Melissa Roberts of Ski Shack – Why NEPA?

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

A self-proclaimed outdoor adventurer, Roberts loves camping, hiking, kayaking and paddleboarding. But of course, winter sports still hold a special place in his heart.

“I started skiing. In my family, as soon as we know how to walk, we are on skis,” she explains. “But in the mid-90s, I really fell in love with snowboarding. At the time, it was very taboo. That didn’t stop Roberts, who — no kidding — got married on her snowboard in a slopeside chapel in Vermont.

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

After traveling the world as a young professional, Roberts settled in Back Mountain with her husband, two sons and their dog. Yet life is still full of adventures 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 from Wyoming area high school and went away for a few years. I went to school at the University of Pittsburgh, where I studied foreign languages ​​and graduated in Japanese language and literature, as well as Asian studies. I was lucky enough to live in Japan for about a year to study abroad and travel to different countries.

What brought you back to NEPA?

When I was there, I realized that I didn’t want to live in Japan. I loved the culture and the language, but it wasn’t something I wanted to pursue as a career. I came back here after graduating in 2006. My mother needed help. She was actually running the Ski Shack at the time. I returned to the area to help out with the family store for a season. Then, I ended up finding a job in international marketing, which corresponded perfectly to my background. I worked there for about nine years. Then it’s time to start a family and settle down. I’m here since.

What did you miss most about NEPA?

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

Now that I live in 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 there. It’s amazing that we have so many green spaces, lakes, rivers and outdoor spaces available in such a short time.

What do you like in your city?

The community here is fantastic. When we came back here, I remember the first day our neighbor was knocking on our door with a tray full of coffee cakes. We have always felt welcome here. We know our neighbors. We take care of each other. It’s just a really good community here.

And that’s access to the outdoors. It is to be at the foot 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 a fan of outdoor adventures, this is heaven.

What is your favorite NEPA restaurant?

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

What is your favorite activity at NEPA?

Now that I am here with my children, we go out and explore this area. Last summer we took our kids on the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail for a walk. I said to myself: “This is magnificent! I had no idea it was even here. Then a colleague of mine, Becky, and I went paddleboarding on the Lackawanna River last May. It was amazing. We hiked to the full moon lighthouses at Moosic Mountain. I was able to attend. I had never been there before, and it was awesome. Blueberries and blueberries were just beginning to ripen. And now I have also given paddleboard lessons on Sunday mornings and Friday evenings at Harveys Lake. It’s great to get out and explore all those places that were in my backyard all the time.

What’s next for you?

We have a three-pronged mission. The first part helps grow the outdoor community. We know from scientific research that being around other people is good for us. We have learned so much about this during the pandemic. Being alone is not good for us as human beings. We need this social connection. Plus, being outside and being in nature is so therapeutic. In Japanese they have the term shinrin yoku, which translates to “forest bathing”. We know that being in nature has incredible benefits to help counter a stressful life. And we know exercise is good for us. We know that getting our heart beating and our body moving is a good thing. What if we could get people to exercise outside with other people? Well, that’s a triple whammy there. There is so much power in helping to build this community of people. By offering these free and inexpensive events, it helps us achieve our mission of making the outdoors accessible to everyone.

The second is to raise awareness of conservation efforts, so work with the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail or the LRCA [Lackawanna River Conservation Association]. How can we raise awareness of the various land buyouts and the ways they plan to expand these trails, greenways and waterways in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties? How can we be part of it and raise awareness of these efforts?

The third step is to find out how we can help support nonprofits. We are always looking for ways to support local organizations. We hosted a touch-a-truck event, which benefited the Children’s Advocacy Center of Scranton last May. Everything related to this mission is really what we think we’re going for.

Where do you see NEPA going in the future?

In our backyard here in Moosic, we see The Shoppes at Montage being built. All the new businesses moving there are super exciting and talks about building a resort at Montage Mountain are ongoing. It’s a great time to see all the investment in this area. The Moosic/Scranton area is on the verge of becoming a tourist destination. Right now we are still known for Officebut there is so much more.

Why NEPA?

Honestly, for all the places I’ve traveled and lived, I couldn’t think of any other place I would want to be. We have all 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 who love supporting our community, which is great. We could move, but you know what? It’s just where we want to be. It really is. It is the house.