PORTAGE PARK — What started as a gaggle of friends chasing adventures around the country and fixing skis in their garage is about to plant roots in the Six Corners Shopping District, as Chicago Ski Pro, 4837 W. Irving Park Road, sets for its grand opening this weekend.
The tiny storefront is a pit stop for anyone looking to get their gear waxed and re-edged in time for ski season.
But co-owners Nick Dumitru and Cosmin Toma, a pair of thrill-seeking friends from Romania, are also hoping to turn the shop into a starting point for a group trips with destinations both near and far.
Under the banner of "Trans Adventure Tours," the pair plans to charter a coach bus every Saturday to bring skiers and snowboarders on day trips to Wisconsin resorts, they said. And for more serious adventurers, they're organizing week-long packages in Oregon and Idaho.
"The idea is that you're signing up for a guided trip, where you don't have to worry about lodging or transportation," Dumitru said. "And we'll plan activities the whole time, so people can have a way to feel involved and part of the group the whole time."
That attention to social bonding is what helped Dumitru's trips balloon from a handful of close friends into an informal "club" of more than 50 people, he said. He'd begun running small winter excursions in 2008, but "word of mouth" attracted newcomers every year.
In 2011, Toma decided to give it a shot.
"I was trying to learn how to snowboard, but I didn't have a group to go with," Toma said. "So I got to know all these new people, and it turned out to be this really nice group."
"When you have a passion for something, it's nice to have people who can share that with you,' he added.
Toma got more involved in the trips and started working with Dumitru's ski and snowboard repair service, picking up skis from customers in person and bringing them back to their home workshop for waxing, binding or edging.
In the meantime, their adventure group grew simultaneously larger and tighter-knit. Some couples who met on trips later got married, he said.
Now, by opening up the operation as a publicly available service, Dumitru said he hopes to widen the net for more outdoor enthusiasts.
"Ski trips aren't just about skiing — they're also about community." he said. "They're about going to bars, making friends and meeting people in other cities. So we want to create that opportunity, especially for people who are new to Chicago or don't have friends who ski."
The shop will host a grand opening event from 4-6 p.m. Satuday, when visitors will be able to check out an information session on services and planned trips.
Trips can be booked on the Trans Adventure Tours website.
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