Passion for Powder Means Work Feels Like Play at Ultimate
Last winter, Jack Kent clocked up 91 days on snow – 65 days of riding and 26 days of skiing. So, he’s a natural fit for a workplace that lives and breathes winter sports: Ultimate Sports, one of Banff’s best-known rental gear stores.
Whether he’s at work as a Rental Agent helping customers make the most of their snow days with the best gear, or hitting the slopes every chance he gets in his spare time, winter adventure is always top of mind.
“This job makes you excited to go skiing. It’s great to work in the industry you love, making connections with people who are super likeminded and excited to ski,” Jack says.
“For our team, the most important thing is a genuine passion for skiing or riding – someone who’s on the hill at least half the week. When you’re out there all the time, you can provide real recommendations first-hand, which creates the best experiences for customers.”
Hailing from Winchester, two hours south of London, UK, Jack has been skiing since he was 12. Arriving in Banff in search of powder and new experiences, he started work at Ultimate in October 2016.
“Skiing and riding are why I came to Banff. I like the separation between my work and my social life, so I wanted to live in a proper town but also be so close to the mountains. Banff is perfect for that. It’s awesome to be living and working here.”
On top of working with customers to find the perfect rentals, you can count on Jack to know where to find the best powder stash of the day – and to be the first to share it with you.
“Working here during winter is great. When you can work 7am to 2pm, or 2pm to 9pm, you can ski in the morning, then go to work and tell customers how good the conditions were at Sunshine earlier that day.”
While there are multiple rental stores to choose from in Banff, Jack says there are some key differences that sets Ultimate apart from the rest.
“It’s all about our equipment – both quality and quantity. I can quite honestly say we have one of the best, newest fleets in town. We’re one of the only stores that updates stock every season – other stores have their stock for two, three, four years. Especially during early season, you can leave our store with brand new skis, boots and helmet rentals, which is an awesome thing.”
Jack shows us around Ultimate’s rental fit-out area, before guiding us downstairs into the store’s maze-like storage area, where we discover a treasure trove of skis, boards, boots, poles, helmets and more.
“It’s pretty huge down here! We have a lot of skis – around 1,300 pairs, and around 200 snowboards. We carry more skis than snowboards because there are more ranges and lengths for skis. With men’s snowboards, for example, you get a range from 150-160cm, whereas with men’s skis you get a range from 150-190cm, so we need to offer a lot of options,” he says.
“We’re owned by Banff Lodging Co., and we have most of the local hotels sending their guests to us. So, we need a large fleet to keep up with demand, especially during peak season.”
So, if Ultimate has a steady supply of shiny new gear replenished each winter, what happens to the rentals at the end of each season?
“We sell them! Online, usually. This year we sold over $7,000 of ex-rentals during our Black Friday Sale. We keep our gear in great condition, and sell it for a good price.”
Although most customers know how to ski, including the type of gear they need and how it should fit, Jack says the team is always happy to go back to basics.
“For anyone who’s looking for guidance, we explain how the fitting should feel, the importance of getting the right fit, and match the type of gear to their ability and confidence level. Then we work on ski tech-ing – adjusting their binding to their boot and the DIN (binding release force) setting to their weight, height and ability level. This gives the right level of flexibility for their skis to release from their boots in case of a fall.”
Around 60% of customers are at beginner or intermediate levels, and the most common question the team receives is to recommend which ski hill to go to on any given day, Jack says.
“We have 10-12 people working in rentals, and most of us have Ski Big 3 season passes, so we can ski the local resorts regularly. We keep each other up to date, look at the snow reports and suggest the resort with the best conditions at the time, and also take into consideration the person’s experience level.”
With a high stock turnover, the team is continuously refining their rental product offering.
“When a person returns their gear, we ask for their feedback and base our orders for the next season on that to a large degree. We also have all the well-known brands like Volkl, Head, Salomon, and Fisher. This season we’re stoked to have the Head Kore 105 and 93 in our fleet –they’ve won nearly every award for all-mountain skis for this winter.”
Although Jack grew up as a skier, he’s now also a firm fan of hitting the slopes as a rider.
“I tried snowboarding for the first time last season and loved it. I got to demo the boards for Salomon and had a good say with our snowboard orders for this season, which was super cool.
“This winter I want to ski more and test out our whole new fleet of skis. That’s the best way to know every product in depth – and it’s a lot of fun, of course.”
One useful tip that people might not know is that Ultimate offers free delivery to all hotels in Banff, Jack says.
“The hotels do a great job of sending customers to our store, but not everyone knows about our free delivery service. For guests who may not have received the message, they are really pleased when they find out we can deliver their gear to their accommodation, free of charge.”
So, if you’re in Banff, and you want to know where to ski and the gear to get you there – you know who to visit!
Find out more at ultimatebanff.com