Training: How to shop the swaps

It’s swap time for snowriders. Skiers and snowboarders can save huge by shopping for both new and used stuff at local swaps. But be careful that you don’t purchase other people’s problems.

If you see brand new gear or clothing at amazing prices, the item may be cheap because it’s a leftover model. So what? If you would have paid $600 for a brand new board three years ago, you’re still ahead if you buy that same model for $100 this season.

Before buying new gear, call a shop and ask for the tuning shop or for rentals. Whoever answers the phone in those departments will usually know technical specs for every model of ski or snowboard.

Talk to a shop’s boot department. Find out if the boot is right for your level of ability.

Swaps are held by resorts, shops, schools and local race teams. Ask around to learn which ones have the best merchandise. But beware of “vendor” swaps.

These are warehouse sales where anonymous “vendors” display large tables and racks of new, but long ago leftover stuff they got cheaply from manufacturers or stores going out of business. These sellers bet that you won’t know how old this merchandise actually is, so they charge top retail for it. They might ask $300 for a helmet made four years ago that’s only worth $100 today. Again, call a shop for info.

The biggest savings is on used stuff. Kid’s snow gear may have only been used once or twice before it was outgrown. You don’t have to be a snowrider to inexpensively outfit a kid for winter with nearly new parkas, pants and snow boots.

Never, ever buy a used helmet. You don’t know its history. It could have been in a hard crash and thus can no longer offer protection.

The most important part of buying used clothing is trying it on — and trying it out. Zip every zipper, not once, but several times. Zip it up and pull lightly on the top of each side. If the zipper doesn’t lock, it’s loose and will slide open, to your potential embarrassment.

If the slider gets stuck at any point, or if there’s a fray in the lining which shows that the zipper keeps getting caught in the lining, don’t buy it.

If a pocket snap is hard to close or too loose to stay closed, it will annoy you all season long.

Finally, when buying skis or a snowboard, put the board on a flat surface where you can check whether it lays flat or twists.

A twist shows that the board is warped and will never ride well. Put skis base to base to check for signs of warping. Examine every inch of edges. If they’re worn down, the item is worn out. If there’s a big gouge in the edge, it will pull to one side or the other. Bases should be smooth and dark; a gray or white-ish look shows the base has dried out. A bubble in the base or topskin shows the gear is delaminating; it’s worthless. Check everything thoroughly before buying it.

You’ll enjoy this season even more with new, or new-to-you, gear that saved you big bucks because you got it at a swap.