Ski-swap fever |

Ski-swap fever

Alison Osius
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Mike has been adamant that we should arrive half an hour early. But our younger son’s ride to ski at Loveland is late, so we are a meager five minutes ahead of the 8:30 a.m. ski-swap opening at Aspen High. A line as long as a city block hugs the building.

Mike says, “I just remembered why I hate this.”

I have already been to one ski swap, in El Jebel, and on the day this article comes out will be attending my third, in Carbondale.

The line begins moving, jerkily. We pass orange-vested security volunteers, and then bust into the gym, where awaiting us was rack upon rack of discounted jackets, skis, boots and accoutrements. Mike and I are looking for skis for both boys. I lose him within moments, and just concentrate on methodically searching for “twin tips” of certain lengths. All around me skis are lifted, grabbed. The trick is to carry around what you might want, to reserve it.

Our other son, at a sleepover with friends who were also coming to the swap, is to meet us here. Teddy, 15, phones from somewhere within the melee to say urgently: “Mom, there are a lot of skis here, and they’re going fast.”

I fleetingly think that three different skis could work, but all are girls’ models, and that won’t go over. Teddy pops up, but vanishes.

Mike phones ” why didn’t I charge my batteries? ” to say he has found nothing, but that my friend Laura has a pair she is considering for her son Ben, and may pass on.

Mike sets off to drive to the nearby Buttermilk Blowout sale.

I pick through socks, finding the thin kind that I’ve been looking for, and clutch up the three pairs I find.

I look down and see, in my arms, not just my own big North Face puffy jacket, but another, similar, and in my confusion think I have mistakenly picked up someone else’s. But it’s Teddy’s, apparently handed off to me. I call Mike, who is in checkout with the friends who hosted Teddy, waiting to retrieve Teddy’s belongings, and say I will bring the jacket over. By the time I negotiate the boot-fitting aisle, he is calling to say they are outside.

I beg a woman in checkout to let me leave the socks with her, promising to be back in five minutes, and run out the exit. My phone rings from Teddy, and I snap, “You dumped your jacket on me and walked away! Don’t do that”

He says, “Sor -ry. ”

Mike says Laura says we can have the skis; I bet she wants to hasten to Buttermilk, too. I return to the entrance, where a brown-haired security man says, looking at my shoulder bag, “You have to check that.” Backpacks line the wall behind a table.

Astounded, I bellow, “This is a purse!”

His face stiffens into pained, dogged civility. I know that look, having worn it when dealing with people.

“I’m sorry, you need to.”

“But I was in before with it, and I have to get back in.”

Firm, he advises me to extract my wallet and checkbook. I sullenly comply. My wallet won’t fit in my pockets, so I hand-carry it.

Laura hands off the skis like a baton; and I shoulder toward checkout, where the cashier tells me sorry, she had to return the socks. Back to the table where I’d found them: Nothing.

Completely frazzled, I turn to the flung-about boxes on the base-layer tables, finding that, wallet under elbow, I must open them to find prices.

A woman nearby tells her partner, “I’d rather pay full price than stay in here one more minute.”

Now balancing the skis, three tottering boxes of separates, my wallet and six other items, I inch to the exit. No Mike, so I loop around, re-enter, and see the brown-haired security man. With hangdog demeanor I say I am sorry I got upset, that I’d had a lot going on. He thanks me, pats my shoulder. He knows how it is.

Alison Osius lives in Carbondale and can be reached at

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