This is the first piece in Highland Profiles—a series that aims to highlight West Virginia’s exemplary outdoor adventurers, business owners, and community innovators. If you’ve got someone in mind worthy of a profile, drop me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I pulled up to Driftland Ski and Sport in Davis as I had many times before. The open sign always seems to be on, and owner Ian Beckner always seems to be inside. Opened in 2015, Beckner has quickly established Driftland as a bedrock business in downtown Davis. Named after the first ski resort in Canaan Valley, the shop offers ski and snowboard rentals, gear and apparel, a full range of tuning services, and a great place to kick it and talk skiing with locals.
The offspring of life-long skiiers , Beckner was bred to ski. His mother, Leslie Mehl, runs The Ski Barn in Canaan Valley, and his father, David Beckner, was manager of ski lift operations and maintenance supervisor at Snowshoe Mountain from 1977-1981.
Soul-soothing reggae jams pulsed good vibes throughout the satisfyingly utilitarian space while old-school skiing videos played on a flat screen TV near two cushy chairs by the tuning shop. Decked out in a blue flannel shirt and his signature Driftland trucker hat, Beckner perfectly reprised the role of local ski shop owner. His friendly demeanor and love for the skiing life make even the most amateur skier feel extremely welcome, and, by the time they walk out the door, feel like a friend. At just 30 years old, Beckner is making a positive impact in Davis with his business and attitude.
“I’ve been skiing on my parents’ backs since I was born. Every snow day was skiing.”
So I’m safely assuming that you grew up skiing?
Every waking hour. I’ve been skiing on my parents’ backs since I was born. I started skiing at three. We started out in Timberline where my parents built a log cabin. My parents were cross-country skiers and alpinists—that’s what I grew up doing. Every snow day was skiing.
What was life like growing up in Canaan Valley?
It was a lot of outdoor stuff. My parents didn’t allow me to buy video games, so it was cycling. Mountain biking was a big thing that my dad and I did together. It was a lot of hiking, camping, and, of course, skiing was huge.
What role did skiing play in your youth?
Anybody from here that had the ski bug, that’s what we lived for. Growing up, skiing was my first love. Starting at seven, through grade school and into high school, I ski raced for the Canaan-Timberline Race Team. I grew up ski racing, and joined the [West Virginia University] ski team and raced collegiately for four years. I also got into mountain bike racing in college, I joined the WVU cycling team senior year and made it mountain bike nationals that year.
“The whole West Virginia thing, no matter where else I lived, I’d say, “I’m from West Virginia.” The place never leaves. It really doesn’t. Everybody wants to be back here, no matter where they’re from.”
So being on two wheels became a major component of your life?
After college, I moved back home in the winter of 2009-2010, which was the second-biggest winter we had, and worked at my mom’s ski shop. It was the true ski bum life. After that, it was time for a real job. I went to work for Cycling Sports Group, which at the time was Cannondale, Mongoose, GT, and Schwinn, and they were out of Bedford, Pennsylvania. I started out as a sales rep, and then transitioned as a tech rep. It was a really fun experience. I still loved skiing, but cycling was becoming more a part of my life. I went to Harrisonburg, Virginia, because my now-wife got a job, and I wanted to go there because of cycling. I was riding five to seven days a week, and worked for Shenandoah Mountain Touring, a mountain bike touring business out of Harrisonburg.
Were you still doing a lot of skiing during those biking years?
Yeah, SMT was affiliated with Massanutten Ski Resort, so that got me in to get cheap passes. I resorted to night skiing. I came back to Canaan Valley a bunch on the weekends. When I worked in Bedford, I worked every weekend in Canaan Valley. I was working seven days a week in the winters, but still skiing.
When did you come back to Davis?
After I got engaged to my wife, Dena, in Harrisonburg. Skiing has always been my first love as far as activity, lifestyle; I just love everything about it. The fun days you can have centered around it, whether it’s cross-country skiing or downhilling, you get to experience the cold, and then there’s the beer and the stories of past trips. You meet a lot of people on chairlifts and skiing in the woods. With skiing being my first love, and my mom being in the ski retail world, it was time. I always wanted to do it. Back in grade school, we had to answer ‘what do you want to be?’ I answered a professional skier or a ski shop owner. In my senior year of high school, we had the same question. I answered either a ski bum or a ski shop owner. It was destined. I’m a big dreamer, and I just kept along on that dream. The whole West Virginia thing, no matter where else I lived, I’d say, “I’m from West Virginia.” The place never leaves. It really doesn’t. Everybody wants to be back here, no matter where they’re from.
How did Driftland come into being?
The building that we’re in now, the old pharmacy, was available. The owners didn’t want another restaurant in here. They didn’t want something that wouldn’t last. I took the dive and did a proper business plan. It was 2014; Davis was growing, Thomas was growing, [Corridor H] was in, more people were coming. There was a lot going on. My wife and I wanted to try something new. I started out with myself and one employee; now I have four employees.
What’s it like to run a business that lives and dies by the weather?
It’s nerve-racking. During the summer I have a painting business, but you’re still thinking, ‘What’s this winter going to be like? Are we going to be skiing before Christmas or after Christmas?’ We’re all under Mother Nature’s shadow. It’s whatever she’s got, or whatever Ullr wants to bring us. No one wants to rent skis in the rain. We scrape by, that’s why I’m here seven days a week.
Why Davis? What’s the big draw here?
I always wanted to be back here since I left. The opportunities from [Corridor H] and drawing in people from the D.C. area—that was a big motivator. We’ve got three major ski resorts, we’ve got Blackwater Falls; I thought, ‘Why not another ski shop?’ I’ve been trying to coin this place as the ski capital of West Virginia. We have it all. We have the community feel, the breweries, the eateries, the sports, the skiing; we’ve got it going on. There’s a reason why people from D.C. come here every weekend.
“I’ve been trying to coin this place as the ski capital of West Virginia. We have the community feel, the breweries, the eateries, the sports, the skiing; we’ve got it going on.”
What do you see in store for the future here?
I see more things going on; some of the growth may be bad, but some of it’s going to be super positive, especially for some of the locals who need some extra work. Now there’s gonna be more things going to offer people work, and that’s what I hope for, and that’s why I’m here. People are seeing the possibilities. We’ve got a lot more people who’ve relocated here who have great minds and are forward thinking to make sure major changes happen the right way.
Stop by Driftland Ski and Sport at 556 William Ave in Davis. The shop is open daily and Ian is almost always most definitely there. Mention you saw this article in Highland Outdoors and get 20% off a fist-bump.