Area residents will soon have the opportunity to hit the slopes without the hour-plus trek to a ski resort.
Brian and Nancy Deely, long-time owners of Pro-Fit Ski & Mountain Sports, have announced plans to add an indoor ski simulator to the shop’s offerings. The addition of the ski center will result in an expansion of Pro-Fit’s current space in the Virginia Village shopping center. The Deelys have signed on to lease an additional 2,500 square feet of space next to their current retail store.
Plans for the indoor ski center have been underway for the past two years; however, for Nancy Deely it will be a return to familiar territory.
“Thirty years ago I was hired as a ski store director for a very similar facility in Silver Spring, MD, called the Aspen Hill Racket Club. They converted one of their tennis barns into a fitness center, and part of that fitness center was an indoor ski slope. That’s where we taught kids skiing,” Deely said, noting snowboarding was a fairly new sport at the time. “One of my marketing strategies was to allow people that worked in local ski shops to ski for free and in return promote [the ski center].”
This was at a time when the Washington, DC, metro area had 14 specialty ski shops, she noted. That number is now down to six, thanks to the rise of the internet.
She went on to meet her future husband Brian at a Ski Club of Washington, DC, meeting, and the two later worked together at a since-closed ski shop in McLean. Noting that the two are both “serial entrepreneurs” they made the decision to go off on their own in 1994, and opened Pro-Fit in Leesburg’s Bellewood Commons shopping center a year later. The business remained there for 14 years. The Deelys took a four-year hiatus from owning a retail ski shop, with Brian instead leasing space to focus solely on custom ski boot fitting. Pro-Fit reopened in the Virginia Village shopping center in 2013.
It was two years ago that Brian’s “wheels started turning” when he heard a presentation about indoor ski centers. While many exist around the country, few are connected to retail shops that also provide boot fitting and related skiing and snowboarding equipment and apparel. When Pro-Fit opens its Leesburg ski center this fall, its closest geographic competitor will be in Orlando, FL.
Nancy Deely sees infinite benefits to the business and greater ski and snowboard community when the ski center opens. It can provide training opportunities for youth race teams who want to get some good runs in before area resorts open for the season. It can also provide conditioning for ski patrol and ski instructors, she said.
The Deelys plan to continue to foster a positive working relationship with area ski resorts, many of whom have instructors they are friendly with. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, she notes.
“We are where your customers start. We are going to be funneling them to you in a manner that they’re already going to have some level of skill,” she said. “Our whole goal is to create new skiers and snowboarders, but we also want to enhance the experience especially if you have kids. It’s really going to grease the wheels for people who want to have a good experience.”
In a nod to that, Deely said the ski center will be just as good of a fit for the beginner skier or snowboarder, or perhaps someone who may have tried it once or twice and did not have the experienced they hoped. The ski center will be a controlled environment, rather than the busyness of slopes at a resort, and will not require the typical gear for a ski or snowboard outing.
The “snow” on the slope will be AstroTurf, with a fine mist sprayed on it to reduce friction, and temperatures in the facility will be at a comfortable 70 degrees. Pitch and speed can be modified on the two slopes—one a revolving treadmill and the other a static slope—based on a particular student’s ability level. The new ski center will even include a chair lift simulator, ideal for younger students.
A typical lesson at Pro-Fit will take about an hour, with about half that time on the slopes, giving the student about 10 to 12 runs. Deely noted that, at a typical lesson at a
ski resort, students are lucky to get two runs in. All things considered, “your actual ski time [at Pro-Fit] is actually equivalent to a full day of skiing,” at a resort, Deely said. In advance of the slopes’ opening, Pro-Fit has already begun selling packages on its website for lessons at a deep discount.
In addition to the enhanced experience and training opportunities it can afford for its customers, the arrival of the ski center will also be a boon to Pro-Fit’s boot-fitting service, Deely said. Rather than making repeat visits to change the fit of their ski boots, customers will now be able to hit the store’s slopes. Certified master boot fitter Brian Deely, a member of the invite-only America’s Best Bootfitters, will be able to have the perfect visual of a customer’s leg and foot movements and use that to find the best fit.
The slopes will be installed in mid-September, and the Deelys are aiming for an October opening. For more information on Pro-Fit, go to pro-fitski.com.