30 Years in the Outdoors: Fresh Air Kelowna’s Ryan O.
Thirty years ago this month, our co-owner and sports store expert, Ryan Olar, got his start in the outdoor industry — and what an incredible three decades it’s been! We sat down with Ryan to learn more about his journey and expertise — from his time as a lift operator to becoming a sponsored snowboarder to now. Get cozy and dive right in!
How did you get your start in the outdoor industry?
I started out at my local ski hill in Ontario. I was a ticket checker for the first year and then a lifty. I actually worked in lift operations for a few years, then rentals at the same place. Around the same time I got sponsored snowboarding, and worked a summer job so I could afford to take the winters off snowboarding and competing on a competitive team travelling around Canada.
From there it just led into retail and moving to Ottawa, working at a ski hill running rental and retail and summer programs for a few years. Then I worked for a pretty big store, Tommy & Lefebvre. During that time I opened an events company doing Urban Snowboarding events with some buddies for a few years. Next, I moved to Fernie, then on to Kelowna from there and to manage our bike and ski shop, Fresh Air.
You have a really well-rounded understanding of the outdoor industry, and you’re now co-owner of two Fresh Air locations (Fresh Air Concept and Fresh Air Experience Kelowna), to what do you owe your success?
One thing is I had three amazing bosses in my life, mentors, you could say, that were pretty instrumental in my career. When I worked summers for an RV dealership in my hometown, the family that ran the shop was pretty amazing at giving opportunities. The president at Tommy & Lefebvre was so open minded with whatever I wanted to do, including backing the snowboard events. And Jim [Bates, former owner of Fresh Air Kelowna], for sure. My parents were a big influence as well, growing up with my dad in a construction company and the work ethic instilled from them.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in the outdoor industry?
Always set your sights pretty high and set goals to get there, you'll learn along the way. My thing was always three years. I'd stay at a job for three years and plan to move on after that — either at a new company, or a new position at the same company — so there's progression along the way. So just keep ticking off smaller goals as you go.
Looking back over the last 30 years, what sticks out to you?
It's more about the friends I've met along the way that we're still in contact with and the community we’ve built. A lot of them are busy with family, but we're always planning on getting together for a snowboarding trip or something.
It's been 30 years in the industry, and where do you see things going? What do you hope for in the future?
Ah! More time relaxing and golfing.
Built on experience and dedication to the outdoor industry, Fresh Air Kelowna is your local go-to for all things bike, board and ski gear in Kelowna. See what’s in store.