By Mira Brody
BIG SKY – Every year, outdoor gear that hasn’t fulfilled its full potential is given away, sold, returned or thrown out. Every year, there’s a skier, or hunter or climber who has their wistful eye on a new piece of gear with an enormous price tag. Sean Doherty, owner of Headwall Sports in Big Sky, is determined to close that gap.
Headwall Sports is Big Sky’s newest sporting good shop and utilizes used but high quality consignment items to fulfill inventory. Doherty has been owner and operator of Headwall Sports in Jackson Hole for eight successful years and saw an opportunity in Big Sky. After searching for the right location for four years, seeing the growth of the area in the last few months encouraged him to make the leap.
“Big Sky is probably one of the only places I’ve left Jackson for to ride in the winter,” said Doherty. “I’ve always been intrigued by it, and I like the raw Montana feel. It’s a really nice getaway. I couldn’t ask for a better situation.”
Doherty is originally from Upstate New York, moved to Park City, Utah for a stint, and has lived in Jackson Hole for 15 years. Since purchasing the Jackson Hole location, he has transformed it into the Headwall Sports consignment gear shop it is today. He says since the soft opening of the Big Sky store on Jan. 22 the community has been overwhelmingly supportive.
Headwall Sports aims to price items at half their original price and Doherty and his staff place a focus on customer service and quality items. When working with consigners, they look for gently used items under five years old—the ones that still deserve a full life of adventure and are still a great investment for the purchaser.
They accept all outdoor categories of gear from camping, backpacking, biking, fishing, ski, snowboard and some casual clothing items. Doherty also carries a few new gear items from quality, affordable suppliers he can stand by.
“Skis should not cost that much,” Doherty says of some brand new items. “One of the beautiful things is sometimes one of the newest [items] makes it into my store. A true skier, he knows what ski he wants. He doesn’t care if its 10 years old, because he knows how it skis.”
Doherty really just believes that gear should be affordable for everyone. He hopes Headwall Sports can close the economic gap between those who can buy an expensive, brand new pair of skis right out of the shrink-wrap and those who may use those skis for the remainder of their lifetime a few years later. Much of the time, he says, gear people bring in is barely used at all. And sometimes, it is right out of the wrapping.
“We get so much stuff in my store that’s been used four times, and we can sell it to people who are going to go out and use it,” Doherty said.
Organization too, is key at Headwall. With items organized by size and appropriately labeled, customers can shop for gear without the chaos that comes with most thrift stores. He and his staff are well informed, and are available for questions.
Pre-pandemic, Headwall Sports in Jackson would regularly host an event called State of the Snowpack, which he hopes to bring to Big Sky as well. He’d invite the local snow science professionals out for a presentation, order local pizzas and beer, and invite the community in for some useful backcountry information. He says those events bring in anywhere from 60 to 100 people.
“When we have those talks and you look around the room you see there’s a sense of community—whether you’ve been here for 30 years or 3 years,” Doherty said.
When he’s not running his store, Doherty fills his time with skiing, biking and “anything outside,” as well as traveling between his two stores, a commute he doesn’t complain about. Meanwhile, you can find him and his dog, Roma, manning the counter of Headwall Sports in the Bighorn Center off of Gallatin Canyon Road just before Lone Mountain Trail.