In 1992, Don Allen operated a small hiking guide business at the Top Notch Resort in Stowe, Vermont. In winters, the small room was the ski shop for the resort, a spin off from the hotel for guests to rent equipment. When the hotel didn’t want the shop anymore, Don leased the room and the Nordic Barn was born.
Originally a dairy barn for cattle and hay, the actual barn was erected in 1890, and is as much an icon of Vermont pastoralism as maple syrup and white cheddar. Over time, it became a sawmill, which gave way to storage for decades before Don took over a small 16×16-foot piece of the barn in 1995 to convert the guide business into his own ski shop. Every couple years Don claimed more and more of the barn’s cavernous real estate, and now the Nordic Barn is nearly 3000 sq. feet of skiing, hiking and biking merchandise, gadgets and ephemera. “Anyone who stumbles into the Barn is taken by the character of the place,” says Allen. “It’s all very genuine to Vermont.” To be sure, the barn has the original framework and no dry wall. There’s a very inviting feel to the barn, with a cozy fireplace and agrarian charm.
The Nordic Barn had strong roots in Telemark, but with marked increase in the Alpine Touring market, it has grown to cover the full spectrum of ski enthusiasms from the nimblest cross country packages to the most aggressive Freeride combinations. With such a vast array of gear, the Nordic Barn is a full service ski shop in the heart of one of the East Coast’s most storied skiing communities.
Allen likes his staff to walk the walk. While he appreciates employees who already have a great deal of experience with their line of goods, he also chooses employees he knows that’ll fit in. He and his wife Anne encourage new employees by “pushing them out the door,” he says, “And to build enthusiasm [for the outdoors] through personal experience.”
The Barn staff is currently augmenting the store’s online presence through the Free Heel Heaven site. Additionally, they’re focusing on summer pursuits, bringing in substantial climbing and hiking gear, including packs and tents, that accommodate more serious exploits in the big hills. They’ve also noticed a major increase in Vermont’s mountain bike scene and have exacted their eyes on the growing dirty tire phenomenon of the Green Mountains.