The Top 9 Tips for Buying and Selling Gear at the Ski Swap

Mike Lavery |
ski swap
The Vail Ski Swap. Photo: Vail Daily

Fall is here, and that means one thing, it’s ski swap season! Time to grab some new gear for cheap or turn last year’s setup into a stack of cash. Here are our expert tips on how to work the ski swap like a pro.


1. Get there early. All the best deals will be gone in the first hour or two. Grab warm beverages, show up before the doors open, and camp out. If you can pay a few bucks to get inside first, do it. Even better, consider volunteering the day before during drop-off. You’ll view all the inventory ahead of time and often get first dibs on buying. 

2. Do your homework. If you’re headed to the swap with intentions to buy, you need to know what you’re shopping for. It’s not the place to browse casually. Grab some gear guides, search the internet, and hit the local shops beforehand to brush up on what’s out there. Make a list of potential candidates so you’re laser-focused and ready to strike. If you’re shopping for boots, in particular, know what size you are. You probably won’t find the latest and greatest at the swap, but you may find last year’s model or one a few seasons old. 

Ski swap
Be ready to wait in line. Photo: Vail Daily

3. Know your prices. Just because it’s at the ski swap does not mean it’s a good deal (more on that in the selling section). You don’t want to buy used at the swap when a new setup would have been marginally more expensive. I see so many people making this mistake every year. Check out prices while doing your homework so you know a deal when you see one. You can also look prices up on your phone as you go, but that can waste valuable time.

4. Inspect before you buy. Unlike eBay or Craiglist, you have no backstory on the gear you’re about to buy. Are those boot soles worn down beyond repair? Is that binding toe piece cracked? Maybe those skis have already been mounted five times, and no shop will touch them. Take a few minutes and look closely so you don’t get burned.

5. If you’re clueless, bring a friend. If you know nothing about what you want, what’s a good deal, or what to watch out for, grab a knowledgeable friend and let them do the work for you. I’ve been that guy before, and it’s fun.

ski swap
The North Tahoe Ski/Sport Swap


1. Know the market. There will be demand for high-end products if you live in a ski town. If you live nowhere near decent skiing, those fat skis you want $700 bucks for probably aren’t going to sell. Don’t waste your time.

2. Clean your stuff up—first impressions matter. Throw your clothes in the wash, clean the mud off your boots, and give your skis or board some love. You want your gear to look as new as possible. Pro Tip: A quick wax, scrape, and brush make bases look new. Some car wax on the top sheets will fill in scratches and give them a nice shine.

Ski Swap
Anticipate Chaos. Stay focused. Photo: Vail Daily

3. Price aggressively. As the seller, it’s to your advantage that most people have no clue and assume everything is a good deal. Most ski swaps will also take a commission off your sale price, so keep that in mind.

4. Discount heavily. If your swap allows for a discount period towards the end of the sale, price your gear to sell. First, it’s never fun bringing home unsold gear wishing you had priced it a little cheaper. Second, interested parties might consider buying it at full price now, knowing it will sell quickly later.

5. Sell smart. You must maximize your cash flow and minimize future spending if you’re selling old gear to pay for new stuff. Consider selling your skis but keeping the bindings. If they still work, there’s no point in buying new ones. Like me, if you ski Intuition boot liners, keep the stock liners new and throw them back in the shells when it’s time to sell. A new liner will give your boots a nicer look and feel great when someone tries them on. Don’t waste your time unloading gloves, goggles, socks, or other small items. There will be hundreds of others, and it will be a pain in the butt trying to find them when they don’t sell.

ski swap
Selling gloves for $5 is a bad idea. Buying gloves for $5 is a good idea. Photo: North Tahoe Ski/Sport Swap

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