Aspenites swap ’til they drop
ASPEN ” In fewer than five hours, the annual ski swap at Aspen High School on Saturday netted tens of thousands of dollars that will enable local students to spend some quality time outdoors.
Volunteer Jackie Broughton said the swap averages about $30,000 a year in revenue but it’s too early to tell how much this year brought in. Last year brought in $40,000, she added.
All of the proceeds fund outdoor education and experiential programs for Aspen School District students.
“We’re doing this for the kids,” Broughton said. “The beauty of it all is that of the money we make, it all goes back to the schools … we’re very grateful for it.”
Since its inception in 1954, the ski swap has enabled the Aspen School District to provide and improve upon outdoor programs, and give scholarships to students whose parents can’t afford the excursions, which sometimes last up to a week.
“We’re probably close to [a few hundred thousand dollars] added to the school district,” said Broughton, who has volunteered at the swap for more than 50 years. “It’s grown by leaps and bounds.”
This year attracted more people than organizers have ever seen ” dozens of people stood in line at the entrance to the high school gym throughout the morning hoping to get a deal on winter clothing, accessories and gear.
“People are going into foreclosure, eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches but they are not going to give up skiing and boarding,” said Bennett Bramson, who volunteered as a security guard and guided the masses through the entrance.
A common misnomer is that the ski swap benefits the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club but it doesn’t. It has always been a benefit for the school district, said Craig Rogers, a volunteer who heads up the swap’s ski department.
Used gear and clothing is brought to the swap the day prior by hundreds of residents, who collect 80 percent of the proceeds of the sale. The rest goes to the school district.
“Twenty percent goes to the district,” Rogers said, who sits on a 20-member board that determines how the money will be spent. Each school in the district submits grant requests for their outdoor programs and the money is distributed over the winter break.
“These programs require a lot of money and gear,” he said. “And these programs are unparalleled to anything else in the country.”
In addition to used gear from residents, for the past 20 years vendors have been allowed to sell their wares, which are brand new. Items range from clothing, goggles, gloves and hats to some equipment.
“Many people walk out of here with thousands of dollars worth of stuff,” Broughton said.
The swap would never have the success it has without the help of volunteers, which numbered more than 200 this year, Rogers said, including Aspen High School students. They spent all of Friday setting up the gym and, for two hours in the afternoon, volunteers accept thousands of pieces of gear and clothing, and quickly put them in their proper places to be sold.
“You wouldn’t believe it when you see it, we can move things so quickly,” Broughton said.
The popularity of the swap is significant, considering that it started in a small room at the Red Brick Center for the Arts 54 years ago, led by Pam Beck and Trudy Barr.
“For many years it was a true swap with no money changing hands,” Rogers said. “But over the years, it has grown into what it is today.”
Broughton said from the outset, the swap grew in popularity and within a few years, it was expanded to the Yellow Brick School, which served as the location for apparel while the Red Brick held hard goods. It was then moved to the Aspen Middle School commons area and then finally to the high school gym.
What’s not sold or picked up by its owners goes to the thrift shop, Broughton said. However, Rogers said an unidentified man sometimes collects the items and gives them to charity. A few years ago, he shipped the gear to Uzbeskistan.
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