Carved into Jasper’s heritage with the likes of the superintendent’s residence and the railway station, Totem’s Ski Shop has been a permanent feature in Jasper for nearly as long as the park has been around.
In 1911, when W.S. Jeffrey’s and Sons opened its tent doors for business, the railroad boom, the newly established forest park, a blossoming tourism industry and good ol’ fashioned cowboy entrepreneurship shaped a Jasper very different from the one we see today.
These days at Totem’s, although the goods on the shelf are undoubtedly different than the ones stocked for early outfitters and work parties, the basic philosophy that underpinned the service was the same: offer the best goods and services available.
Be it the demands of railroaders of the turn of the 20th Century, work parties of the war effort or ski racers with a binding problem, to live, work and explore in Jasper, Totem’s has been helping people get things they need for a century.
“Outfitters needed gloves, so you carried them. Cowboys needed Stetsons, so you carried a good Stetson, one made of fur felt and water repellent,” Mr. Everest recalled.
Totem’s has a history of thinking outside the box for the best product, even back when it was W.S. Jeffreys and Sons. As Jasper was a small and remote community, often, to find the best products, staff had to broaden their horizons. Mr. Everest recalled that after the Second World War, Germany was the place from which to order items such as small propane stoves and light weight pots and pans.
“We were finding products in Germany because they were the first country to recover after the war,” he said.
Although Totem’s has always been proud of its ability to stay relevant to customers, Gilmour recalled one time when he was reluctant to buy into a new trend.
“I was at a ski show in Las Vegas, There’s this guy there, he’s got this thing called a snowboard! His name’s Burton!” he laughed.
He pauses for effect. “I said ‘who’s going to want to do that?’”
Later that year, Gilmour was eating his words—and a group of snowboarders’ snow dust—when he watched them carve up variable conditions with ease.
“I was on 205 cm slalom skis watching these guys go through wind slab, corn snow, mashed potato and just carving it up! I had to credit Burton for making the first fat skis,” he said.
“How does a business like ours still compete? With our service,” Gilmour said.
Be that by having a great demo program, having a footwear expert on staff or supporting local fundraisers, Totem’s has stuck around for the long haul because of its service.
And at the heart of good service are good people.
“I think Totem’s staff feel privileged,” Gilmour said. “Privileged to have a chance to live here, to make a living here and to enjoy the lifestyle. And we are privileged to serve our customers and help them do the same.”
Everest agreed. “Every day was a joy,” he said. “I don’t recall ever trudging home at night.”