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Slope savers

Snowsport enthusiasts of all ages spent their Saturday at St. Mary's School searching for bargains.

Melissa and Cody Casson of Yreka, California, picked through stacks of child-sized skis while their 3-year-old son, Cade, ran circles around the display.

"He's just excited," Melissa Casson said, holding a $25 snowboard for when Cade gets a little older.

A former children's ski instructor at Mount Shasta, Melissa said that starting Cade this year is optimal because young children can find their balance more easily. Their centers of gravity are lower, and they're more adventurous when they're young.

Though Melissa and Cody were already equipped for the season, they came from Yreka to find Cade's gear, knowing he'll grow out of the equipment in a couple seasons.

"That's why ski swaps are nice," Melissa said.

Ron Johnson of the Medford Ski Education Foundation said he's seen families of four completely outfitted for less than $500 thanks to the swap.

"Skiing has a reputation of being a really expensive sport," Johnson said, adding that another benefit of owning ski gear is less time at the lodge getting fitted for rentals.

"You spend half your day there," Johnson said.

Getting geared up for his first time was Peter Stephens of Etna, California, who with the help of Mt. Ashland Ski Area staff found a set of orange ski boots.

Stephens said he has experience mountaineering, but he never learned to ski. 

"I've just never had the chance to go before," Stephens said.

Mt. Ashland General Manager Hiram Towle gave Stephens other ways to keep his costs down, such as the ski area's $129 "My Turn" program geared toward first-timers, which includes three days of group lessons. 

"You'll walk away knowing how to ski," Towle said.

Adults get a 7-visit lift ticket while children 12 and younger get a season pass with the program. Towle said the program is among the ways the nonprofit ski area can reach out to newcomers or "never-evers." At the swap, Mt. Ashland also sold season passes at the fall rate. 

"It doesn't have to cost a lot of money," Towle said.

Towle said the sport is particularly beneficial for families. When his 10-year-old son participates in a team sport, for instance, he has to watch his son from the sidelines. But they can ski the same slopes.

"We can participate in the sport together," Towle said.

Johnson said he saw record turnout Friday — the first night of this year's swap — with a headcount of 325 people. The sale continued Saturday and picks up again Sunday.

Proceeds from the annual sale benefit the Medford Ski Education Foundation, and provides about 30 percent of the funding for ski programs at local middle and high schools.

Among the biggest bargains this year are cross-country skis, some priced at around $5. 

"We get so many of 'em, we decided to price them really low," Johnson said.

He anticipates there will be about 100 pairs snowboard boots still available Sunday, when markdowns of up to 50 percent will be offered.

The foundation accepts ski gear donations year-round. For information, call 541-621-4699 or email info@southernoregonskiswap.com.

— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

Customers hunt for deals Saturday at the ski swap in St. Mary's School gym. The event continues today with markdowns up to 50 percent. Mail Tribune / Larry Stauth Jr. (PHOTO BY: LARRY STAUTH JR)
Yreka resident Cody Casson, left, with son Cade, look over child-sized skis Saturday during the annual Ski and Snowboard Swap at St. Mary's School. (PHOTO BY: LARRY STAUTH JR) - Mail Tribune / Larry Stauth Jr.