The waiting, Tom Petty sang, is the hardest part. For winter lovers and skiers who have been counting the days until the lifts open, these in-between days stretch interminably. And they seem especially cruel with no snow in sight. But the KOTO Ski Swap is a winter gear-lovers delight that presents the opportunity to grab some needed gear at a great price or to offload last year’s skis for some extra pocket cash. It stokes the stoke for ski season. The best part? It’s a fundraiser for Telluride’s noncommercial community radio station, KOTO. Twenty percent of every item sold goes to KOTO.
Brittany Miller has been at the helm of this massive undertaking for three years. For three years before that, she was the floor manager for the swap’s then-manager Jess Lockwood, so she knows a thing or two about the retail experience.
“Floor organization is key,” Miller said. “And it’s always different. Some years the kids section is overflowing and sometimes there’s barely anything.”
Shoppers will find a well-organized, neat shopping experience with good traffic flow, Miller promised.
The swap takes place, as it has for many years, in the garage of the Wilkinson Public Library. Nothing is possible, Miller said, without a veritable army of volunteers — she has 107 signed up — who, along with KOTO staff, have already been working under her direction schlepping, organizing and readying for Friday.
That’s when the swap begins in earnest. Friday is drop-off day. Bring items for sale to the library garage from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sales tags are available at the radio station at 207 North Pine St. It’s always easier to have items tagged, priced and ready to go on Friday, Miller said, but tags will be on-hand at the garage.
Volunteers are not only fed throughout their shifts, but they get first dibs on the goods at the pre-shop on Saturday morning from 8:30-10 a.m. The swap proper is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
Concurrent with the swap on Saturday is the Rail Jam at the Oak Street Gondola Plaza, hosted by swap partner Telluride Ski Resort. The Freestyle Free-Ride is free and takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with music from T-Ride Sound, followed by awards and a skate session at The Drop Boardshop.
Stop by Telski’s Oak Street ticket office Friday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the last chance to score a season’s ski pass at Early Bird rates.
KOTO Executive Director Cara Pallone, the station’s former news director, is in awe of Miller’s organizational prowess.
“She’s on it,” Pallone said. “This is my first swap as ED, and I’m just watching how it all unfolds. I’ve let her know, ‘Just tell me where to be.’”
The swap is one of the nonprofit’s largest fundraisers, Pallone said.
“It’s right up there with the Duck Race.”
So, how to make your used gear shine at a swap? How to best go about pricing your stuff? Winter gear hounds agree that swaps are one of the best, most economical places to score replacement skis or a new pair of goggles. On The Snow website has this advice for sellers.
“Ski swaps are not the last bastion of dying hard goods. Whether you're buying or selling equipment, it should still have reasonable life in it and not be imminently destined for the dumpster. Some ski swaps refuse to accept equipment that is more than a few years old because they know that it will never sell. As a general rule, newer, more contemporary equipment will sell faster than older equipment,” On The Snow writes.
For skis specifically, On The Snow recommends spiffing them up.
“Spend some time cleaning and tuning your equipment. Make them sparkle. Fifty percent off of a pair of skis that are one to two years old is a good place to start.”
Once the dust has settled, it’s time to either pick up your unsold gear or collect a check for your sales, less 20 percent for KOTO. Miller reminds swappers that if your stuff is still there at the end of Sunday’s 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. pickup, it will be considered donated.
All the leftover gear is available at the After The Swap Swap — which is cash only — Monday from noon to 3 p.m., also in the library garage. This year, Miller said, a portion of the sales will be donated to the True North Youth Program. Representatives of the Telluride schools’ ski P.E. program will also be gathering clothing for its scholarship students, and Telluride Adaptive Sports Program will be on the hunt for extra large jackets for participants in its veterans ski programs. And, Miller said, Second Chance Humane Society Thrift Shop will also be among the beneficiaries of the swap.
The annual KOTO Ski Swap is a job Miller undertakes with joy.
“It’s such a cool event,” she said. “It’s as crazy as can be.”
To volunteer, visit koto.org. For more information, call the station at 970-728-4334.