by Madison V. Fisler
March 3, 2014. 1st Tracks in Boone has truly become an institution to this area. Located on N.C. 105 close to Appalachian State University’s campus, the little shop in Boone has been serving skiers and snowboarders in the High Country for almost 30 years.
“This is the first shop that I came to when I came to Appalachian back in 1989,” said Jeff Kattner, general manager of 1st Tracks and Fatty’s Snowboards.
“The folks that were working here then were just as great and enthusiastic as the folks I have in here now. I started working here in 1995 and never looked back.”
Known as the Winter Headquarters for all your snow sport needs, 1st Tracks was first started in 1987 by High Country outdoor enthusiast Hanes Boren, the same man who started Footsloggers.
“Hanes was a huge outdoor enthusiast,” Kattner said. “He started First Tracks down on Faculty Street where the Town Tavern is now. Right around 1999, Bill (Leonard) bought it and I started working for him soon after. Hanes did a lot for the outdoors in this area, and Bill has really continued that, he always has. Bill started out with Alpine [Ski Center in Banner Elk], then opened up Ski Country Sports and bought 1st Tracks. Bill does a great job of training his employees, and that is really what sets us all apart.”
First Tracks is a full service winter shop, with retail ski and snowboard equipment and gear, and a full service shop. The rental department has been ranked the “Best Ski and Snowboard Rental Shop” by Family Magazine. With an extensive rental fleet as well as retail stock, First Tracks has a lot to offer its customers.
“We are able to do a lot of things, like flat-base grind skis and snowboards without machinery. We have both a side edger and a base grinder, and we are able to stone grind as well. That puts the patterns back into the bottoms of skis and snowboards to have maximum traction with the snow.”
And that is just one of the things that sets this shop apart from the rest.
“There is nobody else in Boone that can do that. Every piece that comes through this shop gets its bindings calibrated. We have a huge commitment to providing the best customer service and our education about our product and how things work sets us apart, definitely.”
The shop has been around for a while, but that doesn’t mean the shop is outdated.
“Everything we have is the newest and best technology we can find,” Kattner said.
The shop continually cycles in new stuff, which is the key to providing customers with the best possible product.
“The shop was set up one way when we first started working and now we have made it a lot better,” Kattner said. “We have changed our rental shop over the past few years, it has more of a flow in it now an has a lot more seating. We can handle a lot of volume, and we get hundreds of customers per day. We do families more than anything else, and a lot of students.”
All of the staff in the shop is educated about product and trends to keep the customers as informed as possible.
“I try to hire people who are as excited about these sports as the customer is, and who will go out and do it themselves. I hire people that love this so they can bring their knowledge into the shop.”
One of the biggest draws to the shop is the exceptional customer service that the employees offer each and every one of their customers.
“There is one thing that I preach to my staff, and that’s service,” Kattner said. “You come in here and we hand you your boots and we help you fix any complications. We will take the time to measure your feet and make sure you are in the right boots before you leave the shop. I preach to my staff that they aren’t clerks, they are sales people and they are here to help. You are selling people something that is going to make them happy, and that’s important to keep in mind. This is something that people do as a family, and keeps you young and excited about life.”
1st Tracks has great items for all skill levels and preferences, including many snowboard items as well.
“A lot of snowboarders are intimidated when they walk into a ski shop, but we want them to feel welcome too. We carry a lot of youthful-minded things for the ASU students and we sell cross country skis, and we are the only shop in the area that does those.”
But don’t think that the fun stops when the snow melts. 1st Tracks has plenty of spring and summer fun as well.
“We have rafting and tubing trips out of this shop in the summer,” Kattner said. “We do tubing when it’s warm enough on the river and we start running our rafting trips in April.”
“One thing about us, even in the summertime, is that we will bend over backwards for our customers,” Kattner said. “We are more interested in making sure our customers have a great experience than we are in making a buck.”
So come and visit the hometown institution in Boone and check out what 1st Tracks and Fatty’s Snowboards has to offer you.
For more information, visit 1st Tracks’ website here.