're shorter now. They ski longer—but they're shorter—so it makes them easier to ski on, which is kind of hard to understand, but they do work that way. Even the major racers now are racing on shorter skis than they did 15 or 20 years ago. Everything is different now. It's all engineering, and it's all specialized materials. It's all very, very scientific now, and most all the companies are making good skis. There are a lot of good skis out there nowadays.

So you're happy about the changes. You're not pining away for the old days of skis ...

No way. I'm pining away for the old days when it was a heck of a lot more fun skiing because skiing has become a big business now. In the old days, it was just a whole bunch of people out having a good time with whatever equipment they could scrounge up. There's a lot of "keeping up with the Joneses" now, but you do find people who are really, really good skiers who've been skiing on the same skis for four or five years, and they still work. Even the old, long ones still work very, very well if you ski 'em well.

Hypothetically, if you could ski any mountain in the world and still live in Boise, which one would it be?

I think in my mind, if I had my choice I would probably choose to ski at—well, I'd still ski here for one darn thing—but Sun Valley to me is still the best ski hill in the world. I don't care about all these big ski areas that they make—you know Whistler and all those places up in Canada—but Sun Valley is still, day-in and day-out, one of the best ski areas in the world.

Do you get out of Boise much to ski?

No. I like to ski here because I can go up and ski for a couple of hours and then come down and play golf. And I did that quite a bit last winter. I'd come down and play nine holes of golf. Boise is a really unique area that way.

Final words?

Just tell everybody to go ski. It's like that old song, "go skiing, enjoy skiing." And snowboarders have helped the local ski area. The best thing that ever happened to Boise, Idaho, was when Bogus Basin decided to get that $99 pass. That opened up skiing to so many people it's just unbelievable. That's why the smaller family-oriented areas that are run on a non-profit basis are a great place to ski. The important thing is to get people skiing.

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