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Summer only officially ended on Friday, but we're already knee deep in Bills football, pumpkin beer - and advertisements from ski shops and resorts.



As the area's skiers and snowboarders get ready for the upcoming season they should keep in mind that ski swaps present good opportunities to buy clothing and equipment at lower prices.

"A lot of times, you can find good deals at a ski swap," said Nick Sciara, a certified boot fitter and salesman at Mud Sweat Gears ski shop in Ellicottville. "There's definitely good stuff to be found. It's not low quality."

Four major ski swaps are coming up in October and November, at three of the region's ski resorts and at the Fairgrounds in Hamburg, with some of the proceeds going toward ski patrols and other worthy organizations. Another big ski and snowboard sale, though not technically a ski swap, will be held in mid-October in Niagara Falls.

Ski and snowboard shops from across the area set up at the swaps, selling used and demonstration equipment and last year's inventory - all at a discount - to make room for this season's stock.

The swaps also draw in skiers and snowboarders who are updating their gear and selling their old equipment on consignment.

Organizers and store employees say the swaps are aimed at beginner and intermediate skiers and snowboarders, particularly those with children who have grown out of their old equipment.

"You will not find the high-priced items at this swap," said Diane Smith, who runs the annual Kissing Bridge ski swap with Al Hohl, though she added that the prices on listed items are "all over the board."

Ski swaps have been around for decades. Smith, the Kissing Bridge Ski Patrol director, has worked that resort's swap since 1973.

The swaps typically are held in the fall, often tied into a fall festival or other local event.

Four of the biggest locally are held next month and in November at Kissing Bridge, Holiday Valley, Peek'n Peak Resort & Spa and at the Hamburg Fairgrounds.

Mud Sweat Gears owner Miguel Azcarate said the shop will be selling at all four of the swaps, while Snow Ski & Board in Amherst will have a presence at the Kissing Bridge event.

The swaps give the ski and snowboard shops a chance to sell off leased, demo or leftover but unused equipment at discounted prices, while skiers and snowboarders can upgrade by selling their old gear and shopping for replacement gear.

"It's a brand-new ski, but it's last year's graphics," said Sciara. "We also use them to blow out demo skis, old rentals."

Swap attendees aren't getting the newest styles or models, but they'll probably get a better price, he said.

A pair of skis that was used as a demo model by a ski shop might sell at a swap for 30 percent to 50 percent off its original price, Sciara said.

The swaps generally aren't aimed at expert skiers or snowboarders who have to have the newest equipment and clothing, but they instead appeal to people who ski less frequently and buy gear only if they can get a bargain.

They're a boon to families, especially, because young skiers and snowboarders can grow out of their boots and other equipment from one season to the next, said Jane Eshbaugh, Holiday Valley's marketing director.

"It's a great way to get into the sport," she said. "Generally, you're able to get the best rates if you go to a ski swap."

How do the swaps work? At Kissing Bridge's swap, people are assigned a ticket for each item or piece of equipment they want to sell, with some stores taking 1,000 tickets, Smith said.

There are set times when sellers can drop off their equipment, and everything of the same type - all the skis, all the snowboards - is placed in one area to make for easier searching, she said.

The stores usually assign employees to the swaps to help customers find the right equipment, in the proper size - a feature of the swap that can't be replicated online.

"There's always volunteers and salespeople there," Sciara said.

Experts, however, don't recommend buying a used helmet at a swap or anywhere else.

Ski and snowboard helmets are designed to absorb one major impact, and it may not be apparent whether a used helmet has absorbed such a blow, said Randy Bergin, a floor manager at Snow Ski & Board.

"It's definitely worth it for your own safety," he said of the extra cost of a new helmet.

Shoppers should be aware that all sales at swaps are final. The sellers set the prices for their equipment and the host venue or sponsoring organization collects a commission based on the price of each item that sells.

Anything that doesn't sell is returned to the owner and leftovers are held for next year or donated, depending on the venue's policies.

Peek'n Peak charges $3 per item to put it up for sale and a 20 percent commission on any item that sells, with the proceeds of the commission going to the resort's Junior Ski Race Team.

At the Fairgrounds ski swap, the money goes to the Niagara Frontier Ski Council.

And the proceeds from the Holiday Valley ski swap go to the resort's Race Team, Freestyle Team and Snowboard Team, Eshbaugh said. "It's basically a fundraiser for them," she said.

The swaps are less of a swap among skiers than they were in the past because the stores now have a major presence.

At Kissing Bridge, for example, about 75 percent of equipment and clothing purchased is from the stores, with the rest sold by skiers and snowboarders, Smith said. "Every ski shop in Western New York participates in this swap," she said.



"Swaps - it's sort of like 'Auction Hunters.' Sometimes you find a gem," said Bergin of Snow Ski & Board.



Upcoming area ski swaps



. Holiday Valley: 4 to 8 p.m. Oct. 5; 9 a.m. to

5 p.m. Oct. 6; and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 7,

Creekside Lodge, 6557 Holiday Valley Road,

Ellicottville. www.holidayvalley.com/holiday

valley/info/fall-festival.aspx

. Peek'n Peak Resort & Spa: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Oct. 13, 14, 20 and 21; Peek'n Kids Learning

Center inside the main ski lodge, 1405 Old Road,

Clymer. www.pknpk.com/ski-swap.html

. Buffalo International Ski Show & Sale:

4 to 9 p.m. Oct. 12; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 13;

and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 14, Niagara Falls

Conference and Event Center.

. The Fairgrounds in Hamburg: 4 to 9 p.m.

Oct. 18 (5 to 8 p.m. drop off gear for sale); 3 to

9 p.m. Oct. 19; 10 a.m to 6 p.m. Oct. 20; and

10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 21; Grange building, 5820

South Park Ave.

. Kissing Bridge: noon to 9:30 p.m. Nov. 9; 9:30 ? a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 10; and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. ? 11, main ski lodge, Kissing Bridge Lane, Concord.







email: swatson@buffnews.com