The unofficial start of the winter ski season kicks off next weekend in Southern Oregon when the Medford Ski Education Foundation holds its annual Ski and Snowboard Swap.
The event is set for Nov. 13-15, in the multipurpose room at St. Mary's School, 816 Black Oak Drive, Medford.
Several large merchants will offer deals on new and used ski and snowboarding equipment. They will operate alongside private-party sellers looking for some extra holiday cash or an equipment upgrade.
Also, representatives from the Mt. Ashland Ski Area will be on hand to take photographs and issue season passes so skiers and snowboarders don't have to travel to the company's Ashland office or wait in long lines opening day for their passes.
The annual swap is a way to recycle usable gear, and it's popular among families whose young athletes can grow out of their gear almost annually. The event has grown every year, even amid the poor snow seasons of the past two years.
"We expected it to crash and burn last year, but it was fine," says Ron Johnson, MSEF's swap meet coordinator. "You never know until you get there, but everything feels good so far."
The fundraiser has taken on even greater importance during poor snow years because of the extra travel that becomes necessary, Johnson says.
"We've been having to haul kids to Mount Hood and Mount Bachelor just to get them on snow," Johnson says. "Everybody's crossing their fingers that the snow sticks and stays (on Mt. Ashland) this year."
The swap meet boasts about 2,500 items for sale, either from individual sellers or vendors.
People who have used snowboards, skis, boots, helmets and clothing they'd like to sell must check the equipment in prior to the event during a merchant registration from 2 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11, and Thursday, Nov. 12. Like last year, registration will be at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 772 Black Oak Drive, next to St. Mary's School.
An early-bird sale will take place from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13. Admission that day will cost $5 per person. Kids 12 and younger get in free.
On Saturday, Nov. 14, the sale will run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission that day will cost $3 per person.
A closeout sale will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 15, with free admission and all merchandise on the floor discounted up to 50 percent.
MSEF is a nonprofit foundation that works to make competitive skiing available for high-school students in Jackson and Josephine counties. Participants range from casual skiers to athletes looking to qualify for the Oregon Interscholastic Ski Racing Association's State High School Championships.
The annual swap event is the foundation's largest fundraiser of the year.
Coaches and team members will be available throughout the weekend to answer questions from student athletes interested in joining the program.
Details for buyers and sellers can be seen on the MSEF website at www.msefskier.com or www.southernoregonskiswap.com.