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Axe Throwing Has Never Been More Chic

Axe & Ale

While there seems to be some debate among historians as to their primary purpose, combat or hunting, throwing axes first began appearing in third century Europe. They were most famously used by the Francs but have been tied to other Germanic peoples of the time. The first reported competitions of axe throwing are said to have been held by early settlers in North America, the practice may have existed in some Celtic tribes as well. While it may not be one of the first ideas to pop in your head when talking about sports and competition, formal axe throwing has been around for quite some time. You may have even seen it on an extended ESPN channel broadcasting lumberjack sporting events.

The trend is growing rapidly and axe throwing venues are popping up in cities all over the world. Several governing bodies have also emerged, working to standardize and legitimize the sport. One of the largest of these is the World Axe Throwing League or WATL. Boasting more than 300 member establishments on six continents. Along with establishing rules, scoring guidelines and safety practices, the organization hosts annual tournaments to determine world champions in several events. WATL has even partnered with ESPN to televise their larger events. Throwers who participate in league events at their local club can track their scores and participate in regional and national competitions.

The Axe and Ale, a relatively new Fort Collins establishment has quickly become a local hub for hobbyists and axe throwing enthusiasts. Hosting four seasonal league sessions as a WATL member and planning to continue doing so annually. Owners Mike and Ross Ericksen, a father and son business duo, are excited to be bringing this growing trend to the choice city.

“Our accountant has been shocked that a small business is actually doing well during Covid.” Mike Ericksen says of their success so far.

The appeal and potential was immediately apparent to Ross Ericksen, who first tried axe throwing when he took his wife out for a date at a Georgia establishment. He lost to her repeatedly but he found himself continuing to visit axe throwing venues and has improved his skills since then. It was after Ross took his father to visit a Denver axe throwing club that the duo decided they should open one here. Mike had just retired and was relocating to Fort Collins to be closer to his kids and grandchildren.

“I’m much happier doing this than I think I would ever be as an attorney,” Ross says of realizing this new dream after having pursued more traditional goals.

Now nearing the one year anniversary of opening their doors, the local club has a loyal customer base. Some league throwers show up multiple nights a week to keep their skills sharp while others are just there to have a beer and some fun with friends in their new hobby. People from all walks of life are participants and all on equal footing, the atmosphere is undeniably welcoming. 

Brie Lipari and Ashlee Warren are both relatively new to the sport, first coming out to Axe and Ale to celebrate Warren’s birthday. Not being fans of the typical sports activities, they found themselves coming back for more and are now participating in their second league session.

“I’ve always wanted to throw axes,” Warren says of the sport, “I just never thought to go do it before we came here.”

While the game is fun, the social aspect of the league is a big part of what draws them back. “It’s for my mental health to come here,” says Lipari, “to get out one night a week to throw axes and have some good conversation.”

One of the first customers to darken the business’ doorway was Brandon Leimgruber. He’d seen axe throwing competitions on youtube and when he heard their was a club for it opening locally he had to try it and find out if being a professional axe thrower was for him, or if it was just a new favorite hobby.

“I would always throw axes or hatchets outside when I was camping,” Leimgruber says of his pre-existing interest in the sport. Finding a space where he could safely enjoy a beer and meet people who also enjoyed the sport was all he needed. “I was hooked instantly,” Leimgruber says, remembering his first time out. Now he’s there at least two nights a week and while he hasn’t gone pro he’s fully investe and brings his own axes as opposed to using the house axes.

It does seem to make sense to be kind to people hurling axes across the room, but there is no fear involved in the friendliness you’ll find here. As more experienced players help to coach newer ones and perfect their techniques, it’s clear that everyone there is having a blast and just wants to see their community grow.

Whether it's for a date night or a birthday party, axe throwing absolutely provides a one of a kind experience and a rush that is clearly contagious. It’s a game that’s as serious as you make it, whether you bring your own axes and track your WATL scores for more competitive opportunities or come out just to grab a beer and try something new, all are welcome to participate. With technique proving far more important than strength, anyone can prove to be a pro.

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