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Christy Sports buys Grizzly Outfitters, continues to expand into Montana

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Grizzly Outfitters was founded in 1994 by Ken Lancey and Andrew Schreiner, and remained under the same ownership for 28 years. PHOTO BY JACK REANEY

One year after purchasing Lone Mountain Sports, Christy Sports finalized their acquisition of Grizzly Outfitters on Dec. 14.

By Jack Reaney STAFF WRITER 

Christy Sports announced Thursday that it has purchased longtime Big Sky business Grizzly Outfitters. 

The acquisition comes nearly one full year after the Colorado-based company acquired Lone Mountain Sports, in December 2021.  

Christy Sports is a winter and outdoor retail and rental operator with 64 locations across five Western states. Officials with the company say they aim to continue Grizzly Outfitters’ high-level service and will retain the entire Grizzly team. 

With ownership of Grizzly Outfitters and Lone Mountain Sports, it gives Christy customers the ability to coordinate rental options between the mountain and the meadow areas. The ownership changes are effective immediately, Christy officials told EBS. 

A release from Christy stated, “this new location is another great example of strategic expansion to provide guests the best and most convenient omnichannel network to serve their needs and maximize their outdoor experiences in the Rockies and beyond.” 

With last year’s acquisition of Lone Mountain Sports, Gary Montes de Oca, VP of business development at Christy Sports called it “a perfect match and the right strategic entry point” into Montana, their fifth state.  

De Oca now serves as chief development and strategy officer, and stated in the release, “we are excited to continue our strategic growth into Montana and offer new and current guests the opportunity to experience the world-class service Grizzly Outfitters is known for in combination with the Christy Sports Difference provided at all of our locations.” 

Left to right: Andrew and Suzanne Schreiner, Tallie and Ken Lancey toast to 28 years of business in Big Sky on Tuesday night before inking the deal. PHOTO COURTESY OF TALLIE LANCEY

Both co-founders and co-owners of Grizzly Outfitters since 1994, Andrew Schreiner and Ken Lancey spoke in separate interviews with Explore Big Sky. Schreiner said they plan to remain involved when needed, but will gradually move away from the operational responsibilities they’ve been accustomed to. Neither spoke to the details of the transaction, but both expressed their confidence in the future of their shop.  

Lancey and Christy Sports Chief Operating Officer Dan Fox sat down with Explore Big Sky to discuss the keys of this transaction and next steps.  

In April 2022, Fox said he approached Grizzly’s co-owners Ken Lancey and Andrew Schreiner to indicate early interest should they consider putting their nearly 30-year passion project up for sale.  

“We wanted to not have [just] one store in Montana,” Fox said. “The very best ski shop in the meadow is Grizzly.” 

Lancey and Schreiner began talking with Scott and Carey Foster, who sold Lone Mountain Sports to Christy. Pointing to the fact that they still work at their shop, Lancey said the Fosters reported a positive experience.  

“We assessed that we share the same ideas of how to run a business [with Christy Sports], so we weren’t handing our legacy over to an unknown. We checked those boxes,” Lancey said, later adding that this is not Christy’s first rodeo.   

“Right away with Ken and Andrew, what made [Grizzly] attractive was not just the zip code and the building, but the staff,” Fox said. “Tenure, commitment to service, the things that are really special about a high-end ski facility and bike shop: they care about it. We at Christy Sports consider ourselves to be more of a service company than a retailer. And that’s what we saw from [Grizzly].” 

Fox emphasized that Christy Sports has “no desire to make staff changes,” and recognizes the passion and family of the Grizzly staff.  

In a separate interview with EBS, Grizzly Outfitters co-owner Andrew Schreiner and Christy Sports CEO Matt Gold added their perspectives.  

Gold called Big Sky “an amazing market and an amazing community,” adding that Christy is an important player here.  

“We’re wildly excited about it, but we also need to be thoughtful about what [Christy’s] network can look like,” Gold said. 

Schreiner emphasized his gratitude for his team’s leadership as it transitions into new ownership. He called general manager Addison Berry the quarterback of Grizzly Outfitters.  

“Without Addison Berry, none of this would have been possible,” Schreiner said. “There have been ups and downs, and lots of tears and hesitation. Going forward with the leadership we have in place, I feel confident we will absolutely provide Big Sky something they’ve never had before and everyone has asked for: [the] mountain and meadow connected by one operation.” 

As far as notifying the majority of the Grizzly Outfitters staff about the deal, Lancey said they are “pretty green” in the process—he and Schreiner addressed the staff on Wednesday, Dec. 14—and many of the Grizzly staff didn’t take the news with a smile.  

“It eventually gets to acceptance,” Fox said with regards to employee morale in these types of acquisitions. 

Fox is confident that they’ll keep Grizzly’s employees, because Christy’s main goal for the team is to continue doing exactly what they’ve been doing; just before the shop’s busiest time of year, Lancey and Fox agreed that mid-December would not be an appropriate time to roll out any new systems. Virtually all existing operations, including the storefront name “Grizzly Outfitters,” will not be changed before the snow melts. 

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Lancey added. 

As for the shop’s name, Fox explained that Christy will analyze the market and brand to determine whether Grizzly Outfitters stays “Grizzly.” Some of Christy’s past deals—including Bootdoctors in Telluride and Taos (acquired in 2016), and Sturtevant’s in Washington (2015)—have involved brands deemed strong enough to keep their shop’s name.  

Lancey said he sees the local and regional merits of the Grizzly brand, but also trusts Christy to do what’s right for their company.  

“That’s the most important thing. If it’s the right thing for them to do, that’s their decision,” Lancey said.  

Gold said Christy’s current mission in Big Sky is to get to know the people and Grizzly Outfitters staff.  

On Thursday, Christy Sports executives visited Grizzly Outfitters to begin onboarding their staff. The group included the company’s CEO, COO, chief development and strategy officer and Chief Financial Officer Lindsay Goszulak.  

“It’s all about communication,” Gold said. 

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