Tom Ross: Ski Swap full of hidden treasures
October 23, 2005
Steamboat Springs — For just a moment on Saturday, I imagined myself skating hard in the lead pack at Val di Fiemme. I was measuring the Norwegians and the Austrians for the final sprint to the finish line of a World Cup Nordic Combined event. Confident in my wax, I knew this could be the day!
Alas, in the end, I chickened out — but it was fun while the shopping lasted. Where else but at the annual Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Ski Swap could a schlub like me pick up an actual factual, bona fide, no doubt about it, tested in international competition, sleek, sexy, skin-tight, faster-than-fast racing suit for $20? And that wasn’t the only treasure at the Ski Swap this weekend.
Keith Rattray of Venture Sports in Avon was offering one of the most unusual looking pair of skis I’ve ever set eyes on. Standing alone in the rack was a single pair of “Wasatch Lightning” long boards. Thick underfoot, these hardwood skis tapered to a long pointy shovel. Priced at $299, they are skiable, but they’re meant for display.
Of course, Ski Swap is better known for its bargains — how about a pair of lightly used Rossignol Bandits for $5 — including bindings? Bo Yennie was trying to sell some good stuff at the Ski Swap. He’s a rare 55-year-old athlete in that he is both a snowboarder and a Telemark skier. Yennie had already sold a pair of “Totally Piste” K2 Telemark skis for $40.
Why did he sell a perfectly good pair of skis for $40? “I already have a pair of Super Stinx and another pair I haven’t mounted yet, just for backup,” Yennie said.
The first snowboard Yennie ever road was still looking for a new home in spite of the fact that it was priced at $5.
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“I’m smart,” Yennie said. “I buy snowboards for $300 and sell them for $5.” It’s that kind of arithmetic that makes the Ski Swap an effective fundraiser for the Winter Sports Club. Executive Director Rick DeVos said the club hopes to clear about $20,000 annually from its cut on the big sale. Vince Arroyo had an interesting take on the swarms of people pawing through tables laden with bargain-priced ski gloves.
“This is worse than the Victoria’s Secret fall panties sale!” he shouted over the din.
If you really want to land the best bargains at Ski Swap, it’s best to show up for the Friday night selling session. But even on Saturday, you can find some swell stuff if you’re willing to paw through the racks. That’s how I found Nathan Gerhart’s old racing suit. It was extra large, big enough for me. Bright white, with navy blue and red chevrons on it, it was the same model suit the best Nordic combined skiers in America were wearing in 2002. I just knew that if I wore it to train in on weekends at the Touring Center, some of that speed would wear off on me. And it was a bargain.
Then, I pictured people laughing at me. I needed a second opinion, so I dragged the suit around the middle school gymnasium and asked other shoppers what they thought.
“I can definitely see you in it,” Nordic coach Mike Kerrigan said, struggling to stifle a guffaw. I hung the beautiful suit back up on the rack.
Curious, I tracked Gerhart down by cell phone Sunday to see if he had any good memories attached to the suit. He’s retired from international Nordic combined competition and is studying integrated physiology at the University of Colorado. “So Nathan,” I asked, “what were your best memories associated with that suit?”
“I never really had a good result in that suit, or I would have kept it,” came the response.
That figures. A similar suit, in which Gerhart placed 12th at a World Cup B Nordic combined competition in Steamboat is safely stashed away. He’ll show it to his grandkids some day.
I felt better knowing I hadn’t passed up on a bargain that could have put some real magic into my own skiing. But you can bet I’ll be back at the Ski Swap next October looking for a genuine piece of ski memorabilia.
Tom Ross is a longtime Steamboat resident. His column is published every Monday in Steamboat Today.