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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Ski Swap 101: A guide to scoring the best deals

The swap returns

This weekend Spokane’s annual ski swap, hosted by Mt. Spokane Ski Patrol, will return after a two-year COVID-19-enforced hiatus. During the two-day event, up to 4,000 shoppers will descend on the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center (404 N Havana St.) to peruse the more than 24,000 items – both used and new.

It’s a bonanza with discounts ranging from 10 to 80%. Plus, it supports a good cause, funding Mt. Spokane’s all-volunteer ski patrol.

However, the sheer size can overwhelm, and the uninitiated may wonder, where do I begin? That’s why the Spokesman-Review has put together this how-to guide, with the help of Mt. Spokane Ski Patrol Director Kristin Whitaker.

Step 1: Should you go?

If you’re looking for winter gear – whether ski, gloves, socks or snowshoes – then yes, says Whitaker. The only caveat? If you hate crowds this isn’t the event for you.

Pro tip: Don’t rest on Sunday

Don’t like crowds? Busy Saturday? Looking for even more deals? Come back on Sunday. There will still be good deals. Plus, some items will be marked an additional 25% off.

Step 2: First tracks

Just like on a powder day, the early bird gets the fresh powder, to mix metaphors. “Show up early and you get the goods,” Whitaker says.

Doors open at 9 a.m. although she recommends arriving between 8 and 8:30 a.m. You probably won’t be the first one in line, however, as there are some “die-hards who will show up early or camp over night for the fun experience more than anything else,” she says.

Entry fee is $5. Cash and card are both accepted.

Step 3: Pick your line

What do you want the most? That’s a good starting question, Whitaker says. The event is so large that if you don’t have priorities, you risk wandering aimlessly and missing out on the best deals. Looking for skis? Beeline it to the ski section. Volunteers, wearing Mt. Spokane Ski Patrol gear, can direct you to the right spot.

Pro tip: A family affair

Kids are welcome (and there is plenty of kid gear). To make shopping easier there are normal carts and larger “red-wagon” style carts for the whole family.

Step 4: Is this right for me?

Is this the right gear? That’s a common concern for first-time swappers or new skiers, Whitaker says. Luckily, the swap is staffed by experienced Mt. Spokane patrollers as well as employees from more than 20 retail shops. Just ask anyone wearing a name tag and they can help figure out what gear is best for you depending on your experience and goals. Note: Volunteers don’t do boot fittings.

Pro tip: Grab and go

Find something you like? Hold on to it and keep shopping, Whitaker says. You might find something even better.

Step 5: Don’t stop now

Once you’ve ticked off the high-priority targets, wander a bit. The swap has all sorts of gear, including clothing, snowshoes, gloves, ski racks for cars and more.

Plus, for the first time there will be representatives from several ski resorts including Mt. Spokane, 49 Degrees North, Silver Mountain and Canada’s Big White Ski Resort. You can pick up pre-purchased season passes or buy them there.

And in another first, Mt. Spokane Ski Patrol will be operating the Foggy Bottom Lounge. Stop by for a beverage, listen to some music and give the legs a rest.

Step 6: Time to leave

Ready to roll? Hit the exit gates. While the swap has 20 cashier lines prepare for a wait, Whitaker says. At the height of the madness (Saturday morning) the wait may be up to 45 minutes although it’s often much shorter. Cash, credit, debit and Apple Pay are all accepted. Pay for your gear and revel in the fact that 20% of that money goes to ski patrol.

Start the snow dance because you’re ready to shred.

Final note: Get it fitted

Take your gear to a local ski swap to get it fitted correctly. For safety reasons bindings must be adjusted to the boots. Plus, it’s never a bad idea to have a professional tune-up your gear and make sure it’s ready and safe.

Selling not buying?

If you’re selling gear, go to the fairgrounds on Friday from 3 to 8 p.m. Volunteers will help you set an appropriate price. Then come back on Sunday afternoon to pick up your check (or unsold gear). Mt. Spokane Ski Patrol takes a 20% commission.

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