The ski swap is like a strong skier on a powder day - well after noon, it's still going strong.Once the primary fundraiser for Ski Club Vail, the event has since become a key fixture in the town's preseason routine, with local residents looking forward to the late-October event year-round. Now in its 43rd year, the iconic shopping event will return to Dobson Ice Arena in Vail from Friday through Sunday like it always does, with a cross-section of gear ranging in a similar age span to the swap itself, about four decades.Local residents have the opportunity to sell and shop. With the money they receive, many opt for a swap.But while there will be some 2,000 used items available, a majority of the products are actually unused equipment from visiting vendors. "Eighteen thousand items come from vendors, and all that stuff is new," said Euginnia Manseau, events manager with SSCV. "Many of these people come from out of state, some ski shops, some companies that come in and sell gear at swap prices."Of course, being a true local event, there will be local vendors there, as well. Sari Lucas with Ski Base in Lionshead says the support Ski & Snowboard Club Vail (SSCV) receives from the swap is what keeps her involved. "Our children (Nash, 10, and Halsey, 13) are both in the ski club," said Lucas. "As a vendor, it's very important to us to participate on the business end and contribute funding for the sport that our children love."Look for half-price deals on 2012-13 Oakley and Orage sample lines, as well as last year's Oakley and Helly Hanson products from Ski Base at the swap. They'll also have helmets from Poc, Giro, K2 and Scott, new hart skis and demo skis from all the major brands.Longtime Vail Village fixture Kid Sport will also be there, with deep discounts on last year's K2 Juvy skis."It's literally the same ski from this year, just the graphics, that's the only difference you have," said Chris Frey with Kid Sport. Longtime local vendor Franz "Fuxi" Fuchsberger with Fuxi Racing USA in Edwards also says his favorite aspect of the event is the funds it raises for the kids at SSCV."It's phenomenal event for a phenomenal organization," he said. "We love to take any opportunity we can to help out the ski club, especially at a great event with as much history as the ski swap. Yes, I want everyone to know Fuxi will be there with his familiar fleet of gear, including the gloves you love for our lowest price yet, only $50. We'll also have tremendous savings on a variety of other products, including outerwear, our ever-popular fleece gaiters and, of course, Fuxi's marquee race products."'You never know what you're going to find'The proceeds SSCV receives from the retailers and individuals selling items at the swap goes to the club's annual fund, which aims to create the widest gap possible between what the club charges athletes and what the program actually costs. "Ski racing is a very expensive sport, and so we make it a little more affordable by raising money for the cost of the program for the athletes," said Manseau.A truly world class organization, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail has seen many World Cup and Olympic athletes come through the program, including World Cup Overall Champion Lindsey Vonn, X-Games gold medalist Chris Del Bosco and four-time Olympian Sarah Schleper, among others. When Vail native Schleper was in the ski club, there were 100 or so kids involved.These days, the club has more than 500 kids and 116 employees. Among other improvements, they're working to expand the multimillion-dollar Golden Peak Training Center, which has a specialized snowmaking system that allows Vail to host some of the world's top skiers and national ski teams during November training. With all the top-level athletes coming through Vail at one point or another, in addition to the large number of former and current U.S. Ski Team members hailing from the Vail Valley, you never know what you're going to find at the swap, says Manseau."We've had many U.S. Ski Team athletes come through our club in many years, and we've always had them bring their stuff to the swap to sell," said Manseau. "Kristina Koznick sold her jacket from the Olympics, and last year we had a suit from Julia Mancuso that was sold. So it's kinda cool to see the old U.S. Ski Team stuff that past athletes have donated ... We can't guarantee anything, but you never know what you're going to find."Early shop op for true swap hoppersSwap organizers may not have to worry about the common concerns of the business at large - things like "keeping it fresh" and "being in tune with the times" are already taken care of by the vendors and the products they bring. But part of the draw to the swap is in the opposite: increasingly trendy throwback items from decades past that help complete the seasonal wardrobe any truly in-fashion local resident must possess. After all, if you're going to be on the hill every day, then you're going to want a retro-version one-piece for April Fools' and closing day, a green ski suit for St. Patrick's Day, something red and pink for Valentine's Day, a red-and-green number for Christmas, and the list goes on, depending on how creative you want to get. The "gaper day" suit can also double as a Halloween costume in a pinch, so you may be able to secure yourself something just in the nick of time as that holiday approaches. "Some of the best deals can be found on the older, used items from individuals," said Manseau. "Those go quick, so it's always very important to get there when the doors open."Despite the time-tested business model the swap has successfully employed for the last four decades, organizers this year have still managed to find an improvement by adding an earlier shopping opportunity for the true swap hopper."In the past, we have always offered early bird shopping to all our volunteers, because without them we wouldn't be able to put on an event like this," said Manseau. "But we've definitively had some feedback from people who put their time in - sitting by the door and waiting was always hard when people have been able to shop prior. So we've eliminated that this year. The doors will be open earlier than ever at 3 p.m. and the general public will have first pick."Vail area native and skier Cesar Hermosillo says that along with trying to be aboard the very first chair of the season (he was last year), and first into Blue Sky Basin when the ropes drop (he claims that accomplishment for last season as well), he also tries to be first through the door at the ski swap."I can't wait," said Hermosillo. "I look forward to the swap every year; I don't buy any gear until I have seen what's at the swap ... I always walk away with something."Manseau says as we reflect on 50 years of Vail history, the ski swap has become one of those nostalgic events reminiscent of old Vail. "A lot of locals are in town this time of year," she said. "So it's always a good way to see old friends and get the community together before we kick off the season."To get involved as a seller, buyerSellers: Friday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., enter the west end of the Dobson Ice Arena and look for the loading/unloading zone. If you're in the right spot, you should be greeted by some volunteers, who will help you tag your items. If you'd like, you can have them suggest prices based on other similar items they've seen. Once you've tagged your items, you'll fill out a form and pay 5 percent of your total asking price up front (cash or check only). Public checkout is on Saturday afternoon from 3 to 6 p.m., but you can always can come in and check if your items have sold or not prior to checkout. In addition to the registration fee, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail will retain 20 percent of the selling price from all items sold. Buyers: Early bird shopping is $15 and will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. Friday. From 5 to 7 p.m., the swap entrance cost drops to $10 from 7 to 10 p.m. on Friday. From 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday, the cost is $5. Entrance to the swap is free starting at noon on Saturday (it will remain open until 5 p.m.), as well as on Sunday from 8 to 10 a.m. Sunday's blowout sale will feature all unclaimed public items at 50 percent off.
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