With the pleasant, mild weather Central Oregon has been experiencing this fall, winter may seem a long way off still.
But the staging this week of the annual Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation Skyliners Winter Sports Swap means that the snow-sports season is on the way — and is not far in the offing.
Now more than 30 years running, the sports swap, scheduled for this Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., is something of a Central Oregon institution.
“It is a good fundraiser for us," says Molly Cogswell-Kelley, the financial development and events director for MBSEF, referring to the event's primary purpose. “But it's also — it's like the kickoff to the ski season, which is really cool, and it's become part of Bend's tradition to have this."
After being held at the Mt. Bachelor ski area's bus barn on Columbia Street in west Bend for a number of years, the swap this year is moving to a warehouse located at 149 S.E. Ninth St. The site, just south of Bend High School, offers about 26,000 square feet of space, which is more than double the square footage of the bus barn. Cogswell-Kelley said the bus barn building was purchased by Nosler Inc., the Bend bullet and ammunition maker, this past summer.
Thousands of winter sports items will be up for sale on Saturday, everything from alpine skis to goggles to snowshoes to ice skates. Suzanne Lafky, whose two sons ski with MBSEF, has volunteered as a cashier at the sports swap for the past several years. She notes that socks are especially popular items, but she also lists coats, snowboards, boots, nordic gear, long underwear, hats, backpacks and, strangely enough, flip-flops as items likely to be found at the event.
Cogswell-Kelley estimates that 90 percent of the gear at the sports swap comes from two vendors, one from California and the other from Idaho. In most cases, she says, the gear will be from the years 2010, 2011 or 2012, never used and aimed at those who are just starting out in winter sports, though some high-end items will also be available. One of those vendors alone, Cogwell-Kelley notes, is expected to bring 1,000 pairs of alpine skis, 300 pairs of cross-country skis, 500 pairs of boots and 250 snowboards.
“Because it's a new location and we have so much more space than ever before, I've talked to them both and they said, 'We're bringing the mother lode,' " Cogswell-Kelley says.
Of course, the public is also welcome to supply gear to sell at the sports swap. Those wishing to sell their gear can take it to the warehouse location from noon to 6 p.m. on Thursday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday. Sports swap volunteers — about 150 of whom donate some of their time during the event — will assist in pricing and tagging items, and MBSEF will take a 28 percent commission on sold gear by the public. (MBSEF receives a 20 percent commission on the vendor sales.)
MBSEF has few requirements on items the public brings to the sports swap other than that straight (unshaped) skis are not permitted. Cogswell-Kelley does request that gear be lightly used and in good condition. There is a little more flexibility with nordic gear, she adds, and even more with clothing.
Items taken to the swap by the public that are not sold on Saturday will be available for pickup from 9 a.m. to noon on Sunday. Items not collected will be donated to the Mt. Bachelor National Ski Patrol.
Along with being able to display more items, one of the advantages of the additional space this year is that more shoppers will be allowed inside the building at one time. That is a plus, as the sports swap will be one busy place come Saturday: Cogswell-Kelley expects at least 5,000 winter sports enthusiasts to attend. The bus barn's maximum occupany for public events was 365, while the warehouse's is 800. Given that, she says she is not sure that shoppers will need to camp out before the sports swap, as some did when it was staged at the bus barn.
Having grown up in Bend, Lafky, 44, has been to a number of sports swaps over the years and remembers when she was a teenager that the event was a much smaller affair staged at Seventh Mountain Resort. As an adult, she has been one of those shoppers standing in line for three hours waiting to get in on the morning of the event — all part of the fun of the experience, she says.
“One of my favorite reasons why we have the swap is everybody comes out of the woodwork," Cogswell-Kelley notes. “And I mean, it is a social event. You know that you're going to see certain people that you only see once a year."
Admission to the swap is $5 for individuals, $10 for families. Most swap veterans would likely say that those fees — which go to the MBSEF scholarship program — are a small price to pay for the chance to get a good deal on some winter sports gear and have a good time doing it.
“That's probably the best thing, is working there," Lafky says about volunteering at the sports swap. “I have so much fun doing it because everybody's so happy. The people who are buying the stuff are just elated, and everybody's really excited for snow. It's kind of like the opener to the season."