Online swap

During the height of the pandemic, community members took the initiative to transition the Free Box to a Facebook page used by thousands in the area.  (Photo by Eva Thomas/Telluride Daily Planet)

The Telluride community has always come together to exchange ski gear in preparation for winter during the off-season, whether that exchange happens at an event, like the KOTO Ski Swap, between friends, co-workers, or even a lucky find at the Free Box.

While the community was still very present during COVID, events that once brought the town together and provided people the opportunity to trade gear vanished from the calendar. The Free Box, a Telluride treasure, became inactive during the pandemic but has since re-opened. The cancellation of the KOTO Ski Swap two years in a row left many locals turning to online platforms to find what they needed for ski season.

The Telluride Sweet Deals Facebook page, which was created in 2012, has over 30,000 members. In November last year, just months after the start of the pandemic, a follow-up page was made: “Telluride Sweet Deals 2.0,” which has over 4,000 members.  The Telluride Free Box also transitioned to Facebook once the pandemic hit and has around 2,000 members. The administrator of the page, Donovin Fogg, was disappointed when the physical Free Box was boarded up, so he decided to create an online version.

“It was safer, offering contactless pickup and drop-offs and still providing help within our community. The fact that people were willing to not only recycle and reuse but do so for the simple kindness of helping others was astounding and worth keeping alive in Telluride,” said Fogg.

Fogg has worked in conjunction with Becky Boehm, the official Free Box Crew Leader hired by the town of Telluride, to help “alleviate the placing of forbidden items” like furniture and electronics. Everything on the Facebook posted page must be free, emphasized Fogg.

Another Facebook page is “Telluride Nordic Gear.” This public page was also created last November by Wayne Kenneth, the director and head coach for the Telluride Ski and Snowboard Club Nordic Team. Kenneth created the page to give locals a space to find Nordic ski equipment specifically.

“There are not very many places to get Nordic gear in town. With the pandemic, the interest in Nordic skiing shot up, so people wanted gear but didn’t know where to find it,” said Kenneth.

Facebook is not the only platform locals are using to help others trade gear in the community. David Reece, who grew up in Ouray and has lived in Telluride for the past 13 years, is the creator and operator for tellurideskiswap.com.

Reece bought the website domain name in February of last year. Since the community could not gather in person to swap gear, he thought a straightforward online platform was needed in the area. In the beginning, Reece started small. First, he invited family and friends to post and trade. Recently, when he heard the 2021 KOTO Ski Swap was canceled, Reece began to share and revamp the website. Reece used his business degree and ski knowledge to create a user-friendly platform for those looking to sell and purchase.

The site is separated into four sections of gear: Ski, Snowboard, Clothing, and Accessories. Users can sell their equipment easily by submitting a form. The seller can choose the pickup location and work in communication with the buyer. There is no middleman, explained Reece. It’s between buyer and seller.

A small transaction fee goes towards maintaining the site.

“We use the funds to keep everything going and eventually get a better website,” said Reece. He hopes to partner with local companies and provide a platform to sell gear stored away in their “backroom.”

“At the moment, the website is tailored towards winter gear. But it is definitely an option to get all the rest of the gear, like backpacking and hiking and things like that, on there as well. Hopefully, it’s going to be a full-service thing for the community,” said Reece.

Reece, Fogg, and Kenneth all emphasize the importance of having a community platform run by locals for locals.

“I don’t want the gear to be bought up by a seasonal person and then taken with them. I want the gear to be in the valley for families here,” stated Kenneth.

On their respective Facebook pages, Kenneth and Fogg only accept locals into their groups.

“I personally review every request to join the group. A major thing for me is you need to be a local of Telluride or the surrounding areas, such as Montrose, Ouray, and Norwood, and within a 100-mile radius,” said Fogg.

In a town with a constant stream of tourists, the importance of keeping locals local has always been a strong theme within Telluride. Skiing and other winter sports are not only a strong attraction for tourists but are also a considerable part of the local community. 

“During the peak of COVID, it was necessary to the community to keep that ‘help your neighbor’ mentality,” said Fogg

His sentiment has only strengthened throughout the pandemic and especially rings true as ski season fast approaches.