WALLA WALLA -- Weeks before the Blues get capped with snow and lift chairs start pulling up the slopes of Bluewood, ski gear season has arrived, just has it has for more than 40 years now.
"It's a big yard sale," said Dusty Maland, Walla Walla Valley Ski and Snowboard Swap organizer.
"Here's a real bargain ... It's a (new) $19 pair of kids gloves for seven bucks. And they are good. They are water tight," Maland said Saturday morning, during the consignment drop off hours for the 43rd annual ski swap.
One of the original founders of the local ski swap, the owner of Dusty's ski shop said he hasn't missed a swap yet. Though he did note in the early days it was mainly him and other ski patrol members organizing the event. And he added there was less variety in color and less new gear.
"They was a lot of used merchandise trading hands," he said.
"Everything has changed It is not just black and brown anymore," he said, noting today the majority of merchandise is new and either from his shop or Pete's, another Walla Walla ski and sport shop.
But there are still plenty of people trying to unload used gear cluttering their homes.
"A friend of mine told me yesterday (Friday) and I raced over to Dusty's and got more information and then pulled the ski stuff out of the closet," said Denise Slatterly.
"I never sold anything here, but now I am ready to let go," she said, noting she is selling off gear belonging to hear sons Finn and Reilly, only to buy more gear.
"I have kids and I want to keep them skiing, but it is expensive and every little bit helps," she said.
Bob Jones' kids are all grown up. So this weekend he came to the ski swap loaded down with two pairs of kids boots, a couple skis and a pair of his own boots, which he originally bought used. His gear was draped over his shoulders, tucked under his arms and carried all in one trip from the car.
"If you ski you learn to pack," he said.
A little later, as he was filling out consignment tags, he asked, "Is there a minimum?"
After learning there was none, he put $5 on the boots he originally bought for $10.
"The family thing to do is go to the ski swap and get some gear and hopefully save a little money," he said.
Jon Maland, who volunteers to help with the ski swap, said 300 to 400 people will attend this weekend's event at the Walla Walla County Fairgrounds. He added there will be roughly 3,000 different items for sale.
But his father, Dusty, pointed out today most of it is new.
"Stores bring in their merchandise that they have had for a while," Dusty Maland said, while giving a quick tour of some of his merchandise.
"If we can buy bulk and get a good deal, we will buy for the swap," Maland said, pointing to a rack of new snow jackets, most priced under $30.
Still, 30 to 40 percent of the merchandise is previously owned, including gear brought in by Denise Vandersloot, who was selling her son's gear.
"He's got all these skis and I am trying to recycle them and hopefully pay for his new equipment," Vandersloot said, while filling out several consignment slips.
The consignment fee is 20 percent. And gear that doesn't sell goes back to the owners, even if they don't want it.
"We call them," Jon Maland said, explaining how they encourage people to retrieve their unsold gear. But he added the majority of the used gear will sell.
And to make sure the used items get sold, professionals, like Dusty's shop tech Tom Mertens, do their best to help people set prices that sell. Usually that's not more than 25 percent of the original price, Mertens added.
But people don't always listen.
"I have one $500 price here. It is a great price because they are $900 skis, but it probably won't sell," he said.
"We tell them if you want to get rid of it, you better put a low price on it," he said.
A little later, Mertens was heard helping another mother sell her son's various ski pants.
"It's your call. Put a $10 tag on it and they will sell," he told her.
She heeded his advice.
The Walla Walla Valley Ski and Snowboard Swap takes place today from 11-3 p.m. and is free to the public. Consignment items will be accepted from 10-11 a.m.