LAST YEAR SKI SWAPS in the region saw anomalous success. The Schweitzer Alpine Racing School (SARS) Ski Swap had an estimated 30% increase in sales. Swaps at Mount Spokane and 49 Degrees North also set earning records.

In this year’s teetering economy, event organizers were not sure what to expect. “We weren’t sure what was going to happen with the economy as it is,” said Kristin Whitaker, marketing manager for Mount Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park.

SARS Program Director Roger Taggart predicted lower sales due to the struggling economy. He was pleasantly surprised by a steady turnout. High-quality used gear at the swaps is more affordable than new products in stores, he said. Skiers and snowboarders worried about the economy may be especially interested in finding equipment at a discount this year.

49 Degrees North swap co-chair Denny Burt was pleased with what he called an “exceptionally strong and profitable swap” that brought in an average amount of sales.

SARS Ski Swap coordinator Jim Jopson says turnout is affected by several factors, not just the economy. “[Shoppers are] influenced pretty heavily by current [weather] conditions.” Last year snow began falling in Sandpoint the day before the swap, which got people excited about hitting the slopes. The amount of merchandise available also affects a swap’s success, he says.

The Mount Spokane Ski Patrol Ski Swap saw record earnings, even topping last year’s boom. Whitaker attributes the success of the Mount Spokane Swap to its reputation as “a place where buyers can get quality used and new stuff—but plenty of new stuff—cheap.” Vendors put their used winter merchandise on sale at the swaps for a small per-item fee. Swap-goers can also find past-season “new” gear from local shops at slashed prices. Whitaker says she bought an unused $750 pair of skis for $250 last year.

Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho ski swaps took place the first two weekends of November. Proceeds from the 49 Degrees North, Mount Spokane and Silver Mountain Swaps go to local ski patrols. The SARS Ski Swap benefits the Schweitzer Alpine Racing School.