Once a small affair held in the Floyd Dryden Middle School gymnasium, the annual Ski Sale on Saturday was anything but.
Hundreds of people, lined back past Willoughby Avenue, stood patiently in the rain for an hour or more, waiting for the doors of Centennial Hall Convention and Civic Center to swing open for Juneau’s version of Black Friday.
At least 1,325 shoppers turned out for the annual consignment ski shop extravaganza, according to unofficial tallies.
“We’re going to be slammed until noon,” said Sean Edwards, one of four Ski Sale Chiefs coordinating the event.
Security guards in yellow vests wrangled the crowd of shoppers into a single file line once inside Centennial Hall, where about 175 volunteers took tickets that cost $2 for those ages 12 and up (kids 12 and under were free). That ticked granted entry into the 11,275-square-foot ballroom-turned-consignment shop. Gently-used ice skates, ski planks and poles, snowboards and boots, gloves, hats and coats were piled high and covered every inch of the room.
“We’re hoping to find some good deals,” Michelle Fabrello of Juneau, said as her two kids, ages 9 and 12, tried on new boots for size.
The Juneau Ski Club and Juneau Ski Patrol have hosted the annual ski sale, colloquially known as the ski swap, for about 59 years, although they lost count after about 25 years, joked Edwards. Edwards joined the Juneau Ski Patrol in 1982 and has organized the ski sale for the past 15 years with his wife Alice. Mike Satre and his wife Sarah began co-chiefing the event about four or five years ago to help out, Satre said.
It wasn’t always a prominent community event, they remembered.
The ski sale began nearly 60 years ago when Juneau didn’t have a major ski shop in town to purchase skiing supplies and gear, Satre said. The Juneau Ski Club and Ski Patrol had asked locals to bring in their old gear, and told them the clubs would sell their used gear for them while taking a small commission. That money raised — this year there was 20 percent commission — would benefit the two clubs. “Literally hundreds of people” brought in their gear to sell on Saturday, Satre said.
“We wanted people to get the gear out of their closets and recycle it,” Satre said.
The event was originally held in Floyd Dryden Middle School.
“We had about a third of the space and a third of the gear,” Edwards said.
As the sale became more popular and more well known, it eventually outgrew that space and was moved to the Old Armory Building on Whittier Street (now the Juneau Arts & Culture Center building) in the 1980s. It again outgrew its facility as rippers, shredders and snow bunnies alike turned out in droves to snag a good deal, and the ski sale has occupied Centennial Hall since 1991 or 1992.
What began as a way to make some pocket change for the clubs now generates some $3,000 to $4,000 for each of the respective clubs, Edwards said. Satre said that may be at the lower end of the scale, and last year it probably garnered some $6,000 to $7,000 for the Ski Club last year.
“It’s been our primary fundraiser for both groups since then,” Edwards noted. “It’s the fundraiser for the Ski Patrol and it funds a sizable chance of the Ski Club.”
The Ski Patrol uses money raised for training purposes and to purchase new equipment, he said. Likewise, the Ski Club uses it to to fund equipment needs, travel expenses and the paid coaching staff for the racing team. Satre is the coach for the Mighty Mites, a competitive ski racing team for kids.
“The more money we raise, the less the program fees are,” he said.
The $2 ticket fee cover the expense of renting the facility for three days, he said.
Over the years, the ski sale has also come to symbolize the heralding in of the snow and ski season, Satre noted.
“The community expects that it will happen, and it’s amazing that it’s still going strong,” he said. “It’s a great social event, and it marks the beginning of the season. It’s one of those rites of passages.”
Shopper Jameek Cortese, 31, originally from Stanton Island, N.Y., said attending the sale is a new tradition to pump himself up before hitting the slopes.
“I love getting up and coming here,” he said, holding up his new Barefoot Stealth snowboard. “It gets you excited that the snow’s coming, and gets you ready for the year.”
The Ski Sale also marked the last day to purchase Eaglecrest Ski Area Earlybird deals for season passes. Unlimited adult season passes were marked down to $499 from $699, and unlimited senior passes were $449 from the usual $599. Five to $10 were also knocked off Snowsports School programs for ages 3-6 and ages 5-7.
“The ski sale is a big event for Eaglecrest,” Lift Operations Supervisor Marcus Zimmerman said, adding that it was an accessible way to reach the public.
Jeffra Clough, Eaglecrest director of sales and marketing and the Snowsports School, explained that compared to most ski resorts that generate revenue through every day tickets, rentals and lift sales, 80 percent of Eaglecrest’s revenue is generated through season passes because of Juneau’s geographic location.
“It’s a big revenue push,” Clough said. Two thousand season passes are usually sold each year during the Earlybird pre-season price deals, she said.
Eaglecrest General Manager Matt Lillard said Eaglecrest always sets up a booth at the ski sale to provide support for the Ski Patrol and Ski Club, and to advertise Eaglecrest programs and its full-time repair shop.
“It’s a great kick-off to the season,” he said.
Other groups set up kiosks to promote skiing and to bring attention to what they do for the community, like the Juneau Nordic Ski Club. The club consistently grooms ski trails in the valley near Mendenhall Lake Campground.
“We’re asking $25 to support the club,” Treasurer Bob Small said. That $25 provides individual membership to the club for a year, or $10 for those under 18 years of age.
Skiing near the campground and lake is free for the public, but Small says he hopes that if people use those trails, they will contribute a few bucks to the club.
At the end of the day, nearly every shopper went home with ski and snowboarding gear in tow. Marc Ramonda, carrying his new twin-tip skis as his 13-year-old son, Gabe Gonwa Ramonda, tried on boots, said the ski sale has become a tradition for his family.
When asked if he’ll attend the ski sale next year, the answer was an enthusiastic yes.
“Kids grow,” he said. “Especially during those teenage years. Plus, it’s fun to stand out in the rain, and visit with people you haven’t seen in a while and then shop around with the kids.”
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.