MANCHESTER >> "Sports is big in my family."
A lot of people say that, usually in the sense that they enjoy sports as spectators and perhaps as participants. With John Bradley and his family, it goes up a few notches from there.
Many will remember that not so long ago, a young Vermont golfer from Woodstock went out and won the PGA tournament in 2011 in his first try at that major tournament. Keegan Bradley has remained a fixture on the pro tour and on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. He's john Bradley's nephew.
Then there's Pat Bradley, John's sister and Keegan's aunt. She was the 1986 LPGA golfer of the year and is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame.
John Bradley carved his niche on the ski slopes, and more than made the grade on the international World Pro ski racing circuit. He competed against the top skiers on the tour from 1989-92 in Slalom, Giant Slalom and Super GS events. He's also a member of the New England College Sports Hall of Fame.
So, yes, sports is big in the family.
John Bradley has now opened a ski shop business at the former location of Skier's Edge, on Routes 11/30, filling a gap in the area's retail lineup that had been vacant since the Skier's Edge closed a couple of year's ago. He's no stranger to the ski shop business, having run a former family-owned shop in Westford, Mass. for many years.
He noticed the former Skier's Edge had closed during a visit through the area, and it set the wheels turning, he said.
"I wanted to get back into the ski business because I love it and have a passion for it," he said. "So I bought this building and here we go."
Bradley's Pro Shop Ski and Sports, as the new enterprise is known, opened for business Columbus Day weekend and so far the response has been excellent, he said.
Bradley will be carrying well known ski brands such as Volkl, Atomic and Elan, along with a wide range of ski clothing from helmets and goggles through parkas and gloves. But the main action may be in another arena which is growing and reshaping the business model for stores such as his — rentals.
His former shop would feature a wall of skis waiting to be purchased, but in his new location, renting ski gear for a weekend or so is likely to be the main focus, he said.
"The model of the retail ski shop has changed — drastically," he said. "In a destination ski resort town like Manchester, people don't want to have to lug equipment around."
What they would rather do is show up, rent some well-tuned and maintained ski equipment that provides them with a top notch experience on the slopes, which doesn't have to be transported from home and back, he said.
And like the Skier's Edge used to do, he will be in the business of tuning up skis and sharpening edges. A new stone grinding machine in the downstairs service area is poised to give the business side of skis a thorough preparation for a day on the ski trails.
Highly automated, the new grinding machine can bring ski bottoms back to life. Bradley pointed to one ski he had found in the bushes outside the shop. As a lark, he ran it through the new machine and its underside now looked brand-new.
"The technolgy with this machine is striking," he said.
Ski technology has advanced to the point with shaped or wedge skis that it makes it all much easier than those who grew up navigating their way down a trail on long, straight skis might remember. Basically, the ski does all the work and there's much less fatigue involved, Bradley said.
One area he won't be diving into is snowboards. Instead, he sees the arrival of the twin tipped ski, which allows a skier to travel both forwards and backwards, as a line ready for growth.
"What it's done is made skiing for kids cool again," he said.
Youngsters who might want to differeniate themselves just a slight bit from an older set enjoy them, because they're different and have that "rebel" component, but they are also skis. Bradley will rent and tune snowboards, but won't be selling them, he said.
One of the other connections Bradley has with the Manchester area is Wendy Cram, a well-known resident often seen pedaling his bicycle around town. Cram served in the 10th Mountain Division during World War II, a special unit intended to specialize in warfare in mountainous terrain under adverse weather conditions. The unit saw extended combat in the Italian theater in 1944-45. Cram was also a member of the 1940 U.S. Olympic ski team. However, that year the Olympics, which were to have be held in Norway, were cancelled due to the advent of the Second World War.
Bradley has a historian's interest in the 10th Mountain Division, and Cram, a former ski shop owner himself, is an old family acquaintance. His mother and brother camped out at his house for a ski race being staged at Bromley Mountain in 1968, he said.
The new shop will be open year-round, with extended hours during the summer months. For more information, visit the shop's website at bradleysproski.com or call 802-367-3118.