Wendell and Jennifer Johnson were the epitome of corporate Americans. Theyboth worked in the Phoenix area as engineers. After some time, they left thosepositions and started their energy consulting firm, where he remained for severalyears.
However, they eventually needed another change; they were tired of the Valley andthe rat race. They owned a cabin in Flagstaff and often came here to hike and relax in theoutdoors.
"It was obvious I could do my job anywhere. We basically looked at all of the little townsin Arizona, but loved Flagstaff, so we relocated here," he said.After the move, Wendell was in between consulting contracts and took a seasonal jobat the Flagstaff Nordic Center (FNC), grooming the trails and crunching numbers to see ifowning the center would be a sound investment.
Nearly six years ago, they purchased theFNC. They lease the land from the NationalForest Service. FNC is a popular place tocross-country ski and snowshoe in thewinter. During the warm months, it's thebackdrop for weddings, corporate retreatsand races.
"Several things attracted us to the place.It has great potential. As a cross-countryski area, it is supreme," Jennifer said.
Although people may ski out their backdoor, Jennifer points out the elevation atFNC is between 8,000 and 9,000 feet, sowhen the snow has melted in Flagstaff,there are usually great groomed trails atthe center.
The Johnsons say owning the businesshas been a great experience and even theslow economy hasn't put a damper onbusiness.
"Actually, I think we see more visitorsand regulars these days. People appreciatea value when they experience it. Someof our customers are people who are justout for one day of winter fun. We can givethat to them without breaking the bank.On busy weekends and holidays, we getspillover from Arizona Snowbowl [SkiResort] because they fill up. Some of thosecustomers are the most satisfied, becausethey end up getting a great outdoor winterexperience at a fraction of the cost with nolines!" Jennifer said.
To many people, cross-country skiing isless intimidating than downhill skiing. "Weare very welcoming to everyone, whetheryou are an expert skier or have never triedit," she added.
The Johnsons insist anyone can crosscountryski. "As our head instructor tellsall of his students, 'If you can walk, thenyou can ski.' But like most activities, if youwant to get good at it, it takes practice.Taking a few lessons will definitely helpyou get comfortable and enjoy it more. Ourinstructors are great and can make yourskiing experience much better than if yougo it alone," she said.
She adds there are a large number ofregular customers who visit several timeseach winter. She says she appreciatestheir support.
Wendell admits owning his own businessis no piece of cake. Sometimes, hemisses the steady paycheck and benefits."When you work for a corporation, you doyour one job description, and then leave atthe end of the day. It's also a great socialenvironment every day." However, hesays, he enjoys being able to tackle manydifferent jobs at the FNC. "The great thingis you get to do everything. Yet, the challengeis walking away at the end of theday," he said.
To keep a steady income, the Johnsonsalso own a couple of rental properties anda relatively new coffee shop in town calledKickstand on North Humphrey Street.
Flagstaff Nordic Center is open sevendays a week from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Itis located about 16 miles north of Flagstaffat mile marker 232 on Highway 180. FBN
For more information on the FlagstaffNordic Center, you may visit its website at:www.flagstaffnordiccenter.com.