Hundreds of local ski buffs descended on the Willi Krause Field House Saturday to take advantage of the great deals at the Red Mountain Racers annual ski swap.
The RMR Ski Swap takes skiers’ used and outgrown gear, and turns it into perfectly serviceable equipment for other enthusiasts, while helping the RMR get a positive fiscal jump on another racing season.
“We did very well, we raised approximately $11,000 for the club, which is fantastic,” said ski swap organizer and RMR president Christine Andison. “We are absolutely delighted.”
According to long-time Trail resident and ski-swap catalyst Rino DeBiasio, the Red Mountain Ski Patrol started the swap back in the late 60s as a way to raise funds to buy first-aid supplies and other equipment for the ski hill.
“It must have started in 1966 or ‘67, we were down in Spokane, because we use to correspond with the ski patrol down in Spokane, and we happened to be down there the weekend they had the ski swap,” said DeBiasio, a perennial ski-patrol member. “And I said, ‘Holy man, we should do something up here.’ And that’s how we started it.”
With the assistance of the Spokane ski patrol, their counterparts at Red were able to kick off a very successful event that financed the volunteer ski patrol for over 20 years.
The Red Mountain Ski Patrol members held the swap at various venues including the old Boy Scout Hall, the Trail Armouries, and eventually the Field House until 1990 when they the passed the torch to the RMR.
“We helped them out the first few years, but after that it just took hold,” said DeBiasio, who continues to volunteer at the swap. “They’ve been doing a heck of a job since.”
At noon Saturday, the ski swap opened with a bang, as swap-goers raced to the doors to cash in on deals.
“There were hundreds of people lined up to get in, and when the gates were opened, it was phenomenal; they were literally sprinting to the ski racks,” said Andison. “So that was a very unique and new feature of the swap.”
Despite the buying frenzy, the swap is a well-organized, seamless affair, with about 60 volunteers up bright and early to receive and help price the saleable items, set up the ski racks, then take to the floor to assist customers, or help with checking in and checking out. Not to mention the parking lot assistants that somehow managed to accommodate hundreds of vehicles.
“Being that the swap has been running for so many years . . . we’re really fortunate that some of the previous organizers were really great about writing down all the key components to the swap,” Andison explained.
“Every year we try to build on that, and we do review what was working well and what wasn’t, and try to improve it for the following year, but in general it is a fairly well-oiled machine.”
While the funds raised were once integral to maintaining the ski patrol at Red and safety of its skiers, the sale of the hill to the ‘Skat’ ownership group in 1989 meant the ski patrol would be funded by the hill and no longer needed the swap resources, and so RMR took control of the fundraiser.
Today, the proceeds from the swap go directly to RMR coaching in order to keep the skiers’ fees reasonable, while providing one of Canada’s best downhill skiing training facilities.
Ultimately, after almost 50 years, the Red Mountain Racers carry on the ski patrol’s legacy, and through the ski swap continue to help young and experienced skiers hit the slopes, both competitively and recreationally.
“It was a great day,” added Andison. “A full day for sure, but it’s a fun day.”