It all began in 1975 when he decided to move to South Lake Tahoe, for just one winter. That one winter turned into a lifelong love affair with Lake Tahoe and people who ski and ride bikes.
Meet Gary Bell, back country pioneer and owner of Sierra Ski and Cycle Works (SSCW) in South Lake Tahoe since 1980. Besides his laid back style, Gary is an expert when it comes to bikes and skis which stems from his years of exploring his backyard. It sustains him, and defines his life. It’s been said that Gary’s ski and bike tunes make the rider. Gary and his long-time manager, Chris Drake, make it a point to understand the skier or rider, the terrain they prefer, fitness level, and the fun factor expectation.
Gary fell in love with the mountains at age four during family ski trips to Alpine Meadows. Seeking more time in the mountains than just weekend ski club trips, Gary made the move when he turned twenty, and taught ski lessons at Heavenly Ski Resort.
He opened the shop in 1980 on Hwy 50 in the middle of South Lake Tahoe next to Safeway. Gary loved the freedom of back country skiing and the shop started retrofitting the soft leather x-c ski boots with downhill boot cuffs to make them stiffer. Always the innovator, Gary created a releasable telemark ski binding in the early 80′s, before Voile. By the mid 90′s, telemark skis and equipment were transformed to handle bigger all-mountain terrain – finally. Like a kid in a candy shop, Gary happily introduced everyone to telemark skiing along with split snowboards to help us get further into the mountains. Today, SSCW remains the quintessential back country ski shop in Lake Tahoe that rents and sells skins, shovels, probes, beacons and avalanche safety & preparedness kits.
In mid-1980 Gary started building mountain bikes, aka Clunkers, which he and his friends would ride all over. They are responsible for connecting abandoned hiking trails that became the famous Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. An avid cyclist on the road and now on the trails, Gary added bike sales, rentals and repairs to the shop to feed his other passion. Gary mastered his technical bike handling skills in the 80's when he competed in bike trials, placing second in the Worlds and Third in Nationals in the Expert Division. He quit the circuit when it felt like a job. Instead, he prefers to take his friends on epic multi-day bike adventures that, so far, have traversed the Sierra from Tuolumne to Buck’s Lake. Those invited have learned to bring a head lamp, extra clothing, food, positive attitude, Advil and a water pump.