Aspen Ski Swap returns after year hiatus in support of ASD outdoor education

The sale is Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Aspen Middle School

A snowboarder rides down Snowmass Ski Area on Friday, Nov. 29, 2019.
Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

On the outside it’s simply a ski swap, but at heart it’s an important fundraiser for the Aspen School District’s unique outdoor and experiential education programs.

“I’ve never heard of another program in the country anywhere close to what our school district does for kids in terms of introducing them to outdoors and self-sufficiency and all the character-building things that come with learning to be in the outdoors,” said Will Herndon, the president of Coldwell Banker Mason Morse who has been one of the lead organizers of the ski swap for nearly 15 years. “I grew up in Aspen, so I’m a beneficiary of all the outdoor ed programs that the school district has sponsored for so long. So it was a way for me to do my community service for a cause that is amazing.”

After a year off because of the pandemic, the 66th annual Aspen Ski Swap is set to take place Saturday at Aspen Middle School. From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., bargains can be found on new and used ski and snowboard gear, with 20% of the money from sold items going back into the outdoor education programs.

“We cannot go on our outdoor ed trip without the ski swap,” said Adam Flatt, an Aspen Middle School teacher who also helps run the ski swap. “Like anyone can imagine, outdoor ed trips are a bit arduous, and gear does, at times, break. It’s really hard to buy brand new gear with so many different outdoors programs and we do need the support.”

The outdoor education program through ASD is probably most known for its middle school trips, which include backcountry skiing, rafting and overnight hiking. In high school, the program shifts more toward experiential education, which can include non-outdoor activities related to any number of disciplines, such as the arts.

Herndon said the ski swap can bring in as much as $50,000 for the outdoor ed program, with that money going not only toward gear but also scholarships to help students afford the often weeklong trips.

The ski swap also is one of the many unofficial kickoffs to winter in Aspen.

“That’s the main goal of the ski swap, is getting the community together and talking about skiing,” Flatt said. “Just remembering the good times of skiing and getting ready for the new season.”

For those wanting to sell items, the equipment drop off is from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday at the middle school. The all-volunteer staff can aid in tagging and pricing items. Shopping begins at 9 a.m. Saturday and goes until 1 p.m. Those wanting to pick-up their money and unclaimed items can do so right after the sale on Saturday from 2:15 to 4 p.m.

The ski swap accepts cash, check and credit cards. Masks are required for both shoppers and those working the event.

“It’s good to get back. I think people are excited,” Herndon said. “There is still COVID out there a little bit, but I think people are excited to get some stuff, get some gear, and it looks like it could be a good year, good snow year.”