Winter Wonder Land

hile harsh conditions are the reality of our winters, this year, let’s embrace all of its skiing, snowshoeing and hiking possibilities! And Fontana is here to help you do just that. After all, this is their busiest season, says assistant manager Craig Amacker.

Started by John and Judith Hutchinson on State Street in 1972, Fontana relocated its second location in mid-October to Prairie Towne Center and increased the store’s square footage of fly fishing, camping, snowshoeing, scuba diving, snowboarding and skiing gear. Fontana’s dual locations offer an interesting customer mix, says Amacker.

“A number of folks I sold product to in college in the ’90s come back because it’s familiar. They decided to stay in the area and relocated to the suburbs, so we needed a location that’s closer to them.”

And an interesting thing happens when you enter Fontana: you get this urge to go out and play. Mannequins dressed in rock climbing garb look ready to go. A magenta child’s snowsuit begs to be worn for snow-fort building. Amacker and I discussed snowshoeing at length—because each employee has a knowledge and passion for the store’s products.

“We have really specialized niches and folks that run those departments have been doing those sports for one, two decades,” explains Amacker. His name badge even says “Certified Fly Casting Instructor.” Point taken.

So have customers scaled back their spending on what might be considered luxury items in a struggling economy?

“We don’t sell throwaway product—it’s going to last,” says Amacker. “Every product we sell can be used within the state. So even if you don’t take a big trip this year—you can still go up north and go camping, go to Granite Peak and ski, go to Black Earth Creek and go fishing. People are still traveling.”

So travel to Fontana and chat with the employees there to plan your winter adventure. Maybe I’ll see you on the trails, donning some new snowshoes.

Price range: $2.99–$999.

Manager’s Picks: IceBreaker merino wool tees and zip-ups, $70–$120; Patagonia R–1 Flash fleece, $114.99; Sage Z-access flyfishing rod, $700; Mountain Hardwear Synchro jacket, $227.99.

Editor’s Picks: Atlas Electra 9 series snowshoes, $159.99; North Face Antoinette jacket, $198.99; Sigg aluminum peacock water bottle, $21.99; SmartWool socks, $15.99–$21.99.

Verdict: Staff knowledge, the ski service shop, even customized scuba and fishing trips are just the value

add-ons to the shopper’s experience. “We don’t just sell the product—we do these sports,” says Amacker. “We’re here to make the outdoor experience more comfortable, pleasant and fun.”

Fontana Sports Specialties, 231 Junction Rd. 833-9191. 251 State St.  257-5043.

Shayna Miller is associate and style editor of Madison Magazine.