UPPER TOWNSHIP — The nearest ski lodge is more than two hours away from this notoriously flat part of the state.
Since 1989, Joe Byron has made selling ski supplies in the region his business. But it’s not a year-round venture. He also sells pools and spas.
When the weather starts to change, Byron changes his store entirely.
He started Ski Connection, which sells ski gear, clothing and equipment, in1989. He also owns Swim Again Pools & Spas, a business he started in 1987.
The businesses are on two sides of the weather spectrum.
So come Thanksgiving, the Marmora, Upper Township-based business makes the shift from pools to skiing. Then before spring, it switches back.
The transformations take place gradually — usually over a five to six week period, he said.
Both businesses rely a lot on the weather.
“It’s all weather conducive, everything we do,” said Byron, of Linwood. “The cold definitely enhances sales and gets people in the mood for it. It’s just like in the spring — when it’s warm we sell more pools.”
The South Jersey ski shop exists in an area about a 2½ hour drive from the closest ski resorts in Pennsylvania, he said.
“Being nestled down here, there are a lot of skiers, but they rely on the holidays — Christmas, Martin Luther King Jr. and Presidents Day weekends are their ski times. There are every weekend skiers, but for the majority of the people it revolves around the holidays,” said Byron, himself an avid skier.
One of the biggest motivators is seeing snow outside the windows. Regardless of ski conditions on various mountains, local snowfall gets skiers attention to the slopes, which drives business, Byron said.
But not all snowfall is the same. Snow too close to the weekend may discourage driving.
“We like to get snow on Monday or Tuesday, to get snow here,” he said. “Everyone thinks what’s going on here is the same thing at the mountains, which is not the case, but it’s the mindset. You look out the window and see snow, you think, ‘Let’s go skiing.’ You look out and you see the birds chirping, you think otherwise.”
Byron said the shop had initially seen a big boost from snowboarding as it grew in popularity. But that also drew other companies to sell snowboarding gear.
“When snowboarding became popular, our numbers were climbing and climbing. And then the surf shops got involved in it, and that’s their customer base,” he said. “We do some snowboarding equipment but we don’t go real deep with the snowboards.”
Byron said skiing offers a unique appeal as a family outdoor sport.
“What can do you do sport-wise as a family for your lifetime other than ski?” he said. “It’s probably the only family sport you can do when your kids are little and when they’re grown.”
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