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History & Mission

Mission Statement

The Ute Mountaineer is a family-owned and operated store that has served the Aspen community since 1977. We sell only the highest quality and value goods available in the outdoor industry. We carry what we know and use. Our goal is to be the best outdoor specialty store in the industry. We endeavor to have the best-educated employees and make their lives better through their association with the Ute. Likewise, we strive to enrich the community we work in through our participation in and support of community events and outdoor education programs. We want to share our passion for the outdoors with our customers and develop partnerships with other outdoor stores, vendors and organizations that also represent this ideal.

Ute History and Philosophy

By Bob Wade, Owner

The idea for the Ute was born in Boulder, Colorado. As a geology major at the University of Colorado, climbing allowed, both in the mountains and on the crags, the ultimately intimacy with rocks! While in school, I worked for one of the great visionaries in climbing and the climbing business, Bob Culp, who owned the Boulder Mountaineer. After college (recuperating from a climbing injury), while running a small general store on the North shore of Kauai, Bob contacted me with an offer to join him in opening a shop in Aspen – something we had daydreamed about while climbing together in Europe the previous summer. So with Bob providing most of the finances and wisdom and me providing elbow grease and youthful naiveté, the Boulder Mountaineer in Aspen opened. In order to afford the high rents (in 1976, it’s all relative!), we took an office space downstairs next to what is now Su Casa.

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We opened our doors on April Fool’s day, 1977, just as Aspen was closing out its worst ski season in history. Needless to say, word on the street was that we wouldn’t make it. But we were small and lived frugally. Volunteering our time and expertise to help Aspen Public School outdoor programs helped our credibility and created goodwill for us. The local climbing community was very gracious in accepting us ‘outsiders’. We moved to our location on the mall across from Wagner Park back in 1980. In pre-mall days this was the home of the old bus and taxi station in town. Our last move to our current location in the Elks building was in 2010. Our location was the home of the Aspen Post Office in the 40’s and 50’s and Tom’s Market in the 60’s and 70’s – a great heritage to a place we hope to call home for a long-time…

Since those early days our philosophy has come from two main roots. First, we want to know our customer, to do the detective work required to learn what their interests and needs are so that we can connect that person with just the right piece of gear or clothing. We want our customers to be psyched by the product we helped them pick out long after the purchase, not thinking, “how the heck did they talk me into that?” Our second tenet is to be true to who we are. Our byline, “The people who know and use the gear they sell”, says it all – if we don’t have knowledge of or a passion for something, it is not going to be in the store. Living in the mountains gives us, literally, a day-to-day familiarity with the products we sell. We even have a “pay to play” program for our employees; we pay them to get outside so their advice to you about the products that we sell and the places to go in the Aspen backcountry is rock solid. We have grown our space since the 80’s but we hope that you will continue to find the Ute tightly merchandised and homey.

In 1984 we approached the City of Aspen about running a cross-country ski center in the Pro Shop at the Aspen Golf Course (which wasn’t being used in the winter). I was, at the time, on the board of the Aspen Snowmass Nordic Council, and with the inspiration of Craig Ward, we were expanding and connecting the ski trails in the Aspen and Snowmass area. The city put it out to bid, and we ended up in the Nordic business. My wife to be, Ruth Baxter, ran it that first year using her knowledge of skiing from eight years on the US Nordic Ski Team. We both were doing a lot of Nordic racing at that time and it was fun to share our passion with a bunch of our friends in Aspen. In 2002 we took over the Snowmass Cross-country center. With over 60 kilometers of free ski trails in the Roaring Fork valley, this is a must-do activity in the area. By the way, if you’ve got a good store close to home then we encourage you to patronize it. We like to see independent small businesses stay strong and we also think that it is important that whenever possible, you keep your sales tax revenues in your hometown, and that you recycle your dollars in your community as well. We’re all about creating community and think you should be, too.

That’s it about us! We hope this gives you an idea with whom you are doing business.