Vail Ski Tech, a Lionshead staple for 36 years, is sold to longtime employees

Vail Ski Tech, a Lionshead staple for 36 years, is sold to longtime employees
Lisa and JJ Mikels, left, and Geoffrey and Laura Ryan, right, are pictured in front of Vail Ski Tech in Lionshead. JJ Mikels and Geoffrey Ryan are long time employees of Vail Ski Tech. They purchased the ski shop from former owner and boss, Craig Arford.
Vail Ski Tech/Courtesy photo

There’s the family you’re born into and the family you choose. At Vail Ski Tech, they’re keeping it all in the family. Craig Arford, who’s owned and operated the Lionshead ski shop for over three decades, is turning over the reins to two longtime employees, Geoffrey Ryan and JJ Mikels.

For 36 years, Vail Ski Tech (Vail Bike Tech during the summer months) has been a staple on the rental, retail and repair scene for outdoor recreation equipment year-round. What was built upon the philosophy of providing quality equipment paired with knowledgeable, friendly service at a fair price has gained Vail Ski Tech a long list of loyal customers.

“I would like to thank everyone for their loyal support and patronage and I have enjoyed the engagement with everyone over the last 36 years,” Arford said.

But, life happens, and when Arford went through a yearlong battle with pancreatic cancer, that changed his perspective on life and the realization that it was time to retire and pass the shop on to new owners.

“I’m now cancer-free due to everyone’s encouragement and prayers. But I’ve realized that now is a good time to enter this new life and move on with an extensive bucket list,” Alford said.

Support Local Journalism

Arford wanted to keep the legacy of Vail Ski Tech and Vail Bike Tech alive and be assured the clients would be well taken care of in the future. He decided to entrust the business he had built to the care and leadership of Ryan and Mikels.

Vail Ski Tech offers retail, rental and repair services.
Vail Ski Tech/Courtesy photo

This is a dream come true for Ryan and Mikels, who grew up as a couple of flatlanders.

“The opportunity to buy Vail Ski Tech came about when Craig realized he needed to give himself some retirement time. Thankfully, he wanted to give us a shot at keeping Vail Ski Tech in the ‘family’,” Ryan said.

“Growing up, owning a ski shop never entered my mind. Previously I had always looked at employment as something that you did, not necessarily something that you loved,” Mikels said. “I would be lying if I said the possibility of owning Vail Ski Tech wasn’t present in the back of my mind and when Craig approached us in the winter of 2022-2023, Geoffrey and I mutually agreed immediately that this was something we wanted to do.”

Mikels was born and raised in Decatur, Illinois, what he calls one of the flattest areas on the planet. He had skied a few times in Wisconsin growing up and he and his roommate decided to move from Chicago to Vail after college.

“My first job in Vail in 1994 was working in a warehouse five or six days a week but going skiing only on the weekends wasn’t very fulfilling. I applied to Vail Bike Tech and was hired as a mechanic in April of 1995. I quickly figured out that the lifestyle and camaraderie of the ski and bike industry was where I wanted to be,” Mikels said.

JJ Mikels, left, Craig Arford, center, and Geoffrey Ryan, right, celebrate Arford at his retirement party at Bart & Yeti’s in Lionshead in October. Mikels and Ryan purchased Vail Ski Tech from Arford.
Vail Ski Tech/Courtesy photo

Mikels worked at Vail Ski Tech from 1995 to 2004, then started a contracting business and worked there until 2014 when he asked for his old job back at Vail Ski Tech and has been there ever since.  

Ryan was born and raised in Tupelo, Mississippi, and moved to Vail in 2001 and started working at Vail Ski Tech that ski season. He’s been in retail since he was 15 and worked his way through college, lastly working at Dillard’s department store in Nashville, Tennessee, fitting and selling men’s suits.

Want the news to come to you? Get the top stories in your inbox every morning. Sign up here:

“Working in a ski shop was quite different from my previous retail experience and I have loved every minute of it. It has combined my joy of getting customers what they want with my love of the outdoors, especially mountain biking and skiing,” Ryan said.

Mikels’ and Ryan’s philosophy in the future is to continue Arford’s legacy in the same fashion that has kept Vail Ski Tech in business since 1987.

“Top-notch service and equipment for a reasonable price will always appeal to the clientele. Outside of a few very small tweaks it will be business as usual as long as Geoffrey and I are at the helm,” Mikels said.

Gustavo, top, Doof, center, and King, bottom, welcome all who come into Vail Ski Tech. Dogs have always been a part of the family at the ski shop.
Vail Ski Tech/Courtesy photo

This “apprenticeship” has certainly prepared the duo for owning their ski shop and their familiar faces will put the long-standing customers at ease.

“Clients that were my age back in the mid-90s have had children and in some cases have started to have grandchildren. The fact that the same folks have been bringing their families to us for over 30 years tells us that we are getting something right,” Mikels said. “Geoffrey and I are forever grateful to Craig for the life and business experiences he has imparted upon us, and we are looking forward to many years of carrying his torch.”

As for Arford, he’ll be spending more time on the mountain and the golf course and is looking forward to chatting with everyone, if you can catch up with him.

Vail Ski Tech has been locally owned and operated in Lionshead since 1987.
Vail Ski Tech/Courtesy photo

Next Post

CK Electric And More Unveils Premier Electrical Repair Services in Fenton, Missouri

PRESS RELEASE Published December 6, 2023 Fenton, MO — CK Electric And More, a renowned locally-owned electrical service provider, is thrilled to announce the expansion of its premier electrical repair services to Fenton, Missouri. With a commitment to quality, integrity, and affordability, CK Electric And More has established itself as […]
CK Electric And More Unveils Premier Electrical Repair Services in Fenton, Missouri

You May Like