By Anna Smith
Racks upon racks of ski and snowboard supplies filled the Southridge YMCA in Medicine Hat on October 28 for the Palliser Zone Ski Patrol’s fourth annual ski swap.
This once a year opportunity allows families, snow sports enthusiasts, and the sale-savvy a chance to get new or used skis, snowboards, and boots at a reduced rate, with donations from both area residents and nearby businesses, said John Haley, Ski Swap Coordinator.
It was a remarkable turnout, said Haley, with easily 600 people in the initial morning rush when the doors first opened at 9AM.
“We’ve broken down three, four ski racks,” said Haley at the time of interview, roughly 1PM on the day of the sale. “Those racks extended double of what you’ve seen right now. And the children’s skis, we’ve broken down two of them, or three of them already taken down of the tables for the ski boots. So it’s been a great day.”
Haley attributes the success to the wide area that they service, from all over the Southeastern corner of Alberta to across the Saskatchewan border as far as Swift Current and Maple Creek, and as far west as Bassano.
“So if kids get the interest to ski… imagine the scenario of a family that’s a hockey family. You’re taking one child to hockey and maybe other children to sports,” said Haley. “But in skiing, the whole family can do that same sport. So it’s a great family participatory sport. Getting people out in the wintertime promotes healthy lifestyles. And with the swap, they get into skiing or snowboarding at a reasonable rate that families can afford.”
This year saw a little over 800 commercial items donated by Alpenland Ski & Cycle in Lethbridge, Gravity Sports in Medicine Hat, and the Boarding House. In addition, they received roughly 300 items from local residents, bringing the total to over a thousand inspected and guaranteed-safe items that were available.
The swap has come a long way since it’s first year, said Ski Patrol member and volunteer Derek Chant.
“When it first came up, we were a little skeptical of the idea, but it’s how I grew up in skiing, we used to always trade in our skis every year for different gear, because we all grow. And it just seemed like such a good idea,” said Chant. “More gear comes in every year, more people coming in every year. And it’s just been great that way.”
“This year we thought it looked like less. But then we realized, we doubled our amount of racks. And we have so many more tables. So it’s just been (great) and they were almost all full,” said Chant. “So it’s been way more gear than expected. Great support from some of our businesses, like over doubling what they brought last year.”
Chant has been with the Ski Patrol for 10 years, and adds that this is encouraging to see so many people having access to affordable and safe gear, hopefully reducing the amount of incidents on the hill, as the best days on patrol are the ones where he doesn’t have to respond to anything.
“Having somebody that knows the technical ins and outs of all the gear, checking it over and making sure it’s good before we even sell it,” said Chant. “So it’s like we know we’re only selling stuff that’s safe to use and it takes more dangerous or outdated stuff just off the hill and prevents us from having to work as ski patrol volunteers and just makes the whole hill safer.”
Castle Mountain and Lake Louise both had tables to promote their hills to swap-goers, as well as host a few giveaways.
The Ski Patrol is deeply grateful to everyone who participated, and the Southridge YMCA for renting them the space for the event.