In 1972, after Gary Cole had completed graduate school, with a master’s degree in Opera, a transforming road trip brought he and his wife, Jana Cole, to Park City from Washington state. In October of 1982, after a decade of enjoying mountain living, the couple opened the ﬁrst Cole Sport at the ice rink level of Park City Mountain.
Although the Coles had no retail experience to speak of, Gary’s passion for skiing made the new endeavor realistic. “Gary flew to Europe to look at ski clothing and did the initial buy. He built out that long, skinny shop that was opened in fall of 1982, and we have kept it going ever since.” says Adam Cole, co-owner. Additionally, because Gary and Jana both worked at the Park City Resort, Gary as a ski instructor and Jana in the ski school office, their daily interactions with avid skiers and tourists allowed them to see the demand for quality outerwear. With this knowledge, Cole Sport was created with a focus on premium European ski fashions. For the past 35 years, the Cole family has travelled back and forth to Europe, purchasing the most innovative gear. They even have a representative at the European ISPO fashion show to stay on the forefront of outerwear.
Like all retailers, Cole Sport has had their share of challenges over the years. The 2002 Winter Olympics created unique inventory uncertainties. Impressively, Cole Sport made the intuitive decision to reach out to vendors from past host cities for their feedback and purchasing suggestions. With the acquired knowledge, the management team adapted their buying numbers and the company had a profitable year. Then in 2008, the economic crash forced Cole Sport to lay off several seasonal employees. Luckily however, the local economy rebounded fairly quickly, and no permanent employees were affected. And most recently, as Jason Cole, co-owner stated, “COVID-19 has been and continues to be a challenge in our business.”
In addition to obstacles, trends and styles come and go. “One thing that has really changed are skis, they have evolved a ton in the last 25 years,” Adam exclaims. “And the fashion side of the business is always fun. Finding new brands at Cole Sport is a huge passion for our family. We are truly selling fun, we have something for everyone who wants to get out and ski.”
Today the Cole Family owns and operates four retail locations and a stand-alone tuning and repair shop, all in the Park City area. These include a custom boot fitting department and rental and demo departments for skis, snowboards and bikes.
Cole Sport has employed their core management team for more than 15 years and considers them an extension of the family. “Another one of the biggest staples for our family, especially with the transitioning of the business from our parents to us, is being the face of the brand and working our job. We are very hands-on and are not distant owners. This ensures we guide the ship in the direction that makes us proud.” Due to the company’s passion, vision and values, and strong community involvement, Cole Sport flourishes with a robust customer following.
“With the influx of people from Colorado etc., I think it’s important for people to know that we are a true, family-owned local business. We have been around since 1982 and are very involved in the Park City community,” says Jason “That is something our parents have always done a great job with and something they are most proud of, especially with nonprofits like the Park City Institute, another passion of my dad’s.”