When Phil Leeds was finishing up college in Santa Cruz, California, he was itching to get back to the Tetons. He had spent summers working at Colter Bay Lodge, and his friend, Jeff Crabtree, had just opened a shop called Skinny Skis in Jackson. As soon as Leeds Finished School, he headed back to town and began working with Crabtree, soon becoming a co-owner.
Now, 40 years later, Leeds still co-owns the shop but with a new partner, Scott O’Brien.
“What could be better than being involved with activities you’re passionate about from the business side and sharing them with other people?” Leeds says.
The shop’s name alludes to cross-country skis and for Skinny Skis’ first three seasons it was only open fall through spring, focusing on the winter sport. But in 1977, Leeds and Crabtree were able to expand their focus to summer goods as well, delving into hiking, backpacking, climbing, and running gear.
Leeds was an avid rock climber for the shop’s first 20 years, but now he gravitates more toward cross-country skiing and fly-fishing.
“In winter, I love cross-country skiing and all the dimensions of it,” he says. “Touring, skate skiing, and backcountry skiing.”
He spends time product testing in the field and tries to spend at least two days outdoors each week. He and his wife of 32 years, Heidi Leeds, enjoy exploring Granite Canyon, Teton Pass, and Trail Creek together.
But it isn’t just about playing outside and selling gear for Leeds. For him, the most important thing is giving back to the community and being involved with environmental and youth-oriented groups and nonprofits.
“Our relationship with the community is really important,” Phil Leeds says.
He is on the Friends of Pathways board, and he also focuses on community partnership opportunities for Skinny Skis, including working with the Jackson Hole Ski and Snowboard Club to make sure kids who want to participate in Nordic racing can enjoy their chosen sport.
“It’s making it easier for kids who are growing up in the community to do an activity they feel so strongly about,” Leeds says. “We don’t want to see any obstacles for kids who are genuinely interested in a sport.”
The shop also works with the Jackson Hole Nordic Alliance and Grand Teton National Park Foundation’s youth trail crew, in addition to supporting Avalanche Awareness Night with Teton County Search and Rescue and the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center.
“We’re in business to sell and rent outdoor gear and clothing, but beyond that, it’s important to be as involved as we possibly can in the community and important to be aligned with activity on a daily basis that’s trying to further the community in a sensible, sustainable way,” he says.