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Larry Locke loads snowboards Thursday at Stevenson Union while volunteering for the Ashland Ski and Gear Swap at Southern Oregon University. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch

Ski swap goes 4 seasons

ASHLAND — When Alan Anderson wanted to unload 18 of his unused Loon Outdoors fly rods, he naturally thought ... Ashland Ski Swap?

"Yeah, kind of ironic," says Anderson, president of the Ashland-based outdoor company.

But irony is only in the title these days, as the historically winter-only Ashland Ski Swap has gone four seasons.

The 41st annual swap at Stevenson Union on the SOU campus will expand beyond matching sellers with gear-poor winter-sports adventurists when it opens its doors at 9 a.m. Saturday for the two-day sale.

Next to ski poles and snowboards will be skateboards, backpacks, sleeping bags and even inflatable stand-up paddleboards in this melding of outdoor pursuits meant for the sun and the snow.

And in a corner, so they won't get broken, will be 18 nine-foot Loon fly rods, built for 7- or 8-weight lines. Starting price? Fifty bucks.

"We haven't made these for about five years, and we were holding them in our warehouse for warranty issues," Anderson says. "I thought, great, here's some fly rods if you want to sell them.

"It's exciting to see the ski swap go four seasons," he says. "People who ski or snowboard also fish and camp, so it's a natural."

Sellers have been registering online and will continue to bring gear down to the union today in preparation for Saturday's opener.

It's the main fundraiser for SOU's Outdoor Program, an arm of Student Affairs whose main mission is to create student-planned and student-led outdoor adventure trips for students, building leadership and professional skills in an outdoors setting.

The 15-employee program has an outdoor gear-rental facility stocked with everything from snowshoes to backpacks and rafts.

The program is funded primarily with $89,000 from student fees, and profits from the ski swap are the next highest revenue source, along with rental fees and adventure-trip fees, says Willie Long, the program's coordinator.

Under the program, sellers pay anywhere from $1 to $5 per item they bring in to sell in the swap, and the sellers get 80 percent of the money from their sale, with the remaining 20 percent a consignment fee. More items for sale means more money for the program.

"It is our largest potential for fundraising," Long says.

But it hasn't lived up to its potential in recent years, as winter sports enthusiasts appear to have hedged their preseason spending amid two very poor snow years that left Mount Ashland — the region's main winter playground — largely or completely inaccessible.

This is the second year Indigo Creek Outfitters, a rafting outfitter in Ashland, has run the swap for the outdoor program during the rafting offseason. Owner Will Volpert noticed that the big-ticket snow-sports items like snowboards were less plentiful at last year's swap.

"People were more than willing to buy ski poles and gloves," Volpert says. "The big-ticket items didn't sell well."

Volpert, who himself often has old rafts he sells when he replaces them, thought adding summer sports to the swap could lead to more big-ticket items for sale and more customers looking to buy them.

"This is an attempt to try to get some new folks in there who didn't have a reason to visit the swap because they don't want skis or snowboards," Volpert says. "We're hoping it brings back some of the energy that's been missing the past few years."

So far, it seems to be working.

Volpert says early online gear entries were up 25 percent from last year, though the majority of the equipment will remain winter gear at least for this first year.

"The word's definitely getting out that the swap's going to be different this year," he says.

In past years, Sundays were dud days. So also new this year, Volpert has scheduled a series of free outdoor-related seminars on Sunday. They include an 11 a.m. session on skiing Crater Lake National Park, followed by a noon presentation on the top three Southern Oregon backpacking trips and rounded out by a 1 p.m. seminar on tricks for improving camping trips, including those multiday trips on rivers such as the Rogue.

Sellers can agree to a 25-percent price reduction on their wares on Sunday, as well, Volpert says.

Many of the sellers are families looking to clear out old, unused gear or stuff that no longer fits the kids, Long says.

"You also get the semi-professional ski-swappers," Long says.

That would describe Bruce Evatt of Grants Pass.

Evatt has spent the past year scouring garage sales and second-hand stores in search of used ski and snowboard gear he trucks to the swap.

This year he has more than 100 items he's entered into the sale, and he expects to cash in big-time.

"I've been doing this 20 years," Evatt says. "I used to make about $5,000 a year. This year I have about $2,000 here. But they do take 20 percent."

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

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