Ski swap turns 50 |

Ski swap turns 50

It’s more than just a ski sale – it’s a local institution. It’s a place where husbands and wives first met and an event that draws ski hermits out of the woodwork.Saturday, the Aspen Ski Swap will celebrate its 50th anniversary. “It’s mass bedlam, but controlled bedlam,” said Mary Ryerson, who has been a swap volunteer for 27 years. “It’s kind of a social event. There are people who I only see there.”It’s one of the events I think that makes Aspen so unique.” Now held at Aspen Middle School, the entirely volunteer-run swap was started by Trudi Baar and Pam Beck in 1954 to keep skiing affordable for families. But over time, Beck and Baar realized they could do even more to help the community. The pair kept a percentage of the profits to cover expenses and donated the rest to the Aspen School District, which now receives about 20 percent of all sales. In the past 50 years more than $850,000 has been donated. Proceeds are distributed through a grant process, with teachers applying for funds not usually included in the normal operating budgets. Grants are given for items that are durable and benefit children, such as tents and canoes for outdoor education, books and Spanish/English dictionaries.The equipment sold at the swap has also evolved. A variety of outdoor winter gear and clothing will be sold in addition to skis and snowboards. The majority of the equipment comes from local ski shops, but independent sales are also welcome. Ryerson said a few of the items tend to be overpriced, but for the most part the stores offer discounts between 50 percent and 70 percent. “There are tremendous discounts, and people can always find those little things they’re looking for,” Ryerson said, adding that the swap is a great place to find smaller items like gloves, winter underwear and goggles. But larger items such as alpine, telemark and cross-country skis, snowboards, climbing gear and tents will also be available in abundance. The skis and snowboards sold will be a mix of new models and last year’s demos. Representatives from local shops will also be on hand to help people choose equipment. Those wanting to sell items at the swap can drop off gear at Aspen Middle School on Friday from 4:30-6:30 p.m. All items must be ticketed. Tickets can be picked up at Alpine Bank in Aspen, Snowmass, the Aspen Business Center and Basalt. Tickets will also be available at the middle school.In recognition of the swap’s 50th anniversary, more than $2,000 will randomly be given away in $50 gift certificates to shoppers. Other prizes will also be handed out randomly. The ski swap will take place Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the school. For more information, or to volunteer, contact Ryerson at 429-2105 or visit the Aspen School District’s Web site at Steve Benson’s e-mail address is

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