By Ben Olson
For many outdoor enthusiasts who call North Idaho home, the annual Ski Swap sponsored by Schweitzer Alpine Racing School (SARS) is the kickoff to every winter season. A tradition that dates back more than three decades, the Ski Swap is set to kick off this weekend at the Bonner County Fairgrounds.
“I can remember when I was a kid in the early 80s,” said SARS Program Director and Head Coach Jamie Landwehr. “They used to have [the Ski Swap] in the Community Hall in Sandpoint.”
In the 90s, the amount of skiers attending the annual event forced SARS to move the location of the event to the Bonner County Fairgrounds, where it is still held today.
“The Fairgrounds is the perfect size for this event,” said Landwehr.
Landwehr estimates anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 people attend the annual Ski Swap, generating an average of $15,000 for the nonprofit SARS to offset costs such as tuition and infrastructure of the program.
“The Ski Swap is the largest volume fundraiser, but we only net a portion of it,” said Landwehr, who said the annual dinner auction in February is the biggest fundraiser for SARS.
More than 150 local and regional athletes age five and up participate in the ski racing and freeriding programs that SARS has to offer. SARS also features 20 coaches through the winter season, and every member is required to do a certain number of volunteer days depending on how old their child is.
What kind of winter gear can you expect to find at the Ski Swap? In a word; everything.
Skis, snowboards, boots, poles, bindings, helmets, hats, goggles, gloves, jackets, pants, and socks are just a few of the thousand of items that are featured at the fun event. You can outfit the entire family in one day, or you can purchase a much-needed single item to complete your winter gear.
“It’s a great place to get barely used or never used but two-year-old gear at a great price,” said Landwehr. “It’s also a great way for the community to take part in a pretty expensive sport at below retail value.”
Besides the obvious reasons to attend, Landwehr said the Ski Swap is a chance to get caught up with community members who share similar hobbies.
“There are people that we see once or twice a week all year long, just skiers, that you might not see in the off season because they have different summer hobbies,” said Landwehr. “It creates an enthusiastic vibe.”
Schweitzer Mountain Resort will also be on hand at the Ski Swap for those of you who’d like to pick up or purchase a season pass.
Interested in selling your gear at the Ski Swap? Bring your items to the Bonner County Fairgrounds on Friday, Nov. 13 from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. The consignment fees are 50 cents per item and 20% of the items sold. It’s a great way to turn your old gear into cash. Patrons can pick up their check for items sold or unsold items on Saturday, Nov. 14 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Fairgrounds. Any items not picked up during that time will be donated to SARS or the North Idaho Mountain Sports Education Fund.
The fun happens Saturday, Nov. 14 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Bonner County Fairgrounds. Admission is $2 per person, or $5 per family, with free parking. Cash, Visa, Mastercard and Discover credit cards are all gladly accepted.