UNDER THE SUN

Gearing up

— For the past month, we've been inundated with "the deals."

It's 20 percent off snowboards, 30 percent off skis and 40 percent off ski pants. Helmets are half-off and heck, you can even pick up a ski rack for your ride at a decent discount.

Yes, it's a feast for those in famine. Stores are looking to unload the old stuff before the new stuff comes in and locals are there to profit from it. There is no other time to shop for gear.

When the new stuff arrives, those who are financially impaired can feel a little envious and do some drooling over the new boards or a cool coat.

Of course, there are ways around that dilemma. Work for the right people and get the pro-discount on all the stuff you want. Know a guy who knows a girl who works at this shop and just tell her who you are and who you know, give her the secret handshake and then she'll hook you up with a "killer" deal.

The latter is usually more talked about than achieved. I've had more than one salesperson stare at me blankly like I'm some sort of idiot or mooch when I was trying to get the "killer" deal.

"But I work for the paper."

That one works real well.

Last year, a buddy and I were riding a chair lift with a gray-haired man. Everyone knows this guy: shiny blue snowsuit, some sort of southern accent, new skis, phat goggles and a yellow two-way radio.

After finding out that we lived here, he asked: "So what else do you guys do when you're not stealing?"

That was a joke, it was real funny and I think it was more aimed at the snowboards on our feet than anything else. But he was unknowingly hinting at the truth when it comes to the ski bum in a ski town.

This year, as I mingled through the tents of gear, I realized the mountain of coats and pants in boxes and the plethora of skis and snowboards piled in corners everything decorated with red sale signs looked absurd.

This is the same stuff neatly displayed on racks last fall when it was good enough to be sold indoors The stuff drooled over and scrutinized by others... The instruments of the skilled, the most "hard-core," and all of it in the pursuit to escape being mistaken as a "gaper."

There always is the need for good, functional gear that fits well. That essentially is the purpose of the tent sale. This is how much the gear is actually worth and you shouldn't pay much more than the sale price. With some exceptions, the mark-up on new gear is the price for status. It's the price of having something not very many people have. It's the price of being an exclusive rider or skier on the hill. The price to be the king of crap I mean gear. For those who can afford it, spend the money it's good for the economy. Just know it will be 40 percent off in eight months.

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