The unofficial start to the winter ski season kicks off as usual next weekend in Southern Oregon, but in a new venue.

The Medford Ski Education Foundation's annual Ski and Snowboard Swap has outgrown its old haunts at St. Mary's School and will be housed this year at the Medford Armory, 1701 S. Pacific Highway.

The swap, which is the foundation's annual fundraiser, had been squeezing itself into the St. Mary's gym for the past nine years, swap meet coordinator Ron Johnson says. Coupled with ongoing construction at the school, it seemed like a good reason to look elsewhere this year, he says.

"The last few years have been pretty tight," Johnson says. "We needed to move into someplace bigger, and this made us do it."

The event will run its regular course, with a combination of consigned gear brought in for sale by the general public and ski-industry vendors selling new gear at cut-rate prices, Johnson says.

"Most people don't realize that about 60 percent of the sales is new gear," he says.

Representatives of the Mt. Ashland Ski Area will again be on hand to take photographs and issue season passes so skiers and snowboarders don't have to travel to the company's Ashland office or wait in lines at the ski area once it opens.

People with used snowboards, skis, boots, helmets and clothing to sell must check in the equipment prior to the event, from 2 to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, Nov. 8-9, at the Armory, 1701 S. Pacific Highway, Medford.

An early-bird sale will take place from 4 to 10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10. Admission that day will cost $5. Kids 12 and younger get in free.

On Saturday, Nov. 11, the sale will run from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., then it will close for two hours and reopen as a closeout sale from 4 to 7 p.m. During the close-out, prices will be discounted 10 to 50 percent.

MSEF is a nonprofit foundation that works to make competitive skiing available for high-school students in Jackson and Josephine counties. The foundation also takes in donated gear to sell.

Coaches and team members will be available throughout the weekend to answer questions from student athletes interested in joining the program.

Details for buyers and sellers can be seen on the swap's website at www.southernoregonskiswap.com.

— Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtfribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.