Bargain hunters head to ski swap |

Bargain hunters head to ski swap

Much like department stores during sale time, ski swaps offer bargains as well as a fascinating people-watching experience.

There are the parents of those highly discriminating offspring, fervently seeking out brand name equipment for their fashion-conscious children. Right next to them stands the thrilled family who found a pair of size 4 boots for just $10 – never mind the scuffed toes and the squeaky buckles that don’t work too well – the kids will grow out of them in a year anyway. Lining up at the cashier’s desk, right behind that tired-looking man barely able to stand beneath his massive load of ski pants, jackets, hats, snowboard, boots and poles, there’s a woman smiling because she found the perfect $2 pair of wool mittens.

Ski swaps attract a wide variety of bargain hunters and as the cost of both skiing and snowboarding increases exponentially, swaps have become a means, according to Heavenly Ski Foundation Program Director Noel Dufty, of eliminating a bit of the sport’s financial sting.

“What are you going to do if you’ve got a couple of kids – buy all new gear every year as they grow out of it?” Dufty said. “Swaps make access to the slopes affordable when you could easily be spending thousands of dollars each year at a sports store.”

During the weekend, shoppers spent $123,000 at the 12th annual Heavenly Ski Foundation swap, out of which $23,500 goes to support the 130 kids on the Heavenly Ski Team. The swap began Friday evening and ended Saturday, packing several Horizon Casino Resort conference rooms with approximately 1,200 pairs of skis, 600 snowboards, 1,000 pairs of boots, dozens of clothing racks and countless boxes of hats, gloves, goggles, helmets and other gadgets and equipment. Nearly 100 volunteers assisted shoppers through the maze of equipment supplied primarily by local sports stores, as well as by six sporting goods vendors from around the country.

Proceeds from this event and the Winter Welcome dinner and dancing fund-raiser provide the primary financial support for the Heavenly Foundation alpine, freestyle and snowboard teams.

“Probably 80 to 90 percent of the money we use to operate is raised through fund-raising efforts,” said Foundation administrator Connie Hunt. “We are not connected financially with Heavenly Ski Resort, although they give us a lot of support.”

Although Dufty estimated that nearly 90 percent of the shoppers were local, Gardnerville resident Greg Brady said he came over the mountain for the second year in a row because the prices were so good.

“I don’t do a whole lot of comparison shopping, but these boots I’m getting originally cost $350. I’m getting them for $150,” he said happily.

Brady also bought boots for his children, at $15 a pair.

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