Stymied at the ski swap? |

Stymied at the ski swap?

Annie AddisonSpecial to The Aspen Times
Hundreds of Aspenites usually turn out for the annual ski swap held at Aspen Middle School to seek out bargains on gear for the upcoming season. Along with valley residents come retailers and professional swappers. (Aspen Times file)

If you’ve seen a whole lot more ski swaps valleywide, your eyes are not deceiving you. It’s likely, too, that you’ll have a harder time selling your wares at ski swaps as the market grows more competitive.”I can’t keep track of all the ski swaps now, to be honest,” said Ron Morehead, store manager at Aspen Sports. He volunteers at the Aspen ski swap, slated for Nov. 5 at Aspen Middle School. “I’ve been working the Aspen ski swap for over 25 years, and I think all the swaps have watered things down.”Not only do the number of ski swaps cut down on a person’s individual take on their old Atomics, Morehead said, but a newer, more capitalistic system has changed the nature of ski swaps.”My problem is with the way the market has changed,” he said. “It’s outside of the initial intention of the swap because retailers have gotten involved, and also groups of people working independently … buy stuff below wholesale from ski companies or rentals and demos and mark them up and do the swap circuit.”It drives the prices of used stuff down; people’s old ski gear hold less value to the newer ski gear these guys have.”

Dave Stapleton, owner of Stapleton Sports, which sells its prior year’s stock at the Aspen Valley Ski Club ski swap every year, as well as the Aspen ski swap, agreed.”These people are called professional swappers. I don’t care for them personally,” he said. “They come in from Utah and California with huge semitrucks stocked with merchandise. They take away from community stores that support the swaps and the Aspen schools.”The Aspen ski swap takes 20 percent of the total amount sold from individuals and retailers participating in the swap to help fund the Aspen School District.Morehead was quick to add that although there are changes in ski swaps, there’s nothing wrong about it. “It’s just that the face of swaps has definitely changed. Maybe they just shouldn’t call it a swap anymore.”Aspen’s original ski swap was founded by Trudi Barr and Pam Beck in the 1950s.

“Trudi intended it to really be a swap,” Morehead said. “You trade your old ski pants for a larger pair. I remember an Obermeyer suit that literally traveled around to five or six kids.”But change is inevitable, and Morehead thinks it’s because of the desire for newer equipment.And the swaps are “a good opportunity for the new person in town who’s trying to get into the sport to get a fairly decent price on mid- to low-range gear that they couldn’t afford at a ski shop,” he said.Stapleton thinks locals also want newer equipment, or at least “something newer than demos or rentals.”Bob Perlmutter, a longtime local and skier who went to the ski club swap held in El Jebel last weekend, said there’s a plus and minus to the change in ski swaps.

“The guys who do the circuit swap can be a little aggressive in some cases,” he said. “They definitely can dilute the ability of the individual to sell their stuff.”But then again, the bottom line is not why everyone goes to ski swaps, Perlmutter said.”The fun part is still there – it’s a social event,” he said. “It’s fun to see the winter crowd that you haven’t seen in a while and talk about skiing. That’s all good, it’s mellow, it’s still casual.”The 51st annual Aspen ski swap is Nov. 5 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Aspen Middle School gym. People are asked to drop off their items on Nov. 4 between 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the middle school.

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