Winter Park foot gurus craft ‘local experience’
When you first walk into the Local Experience in Winter Park, you’re struck by the feeling of the place.
It feels more like a personal space than a retail space, as if you’d stepped into the gear room of the most avid outdoorsperson you know.
That’s not to say it’s dark, disorganized and smells like wet paddling gear.
Rather it’s cozy, inviting and unpretentious in a way that makes you feel more like a guest than a customer.
The allure seems to trickle down from the philosophy of the business’s owners, Lara Kurtak and Eric Russell.
Both are locals in every sense of the word.
Kurtak was raised in Granby and Russell in Fraser.
The two also share a passion for the outdoors and a love of community, and the Local Experience exudes both.
As Russell puts it, it’s a store “for the locals, by the locals.”
The Local Experience is situated in a small cottage beside the post office in Winter Park.
Tucked behind a few large pines, it’s easy to miss from the highway.
Inside Kurtak and Russell offer a one of the area’s most impressive selections of footwear, ski boots and related products.
The business has its roots in bootfitting, Russell said.
An accredited master bootfitter for more than 20 years, Russell said he had always wanted to start a bootfitting business.
Kurtak joked that she came along for the ride.
“This has always been Eric’s passion, and he definitely needed a partner in crime to kind of help him get to where we need to go,” Kurtak said. “So I was more than happy to jump on in.”
Local Experience opened its doors in December 2012 with a focus on bootfitting.
“Talking to our reps and whatnot it just kind of fell into place with shoes,” Russell said. “There was a shoe store in town a while back that did pretty well, and those people left town so we were left with that void.”
Today, Kurtak and Russell offer a wide selection of footwear, with both technical and casual styles from brands like Olukai, Topo, Patagonia and Salewa.
They also boast an impressive array of hiking and snow boots from Keen, Teva, Chaco, Hi-Tec and others.
Skaters can find styles from DVS and DC.
Ski boots, however, are still the business’ bread and butter.
Whether you’re a class three cliff-dropper or a novice skier, Local Experience stocks boots for all abilities from top brands including Lange, Head, Technica and Rossignol.
No less important are the business’s bootfitting services.
“People come here and spend a lot of money on their vacation to go skiing, and if their boots aren’t comfortable, they’re not having fun,” Kurtak said.
Russell combines years of experience with products like custom insoles to ensure a perfect fit.
Combine that quality product with friendly, personal service, and you have the “local experience” that keeps customers coming back for more, Kurtak said.
Local Experience also offers snowboard boots and ski and snowboard bindings from brands like Marker and Salomon.
The shop tunes skis, snowboards and bikes year-round, Russell said.
Customers can also find a variety of other outdoor products including packs, hydration systems, headwear and eyewear.
Planning a road trip this summer? Local Experience is an official vendor of Thule racks.
Even if you’re just looking to talk gear, Russell said the shop has become a bit of a hangout for locals looking to shoot the breeze.
“It’s a good feeling for us, but it’s also exactly what we want,” Russell said. “We want people to just feel so comfortable with our store that they can just come in and hang out for a while and say hey.”
Local Experience is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday through Sunday in Winter Park.
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