The smell of sawdust wafted out the open roll-up door, and the satisfying thunk of an ax sinking into wood could be heard from the sidewalk.
Ax throwing, an activity once limited to lumberjacks and Boy Scouts, has gone urban.
Heber Hatchets opened its first Washington location on North Division Street across from Mountain Gear on Memorial Day.
Headquartered in Heber City, Utah, the business also has locations in Idaho and Nevada.
“Throwing an ax can be very Zen,” manager Dave Kelley said. “It’s also very fun.”
He should know.
“For about 10 years, I’ve hosted hatchet-throwing tournaments in my backyard,” he said.
Kelley, who also teaches graphic design at North Idaho College, explained the difference between an ax and a hatchet.
“Here we usually throw axes, which weigh about 7 pounds. Hatchets are smaller and lighter, and are available upon request.”
Structured somewhat like a bowling alley, the business features 11 lanes separated by tall chain-link fencing. Each lane has a dartboard-like target at the end of it.
Participants must wear closed-toe shoes. All ages are welcome, but Heber Hatchets recommends throwers be11 or older.
On a recent Tuesday evening, employee Chad Caviness explained safety and scorekeeping rules to the Skirko family, and demonstrated proper ax throwing techniques.
“I heard about it on Facebook,” Jenn Skirko said. “I was looking for something fun to do as a family this summer.”
She’d never thrown an ax before, but you couldn’t tell that from her first toss – she hit dead center – a perfect bull’s-eye.
Her husband, Chris, shook his head.
Daughter Halle, 11, wasn’t so sure about the activity.
“I don’t have, like, muscles,” she said.
Her mom laughed.
“It’s better than bowling,” she said.
Kelley stressed ax throwing is not gender-centric.
“Ladies are always welcome,” he said.
The venue doesn’t serve or allow alcohol, but guests can bring food. Guests also can book events like birthday parties, corporate events and bachelor/bachelorette parties.
In fact, a local credit union recently held a work party at the venue.
First-timers are usually nervous about handling the sharp axes, but Kelley and his four employees carefully go over the safety rules.
“Safety is our No. 1 requirement,” Kelley said. “Having fun is No. 2.”
Posters featuring instructions and rules for several types of throwing games line the walls. Long narrow tables and tall stools offer a safe place to watch while you wait for your turn.
Hourly rates are $15 per person for one to three people, $12 for four to seven and $10 for eight or more. You can call or book a time online, but walk-ins are also welcome. However, Kelley said weekend slots fill up quickly.
“The most satisfying part of my job is getting people in here who’ve never done this before, so they’re nervous. Then they try it and love it,” he said.
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