Ski swap marks season’s start |

Ski swap marks season’s start

Rick Chandler

Do you remember where you met your first love? Maybe it happened at a ski swap meet, and maybe the object of your affection was a Lib Tech 153 snowboard.

“I’ve been riding snowboards for five years, since I was 14,” said Sean Baxter, a sales rep for Hermits Hut Sporting Goods. “I used to ski, but I tried it (snowboarding) once and I never put on skis again.”

Ski swap meets are common in snow recreation country, and Lake Tahoe is no different. This one, organized by the Heavenly Ski Foundation at Harrah’s Convention Center this past weekend, went to provide funds for the non-profit organization’s Junior Race Programs.

And the event was a hit – with a record 840 people attending Friday’s opening day. Those in the market for winter recreation gear could sign up to bring their own items to sell, or purchase new and used items from any one of the 30 or so vendors on hand in Harrah’s main convention showroom.

Of course, skis and their accessories are still the biggest items, but snowboarding is rapidly catching up.

“We started the day (Saturday) with about 30 boards for sale, and by 5 p.m. we had about six left,” said Baxter, who traveled from his home town of Redding for the event. “Snowboarding has been around for a long time, but it’s really taken off over the past five years. Now it’s just huge.”

Youngsters seem to gravitate toward the speed, freedom and creativity which snowboarding can offer. Many ski resorts are responding to the sport’s popularity, offering trails, runs and terrain gardens for snowboarders. The sport has gone legit – it’s now in the Winter Olympics – and some of the best riders have pro careers.

Snowboards of all kinds were on sale at the swap meet – from the $60 used variety to top of the line brands such as Avalanche, Killer Loop and K2, which can run as much as $500.

Business was brisk, and that cash register sound is music to the ears of Margaret McKean, who ran the meet for Heavenly Ski Foundation.

“A lot of people think that we’re connected to Heavenly Valley, but that’s not so,” said McKean. “We’re a nonprofit organization, and this swap meet helps to support our Junior Race Program.”

The Junior Race Program caters to all levels, from very young skiers to advanced competitive skiing and snowboarding. Four Heavenly Ski Foundation team members are on the U.S. Ski Team: Wisi Betchart, Jonna Mendes, Brooke Ballachey and Chris Hernandez.

McKean’s two sons are also in the program, Jonathan, 17, and Chris, 14.

There were a requisite number of snowboard veterans on hand for the swap meet Saturday – the number of teen-agers with scraped or sunburned faces was substantial – but there were first-timers, too.

“I’ve decided I’m going to give snowboarding a try, and I’m looking for the right board,” said Elijah Irons, a senior at South Lake Tahoe High. “I have no idea what I’m doing so far. But It looks like fun. I’m going to see what all the fuss is about.”

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