By Peter Madsen • The Bulletin

If you go

What: Skyliners Ski Swap

When: Gear check-in, Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; swap: Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Gear pick-up: Sunday, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Where: The Pavilion, 1001 SW Bradbury Way, Bend

Admission: Free

To register an item online, visit

Throw your cyclocross bike in the dumpster — it’s time for snow and the annual Skyliners Ski Swap!

As a pre-ski (and snowboard) season ritual, Central Oregonians have convened at the Skyliners Ski Swap to upgrade their equipment and rub elbows with folks they haven’t seen since the snow melted.

Molly Cogswell-Kelley, Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation’s event director, said only about 15 to 20 percent of skis, snowboards and soft goods come from the public. Two large northwest retailers will supply the Skyliners Ski Swap, as they have done for the past 30 years, with the other 80 percent of steeply discounted, mostly new gear, often around wholesale costs.

“People are often surprised to come to the swap and see how much inventory is new,” Cogswell-Kelley said. “A small percentage comes from the public.”

Those who do intend to sell can register their gear online — a new feature that saves sellers’ time.

The Pavilion is also the new, permanent home of the Skyliners Ski Swap, which has hopped among various venues since its stint at the Mt. Bachelor bus barn. The swap, which was first organized by Skyliners Ski Club around 70 years ago, has been organized by MBSEF since 1986, Cogswell-Kelley said. One of the nonprofit’s main fundraisers, the Skyliners Ski Swap racks up around $300,000 in sales each year, with about 75 to 80 percent going back to the sellers.

The variety of winter gear at the Skyliners Ski Swap knows no bounds. Skiers of all levels will find throngs of downhill, telemark and nordic skis and equipment.

“Sometimes we get in the most amazing vintage ski gear from the 1950s and ’60s that is highly sought after,” Cogswell-Kelley said.

Hard and soft goods for sale include helmets, goggles, bindings, boots, poles, snowshoes and gloves.

“Anything that has anything to do with nonmotorized recreation,” said Cogswell-Kelley, adding that ski jumpers, however, are typically out of luck. She doesn’t rule out the possibility of granite ice curling stones making an appearance, now that Bend Ice has organized curling matches at the Pavilion since 2015.

Bert Hinkley, 70, has volunteered at the Skyliners Ski Swap throughout the years, helping people find the right gear. A ski tech at Webskis and a veteran ski coach, Hinkley has given The Bulletin a quick breakdown of gear-purchasing tips so folks heading to the Skyliners Ski Swap know the right questions to ask the volunteers to ensure they’re paired with the right snow gear. Below, Adam Gerken, the retail director at Tactics, gives the lowdown on buying second-hand snowboarding gear.

Nordic skiing

Boots/bindings: A good ski fit begins with correctly fitting boots, Hinkley said. When trying the boots on, wear the same socks you’d wear skiing. Your toes should have enough space to wriggle, and there shouldn’t be any tight or hot spots. Your heel should feel snug without any slippage. For those new to nordic skiing who might not know whether they’ll prefer classic skiing over its faster skate discipline (which requires a whole different set of skis and poles), Hinkley recommends the two-in-one “combi boots.” These feature the above-the-ankle collars that aid in the lateral skating motion and a flexible sole needed for the shuffle-like classic skiing technique.

Important, too, is knowing which of the two main types of binding systems, which may already be attached to the skis, you’re dealing with. New Nordic Norm — referred to as NNN — and Salomon Nordic System — or SNS — are not compatible with each other.

“You have to make sure that (you’re pairing) a boot with an NNN sole with an NNN binding,” Hinkley said. “That’s pretty key.”

Skis: When it comes to the skis, Hinkley looks first at the skis’ base, or underside.

“The base shouldn’t be dirty and full of gouges. It should be smooth, not hairy like a tennis ball,” Hinkley said with a chuckle. Finding a pair of skis with a protective, off-season layer of wax is also a good sign that the seller took good care of them.

A general rule of thumb for proper skate ski length is that they should be head high — a little shorter for beginners and a little higher for advanced skiers.

“You’re better off with a ski that is a little bit short than a little bit too long when you’re getting started,” Hinkley said. “If the skis are too short, though, they’ll feel unstable and wash out on you.”

Classic skis are longer than skate skis, Hinkley said, adding that classic skis tend to be 10 centimeters longer than skate skis.

Hinkley recommends ski purchasers first administer the “paper test.” To test whether a pair of skate skis fits, slide a business card beneath the ski and stand on it with one foot using all your weight. The business card should still slide from the ball of the foot about 16 inches forward. The ski shouldn’t fold down flat. “If it does, the ski is too soft for you and it isn’t going to perform well,” Hinkley said.

When testing classic skis, stand on them with both feet, distributing your weight equally between feet. The business card should slide between the heel of your boot to 16 inches in front of your binding. When you shift your weight on one foot, the whole ski span that was open should close down on the floor, he said.

Poles: When sizing classic poles, stand in regular shoes and hold them before you. They should reach the middle part of the collarbone. A skate pole should reach your upper lip.

“For me, it’s my mustache line,” Hinkley said. “Don’t buy a pole that’s too short. Poles can always been cut down, but they don’t stretch very well.”

Alpine skiing

Skis: We get more technical when we get to alpine skis. Again, check that the ski base’s edges are not rusty, gouged or have burrs on them. For little kids, alpine skis should be shorter than head-high, arriving at the mouth or nose. Skiers should consider whether they want versatile, all-mountain skis, wide powder skis (wide from tip to tail, almost have rocking-chair camber) or giant slalom skis for racing.

“You’re going to have to ask volunteers whether skis will be good for powder or packed-groomers,” he said. To the uninitiated, “From a distance, skis all look the same, and up close they all look different.”

Boots/bindings: Similar rules apply as above. Kids might want to “sock up” their feet a bit more than adults, so a little extra wriggle room for the toes is good. Things get a bit more complicated when sussing out proper bindings, which must be compatible with the boots.

“Really, really worn-out boots are not safe,” Hinkley said. “If you look at the friction pad — located under the ball of the foot on an alpine ski boot — and it’s all rough because (the previous owner) has been walking through the parking lot, so the boot may not release properly from the binding. You could be getting yourself into a very unsafe ski boot.”

Also, the plastic housing can deteriorate over time.

“If they’re old-looking and dirty, they’re not a good thing to buy,” he said. “They’re a good way to twist your leg off.”

Poles: Poles are easy to cut to size. When you turn the pole upside down and place your hand underneath the basket, you should be making a 90-degree angle at your elbow.

“That’s about the right height for an alpine pole,” Hinkley said.


Gerken, the retail director at Tactics, has been selling snowboards since 1990. He fielded the snowboard end of this buyer’s guide. He’ll also be selling snowboard items at the Skyliners Ski Swap.

Boots: Just as with skis, boots are where you start when assembling a snowboard setup. Gerken discourages buying previously ridden boots.

“Boots are the probably the most difficult thing to purchase used because they’ve been broken in by the rider who (previously owned) them,” Gerken said. The most important thing to do is to try them on, lace them up and make sure you have zero heel lift. You want your toe right up until the end. You don’t want a lot of space, nor do you want any pressure points or hot spots. Wear the type of socks you would wear when you’re snowboarding, Gerken said.

Bindings: It may seem obvious, but it’s worth repeating: “Don’t buy bindings if there’s anything broken on them,” Gerken said. Make sure the ratchets function thoroughly from their loosest to tightest settings. If the bindings are used, make sure they come with the mounting discs and hardware. Replacing these components “will make your costs start to add up to more than what you expected,” Gerken said. Ensure, too, that hole patterns will fit on the board. Don’t take for granted that your boots will fit any and all bindings. Manufacturers offer a range of binding sizes, and the sizing is not standardized. Your boots should fit snugly in the bindings and the ratchet straps shouldn’t strain to wrap across your feet. To judge whether your boots will fit your board, arrange them on top of the board to reflect the angle of your stance. A little toe and heel overlap with the edges of the board is normal, so long as no more than three-quarters of an inch of boot hangs off. Some bindings have adjustable toe ramps which mitigate overlap, Gerken said.

Snowboards: Overlap presents a natural segue to proper board widths. When it comes to ideal board lengths, a general rule of thumb is that the board should reach your chin or nose, Gerken said, but he’s quick to add that there are always exceptions regarding shape, particularly when one gets into powder boards or others with a more niche design. When it comes to wear and tear, worthwhile used snowboards, like used skis, should have a smooth base with few scratches. A “core shot,” or a deep gouge that penetrates through the board’s plastic exterior and into its wood core, is a more serious ding, but it’s reparable so long as water hasn’t seeped into the otherwise waterproof board.

“Is a core shot a deal-breaker? Not necessarily,” Gerken said. “But if I had two boards and one had two scratches and the other had a core shot, I would definitely buy the one without the core shot.”

Inspect the board’s edges to make sure the metal strip hasn’t separated. Any discoloration may mean delamination between the board’s layers has occurred.

Gerken recommends those new to snowboarding who have a tight budget to invest in high-quality, well-fitting boots and rent their board and binding setup for their first season. They’ll figure out what they do and don’t like as far as board shapes and bindings go, while enjoying a comfortable season wearing comfortable, supportive boots.

“If you go and spend your money on a board that is super cool and then you have boots that hurt, you’re not going to enjoy snowboarding and you may not stick with it,” Gerken said. “People always want to buy boards because they’re sexy and pretty — I get it. If you have comfy boots and you have perhaps a lower-grade board, you can go out and have some fun,” he added. “In a year or two later, maybe you’ll want to spend a little more money on a new board. But it all starts with the boots.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7816,