FERGUSON RIDGE — The ski area Ferguson Ridge, referred to locally as “Fergi,” has a new owner in the rental shop.
The shop had been owned and operated by Charlie Kissinger since 2006. Now Adrianne Gass, a professional ski patroller, has secured the bindings.
“I just want to keep the low-key, family-friendly vibe of Fergi and have the shop continue to support this community. I want to have quality, affordable equipment and work toward having a shop that can take care of most, if not all of their ski and boarding needs,” she explained.
Gass and her family moved to the area about six years ago. Gass and her husband, Perry, are both skiers and had previously worked at a resort in Tahoe where they first met. She was in ski patrol there and he did lift maintenance. Perry grew up in Wallowa County and ended up returning when a job opened in Joseph at the the Wallowa Lake Tramway, where he had previously worked in his youth.
Gass first heard about Kissinger when she was at a party telling someone she wanted to tune skis. Someone said she should talk to Kissinger.
“I called him up, and I was like ‘hey I want to work for you.’” Kissinger was noncommittal at first, so she decided to “just show up and just hang out and help him. I sort of just pushed my way in there, I guess. For a while I didn’t know if he wanted me to hang around, but eventually he didn’t seem to mind too much.”
Kissinger has spent many years operating the shop, and said it was bittersweet to let it go.
“The ski shop has changed a lot since I bought it,” he said. “For whatever reason we have a lot of young families who chose to rent their skis instead of buy them, partly because there’s no one around here to buy them from, I think. It’s become a popular way to go for a lot of families, just to rent skis as the kids grow up they can just change skis instead of having to buy new ones each year. It’s an economical thing for families to do, and it’s really caught on since I had it, it’s really increased a lot.”
Running the shop has been “kind of a lifestyle thing for me,” he said, “but it’s every weekend from Thanksgiving until the first of April, so it will be nice not to have to be tied down to it.”
Kissinger said he has always enjoyed Fergi and watching the kids grow up from season to season.
“It’s been a lot of fun, and I enjoyed it a lot. It’s work, I didn’t really need the work or the job I had, but the previous owner was trying to sell his business and there wasn’t anyone to do the ski shop there, so I told him I’d do it at least until we found someone else that wanted to do it, and I ended up doing it quite a while.”
Kissinger said that even though he won’t be running the shop, he’ll continue to be helping out and doing other things on the hill as usual. He is confident that Gass and her family will be able to build on the shop’s success.
Gass said she wants to do more in terms of binding testing, get equipment everything tuned and waxed more regularly, send it out in better condition and generally upgrade the fleet.
“It’s a process, get rid of some of the old stuff, and get a few new things and continue that.”
She believes that will require some capital. She hopes to earn a little profit this season and use it to pay for improvements next season.
“I’m trying to be incremental,” she said. “It’s not quite how I envisioned it this year, but I will take it one step at a time and keep the upgrades going, as Charlie was, to keep the inventory current but not enough so we have to raise prices.”