Families Gear Up for the Slopes at the Cochran Ski & Ride Sale | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Families Gear Up for the Slopes at the Cochran Ski & Ride Sale


Published November 7, 2022 at 5:24 p.m.
Updated November 9, 2022 at 10:11 a.m.

  • Rachel Hellman ©️ Seven Days

Eager shoppers whizzed though the hallways of Camels Hump Middle School on Sunday toting snowboards and ski boots.

It was the last day of the Cochran Ski & Ride Sale, but the much-anticipated feeding frenzy showed no sign of slowing down. More than 100 patrons rummaged through new and consigned ski and snowboard gear, hoping to score a deal.

A teenage girl stood in a corner, fully outfitted in ski gear. “You’re just waiting for the snow, right?” a passerby asked her, jokingly. “I’ve been waiting since the summer!” she replied.

The ski sale is one of the oldest and largest of its kind in the state. It's organized by Cochran's Ski Area in Richmond, the first nonprofit ski slope in the country.

Cochran's began in 1961 as a humble rope-tow operation in Mickey and Ginny Cochran’s backyard. The operation has transformed over the years into a beloved community hill where hundreds of local children learn to ski every winter, including two generations of Olympic racers.

All proceeds from the sale help sustain the Cochran's Ski Club, which provides Alpine race training opportunities for children ages 6 and up. Maria Brown, the event’s organizer and mother to a club member (who was manning a register), said the group had already surpassed its fundraising goal of $55,000 by Saturday evening, much to her excitement.

Hypothesized Brown: “The pandemic really pushed people to outdoor activities, and I don’t think that’s going to wane.”

Organizer Maria Brown at the ski sale - RACHEL HELLMAN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Rachel Hellman ©️ Seven Days
  • Organizer Maria Brown at the ski sale

Sales for the past two years' ski swaps were hampered by pandemic realities. In 2020, the sale was held online, and in 2021 it was staged outdoors in the parking lot at Cochran's. Brown said volunteers had to stay outside overnight to ensure nothing was stolen. This year’s return to Camels Hump Middle School was duly welcome.

The ski sale is an all-hands-on-deck event for the ski club, which has 140 members. Brown said the ski club board starts planning for the event in March.

Around 100 volunteers work each day to ensure all gear is properly labeled, arranged and sold. Most importantly, they help beginner skiers navigate the dizzying array of options and prices for  skis, boots and helmets. Independent vendors also attend, selling their goods at a discount.

Brown proudly noted that the Cochran's sale is the only of one its kind that feeds its vendors for free. The school’s cafeteria is transformed into a makeshift break room with dozens of donated casseroles, lasagnas and baked goods.

Shaw's and Conant's Riverside Farms lend shopping carts and wagons for the event, which is a must for families stocking up on gear for children.

Kendra Knapik’s was doing just that — outfitting her two children for a season of skiing at Mount Mansfield, where her daughter races. Seven-year-old Ellison — who accompanied his mother to the sale — is ready to follow in his sister’s footprints and try out racing for himself this year.

Ellison and Kendra Knapik with their bounty - RACHEL HELLMAN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Rachel Hellman ©️ Seven Days
  • Ellison and Kendra Knapik with their bounty

Knapik had four sets of skis, two pairs of boots and ski poles in her overflowing cart. The sale enables her to save on gear her children will quickly outgrow.

“The amount of money I’m spending on all of his separate pairs of skis is less than what I would have paid to lease only one pair of skis somewhere else,” Knapik said. 

That’s the ultimate goal of the ski sale, explained Brown: “We’re dedicated to the affordable pursuit of Alpine ski racing and a lifelong love of skiing.”

To that end, this reporter scored some discounted bindings and a very old pair of cross-country skis at a handsome price.

Until next year, Cochran's.