Second ascents: used gear is the way to buy
September 15, 2016
We all know that living in a mountain town is expensive, but we choose this life anyway. Grand County, especially, is home to many hard-working full time residents, many of which are not a part of the upper class. Not only do we choose to live in mountain towns where everything is more expensive, we also choose to participate in very expensive sports. Whether it's skiing, mountain biking, climbing, kayaking, or rafting, the price of new gear can easily surpass the value of many of our vehicles. If you have deep enough pockets, you can spend up to $10,000 on a mountain bike, and good for you, but many folks in mountain towns have found better ways to afford living in a mountain community and having quality up-to-date gear: buying used.
Colorado is a mecca for outdoor gear, and many people get rid of perfectly good gear to buy the latest and greatest new technology. You can buy mountain bikes now that weigh less than your IPhone (hyperbole), and ski boots that are so light that you forget they are on your feet. For many consumers that buy the latest technology this means they will get rid of their old gear. Some use Craigslist or EBay, or another form of online forum to sell their gear, but this can be a long process. Others choose to use consignment stores or ski swaps as a way to sell or trade up to better equipment. Gear swaps, consignment stores, and thrift shops can be a great way to keep money in a small mountain town community.
Pete Mintle, owner of Winter Park Trading Company (WPTC), has been in the gear consignment business for about five years. Mintle loves what buying and selling used gear can do for a mountain community. WPTC has about 2,500 local consigners in their system, which is a great way to put some money back into local's pockets. WPTC has used skis, snowboards, climbing gear, fly fishing gear, rafting and kayaking gear, hockey equipment, bikes and bike gear, and much more. Mintle said their largest clientele are tourists and second homeowners for purchasing, and locals for consigning. Tourists come into the shop when they need gear like goggles or winter clothes, but don't want to pay full price. Chances are these tourists are already spending a pretty penny on ski rentals, lodging, and food, so when it comes down to the clothes they need and small accessories, they do not want to pay full price. Many visitors, as all locals know, often come in to their ski vacation unprepared—mostly without proper winter clothes, so consignment shops and thrift stores are a great way to save money on gear they will only use 1-2 weeks out of the year, assuming they are not from a mountain town.
Mintle said one of the most difficult aspects of the consignment business is valuation. Everyone thinks their gear is worth more than it is. When appraising gear Mintle and his staff use mostly Internet resources such as Bicycle Blue Book and EBay for references, then use their own knowledge to determine an item's worth. Mintle also said a large part of his business is informing people on what consigning gear really means. Winter Park Trading Company does not buy people's gear; they sell it for them and take a percentage of the transaction. The cost is split depending on the price that the object is priced at: for items $0-100 the consigner gets 50 percent; $101-500 the consigner gets 60 percent; $501-1,500 the consigner gets 75 percent; and $1,501-3,000 the consigner gets 85 percent. If the consigner uses the money as store credit to purchase more gear, WPTC gives them an extra ten percent off. Mintle said about 30-40 percent of consigners take advantage of this extra deal. WPTC has enough business to employ four full timers, and has paid out about one million dollars back into the county since they opened. "Consignment is a huge asset for people who want to sell," Mintle said. "It puts money back into Grand County's economy." Mintle said he gets most of his business in the winter because of the amount of visitors in the area.
Buying used gear is a great way for parents of growing children to save money as well. Mintle said a huge part of their business is children's gear.
The ski and snowboard swap at Winter Park Resort is Friday, October 14 and Saturday, October 15 in the West Portal Station at the base of the resort. Ski swaps allow people looking to get rid of ski gear the opportunity to, possibly, sell it that day. If you are looking to buy, you can discuss the equipment with the previous owners and figure out if the gear is right for you. This can be a big benefit when buying skis because by chatting with the previous owner you can figure out if they ski similar terrain as you, and how the skis handle in different types of terrain.