Ski season might appear to be a long way away, but the region’s ski swaps are nearly upon us. Whether you are an avid swap-goer or a first-timer, the experience can be overwhelming. Imagine a seemingly endless space packed with skis, boots, clothing and accessories, and then fill it with 1,000 people, some of whom really don’t want to be there. Sounds like a good time, right? It can be, so long as you have a plan and an idea as to what you are looking for. And having a buddy hold your spot in the line while you pay a visit to the beer garden, if there is one, doesn’t hurt either. But seriously, even if you do know what you need (or want), knowing what to look for can help you in the decision-making process and prevent a ton of frustration later.
Modern shape skis are made in a variety of widths under foot, or what is known as waist-width. The wider the waist-width, the better that ski should perform in deeper snow. More than half of the skiers in the Pacific Northwest can likely be classified as intermediate and spend a majority of their time on groomed runs. That said, go with an all-mountain ski that is somewhere between 75mm to 80mm wide under foot. This type of ski will respond well on hard snow and still have enough surface area to help you if you do find yourself in deeper, softer snow. At the swap, make sure that the ski still has a good amount of edge material left. If it looks like there is very little edge left, pass on it. In terms of sizing, the tip of the ski should reach between your chin and your nose. If you are not sure, don’t sweat it. Most swaps have fairly knowledgeable volunteers there to help you. Once you buy your skis, take them to a reputable shop to have them tuned.
Ski boots are the most important piece of equipment you will own, so they need to fit right. First, ski boots should be snug on your feet, and your toes should either just lightly touch the front or be very close to touching. Second, you should be able to flex your boots quite easily indoors. If you cannot flex them, move on to a different pair. If you are buying boots for kids, it’s ok to go a little bigger for growing room, but don’t go too big (like three sizes). Word of caution: Just because you (or your 12-year-old daughter) likes the color or your “expert” buddy says you need a super-stiff, high-end boot, don’t do it if they don’t meet the parameters outlined above.
Skiing requires some “sucking it up” when it comes to the weather, but that doesn’t mean you need to freeze to death. Staying warm usually means staying dry, and this requires that your jacket and pants be water and wind proof. Look for tags on the garment that lists the type of material used (like Gore-Tex). Cotton is to be avoided at all costs (so much for that Dallas Cowboys starter jacket). In terms of fit, make sure you have a good range of movement and have enough room to add a layer if needed.
If you can, do a little research on the type of equipment you are interested in buying before you go. The Internet is a powerful tool, so you should be able to find all kinds of information that will point you in the right direction. If you have the time, go pick the brains of the experts at your local specialty ski shop. When it comes to equipment sizing, fit, or performance, they can be an invaluable resource. Plus, seeing the prices of most new gear will motivate you at the swap. Finally, make sure to arrive at the swap early to get in line – it seems every year more and more folks are discovering the great deals that can be found. //
Swap, Shop, and Ski: Don’t Miss These Local Ski Swaps
Mt. Spokane Ski Patrol Ski Swap (October 30-November 1): The granddaddy of them all, as they say, this swap at the Spokane Fair & Expo Center benefits the Mt. Spokane Ski Patrol. In addition to an expected 23,000 spread of new and used gear, this swap also hosts the premiere showing of Matchstick Productions new film “Fade to Winter,” a beer garden and a special kick-off party Friday night after the film that gets you first dibs on swap gear. General swap admission is $5 and tickets for the Friday night showing of “Fade to Winter” are another $6 and entrance to the Winter Kick-off Party is $50, which includes the film, early shopping privileges and a hosted party. Show up early to get a good spot in line. Skipatrolskiswap.com.
Winter Swap (November 7): North Idaho’s biggest swap unfolds at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds in Coeur d’Alene every year thanks to the combined ski swap efforts of the Lookout Pass and Silver Mountain volunteer ski patrols. A no-brainer for North Idaho skiers and snowboarders, the swap is also a great option for Spokane area skiers and snowboarders who missed the Mt. Spokane swap or didn’t find what they were looking for. Admission is $5 and children under 12 accompanied by an adult get in free. Hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. Winterswap.org.
Schweitzer Alpine Racing School (SARS) Ski Swap (November 14): Sandpoint’s annual ski swap at the Bonner County Fairgrounds benefits the SARS ski racing and freeride programs for over 150 local and regional athletes ages 5 and up. Hours are 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. More info: Sars.net. // (OTM)