Alpenglow Sports: An Eventful Retail Strategy

The crowd at a Winter Speaker Series event hosted by Alpenglow Sports. ‍Photo:

Alpenglow Sports / Tahoe City, CA

1 Location

Notable: This mountain shop is well-known for its events, ranging from the multi-day extravaganza Mountain Fest, its Winter Speaker Series that raises thousands of dollars for the community, to its mega Backcountry Demo Event, the largest of its kind in North America.

Quotable:  “I think people derive happiness not from things, but from experiences and relationships. Our whole business centers around giving back to the community.”
— Brendan Madigan, Alpenglow Sports

For Alpenglow Sports owner Brendan Madigan, being an outdoor retailer is about much more than just selling gear.

“I feel a tremendous loyalty to give back to people who have supported the shop for nearly 40 years,” says Madigan. “The mountain shop, in my opinion, should be the hub of their community. Providing great advice on equipment and where to have fun is a given. Shops should also serve to be versed in the best local espresso, slice of pizza, etc.,” he says. “And arguably in tune with the political, social and environmental issues that have direct impacts in the community.”

Tahoe City, CA-based Alpenglow has been serving locals and visitors in Tahoe since 1979. Top categories at the shop include: backcountry and Nordic skiing, hiking and backpacking, trail running and rock climbing.

Madigan has owned the shop since 2011. After graduating college in Virginia, and a stint pursuing professional soccer in the Netherlands, he had moved west to “chase dreams of untracked powder.” He began working at Alpenglow in 2003 before eventually working his way up and purchasing the shop from original owner Don Fyfe.

Events are a major aspect of what Alpenglow does. It’s a result of the store’s team being passionate, knowledgeable, and most of all, committed to the community.

As the second-ever Alpenglow owner, Madigan says he feels a “tremendous responsibility to give back to the mountain community that has built the shop over time. Madigan says that everything he and the Alpenglow team does is meant to honor this long-standing community-centric business model.

“I believe in the utopic concept of outdoor/ski shops as the go-to resource for everything in each community,” says Madigan.

Madigan is the creator/founder of a litany of high-end, large-scale experiential events, including the Alpenglow Mountain Festival, the Alpenglow Winter Speaker Series, the Broken Arrow Skyrace and Afterglow, A Mountain Storytelling Podcast.

While ownership and a debilitating auto-immune disorder have admittedly reduced Madigan’s time in the skin track, he’s found new and fulfilling passions through Alpenglow’s community events. He says the best thing about being the owner of an outdoor shop is “the people, unequivocally.”

Working with a tight knit group to “create something bigger than ourselves is the most fulfilling job I could ever ask for,” he says. “After our team, the customers are the best part. We like to say we inspire others to do what inspires them… and have been doing so for nearly 40 years.”  

Here’s “the skinny” on four of the store’s big events:

Lake Tahoe Backcountry Demo Event

The Annual Lake Tahoe Backcountry Demo Event, held over two days in January this year, has grown into what the retailer calls the largest, and most well-known backcountry demo event in North America. It is held at Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, a destination known for popular hikes, great out-of-bounds terrain, and easy to access side-country.

Winter Speaker Series

The Winter Speaker Series raises thousands of dollars for the local community with a series of five free events featuring a premier outdoor athlete taking part in an inspiring forum.

Product donated by vendors (speaker sponsors) is used to sell raffle tickets, the profits of which are all donated to a nonprofit. Raffle ticket and drink sales as well as additional donations from the community have to date raised more than $170,000 to make a difference in North Lake Tahoe and beyond.

Additionally, a local group called the Donor Party which has around 15 anonymous members, is also donating funds in conjunction with the speaker series. Madigan says he hopes to grow the Donor Party “into a $250,000-500,000 anonymous philanthropic pool that holistically benefits Lake Tahoe non-profits making a tangible difference in our community.”

Speakers have included Dave Nettle, Glen Plake, Lynn Hill, Jeremy Jones, Tommy Caldwell, Chris Davenport and Alex Honnold. The event was created to not only raise money for nonprofits, but also to inspire a younger generation of aspiring athletes.

Mountain Festival

A nine-day celebration of “human-powered” mountain sports, events, clinics, equipment demonstrations, critically acclaimed films and more. This year Alpenglow Mountain Festival showcased over 75 individual events over a nine-day long schedule in February. The festival offerings are vast and almost every event is free to the public.

Geared toward beginner and intermediate winter recreation enthusiasts, the festival includes events around backcountry skiing and splitboarding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, natural history, yoga, live music, educational workshops, social gatherings and more.

Broken Arrow Skyrace

Founded by Madigan, who is a co-race director, Broken Arrow Sky Race, presented by Salomon, is a three-day event, held at world-famous Squaw Valley in June. The race is a unique style of European-inspired mountain running characterized by off-trail scrambling, steep terrain, and massive amounts of vertical gain and loss. The majority of this takes place above 6,000 feet – above treeline – and consists of five distances, up to 52k, and is run amidst the scenic beauty of Lake Tahoe.

Alpenglow hosts training runs throughout the season in preparation for the race with sponsors and vendors providing demo gear and goodies.

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