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Melissa Roberts of Ski Shack – Why NEPA?

“For all the places that I’ve traveled and lived, I could not think of anywhere else I’d want to be.”

Ski Shack in Moosic is like a second home for Melissa Roberts. She grew up playing hide-and-seek among the dressing rooms and clothing racks of the shop, which has been in her family for about 40 years. Now, as the third-generation owner, she has launched an exciting new chapter for the family business. As of this year, Ski Shack has expanded from a seasonal, winter-only store to a year-round outdoor specialty shop.

A self-professed “outdoor adventure junkie,” Roberts loves camping, hiking, kayaking and paddleboarding. But of course, winter sports still hold a special place in her heart.

“I started out skiing. In my family, as soon as you can walk, you’re on skis,” she explained. “But in the mid-90s, I just really fell in love with snowboarding. Back then, it was very taboo.” That didn’t stop Roberts, who—no kidding—got married on her snowboard at a slopeside chapel in Vermont.

The brands and products at Ski Shack reflect Roberts’s passions and values, from sustainable and fair trade apparel to authentic, durable gear. Under her leadership, the store has also launched exciting events, such as guided hikes, paddleboarding workshops, Onewheel meetups and more. It’s all part of Ski Shack’s mission to build NEPA’s outdoor community, raise awareness about local conservation efforts and support area nonprofits.

After traveling the world as a young professional, Roberts has settled in the Back Mountain with her husband, her two sons and their dog. Yet, life is still full of adventure for this outdoor enthusiast and small business owner. We had to ask—why NEPA?

 

How long have you lived in NEPA?

I was born and raised here. I graduated high school from Wyoming Area, and I left for a few years. I went to school at the University of Pittsburgh, where I studied foreign languages and got my degree in Japanese Language and Literature, as well as Asian Studies. I had a chance to actually live in Japan for about a year to study abroad and travel to different countries.

What brought you back to NEPA?

When I was over there, I realized that I actually didn’t want to live in Japan. I loved the culture and the language, but it wasn’t something that I wanted to pursue a career in. I moved back here after I graduated in 2006. My mother needed some help. She was actually running the Ski Shack at the time. I moved back to the area to help out with the family store for a season. Then, I ended up finding a job in international marketing, which was very fitting with my background. I worked there for about nine years. Then, it became time to start a family and settle down. I’ve been here ever since. 

What did you miss most about NEPA?

I would say access to the outdoors was one of the things that I really missed a lot. Where I lived in Pittsburgh, I was near Frick Park. You can do some nice hiking and biking, but you had to drive quite a bit to go to a ski mountain or to go paddling anywhere.

Now where I live in the Back Mountain, I’m a mile and a half from Frances Slocum State Park. It’s a three-minute drive. I can put my paddleboard in the lake, and I’m right there. It’s amazing that we have so many green spaces, lakes, rivers and outdoor spaces that are available in such a short amount of time.

What do you love about your town?

The community here is fantastic. When we moved back here, I remember on the first day, our neighbor was knocking on our door with a tray full of coffee cake. We always felt welcomed here. We know our neighbors. We look out for each other. It’s just a really great community here.

And it’s the access to the outdoors. It’s being at the foothills of the mountains where we have Frances Slocum, Harveys Lake, Moon Lake and Ricketts Glen. All of these things are so close to us. For me as an outdoor adventure junkie, this is heaven.

What’s your favorite NEPA restaurant?

A lot of the places that we go are lunch places. Margarita Azul is our favorite Friday lunch spot. For me being right in Moosic, I love Nearme Café. They have the best acai bowls and awesome smoothies. I love super healthy food. We go paddling up at Francis Walter Dam, and we love to stop at Bear Creek Café for breakfast or lunch. It’s always a must-stop.

What’s your favorite thing to do in NEPA?

Now that I’m here with my kids, we’ve been getting out and exploring this area. Last summer, we took our kids on the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail for a walk. I was like, “This is beautiful! I had no idea this was even here.” Then, one of my colleagues, Becky, and I went on a paddle on the Lackawanna River this May. It was amazing. We did a full moon headlamp hike up at Moosic Mountain. I was able to attend that. I’d never been there before, and it was awesome. The huckleberries and the blueberries were just starting to ripen. And now, I’ve also been doing paddleboarding classes on Sunday mornings and Friday evenings up at Harveys Lake. It’s awesome to get out and explore all these places that were right in my backyard the whole time.

What’s next for you?

We have a three-prong mission. The first part is helping grow the outdoor community. We know from scientific research that being around other people is good for us. We learned this so much during the pandemic. Being alone is not good for us as human beings. We need that social connection. Also, being outside and being in nature is so therapeutic. In Japanese, they have the term shinrin-yoku, which translates as “forest bathing.” We know that being in nature has such amazing benefits to help counteract a stressful life. And we know that exercise is good for us. We know that getting our hearts pumping and our bodies moving is all good. So what if we could get people exercising outside with other people? Well, that’s a triple whammy right there. There’s so much power in helping to build that community of people. By offering these free and low-cost events, it’s helping us achieve our mission of making the outdoors accessible for everyone.

The second is bringing awareness to conservation efforts, so working with the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail or the LRCA [Lackawanna River Conservation Association]. How can we bring more awareness to the different land buybacks and ways that they’re looking to expand these trails, greenways and waterways in Lackawanna County and Luzerne County? How can we be a part of that and bring awareness to these efforts?

The third leg is how we can help support not-for-profits. We always look for ways to support local organizations. We did a touch-a-truck event, which benefitted the Children’s Advocacy Center of Scranton this past May. Anything that ties into that mission—that’s really what we’re thinking about going forward.

Where do you see NEPA heading in the future?

In our backyard right here in Moosic, we’re seeing the construction going on up at The Shoppes at Montage. All the new businesses that are coming up there are super exciting and the talks of building a resort up at Montage Mountain are getting underway. It’s an awesome time to see all the investment going into this area. The Moosic/Scranton area is so poised to becoming a tourist destination. Right now, we’re still known for The Office, but there’s so much more.

Why NEPA?

Honestly, for all the places that I’ve traveled and lived, I could not think of anywhere else I’d want to be. We have all of the outdoor activities, the safety of our communities, the quality of our school systems, the cost of living and the quality of the people here. There are such wonderful people that love to support our community, which is great. We could move, but you know what? It’s just the place we want to be. It really is. It’s home.

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