Here it is, the last of the good-weather, three-day holidays — Labor Day — so enjoy it.

The first sign of winter is upon us — the Labor Day ski sales.

So go camping or take a hike or take up the fishing rod and make a few casts while it's still shirtsleeve weather.

Actually, the traditional opening day for the Utah ski season is roughly 80 days away in mid-November.

But now is the time when skiers and snowboarders and would-bes take an accounting of their equipment, or lack of, because now is a good time to buy new.

And skiers and snowboarders know it.

The three Sports Authority locations expect to see more than 30,000 people over the weekend, pulled in by promises of ski and snowboard gear "up to 70 percent off."

It's also a good time for parents to take inventory. Unfortunately, skis, boards and boots don't grow. Taller kids with longer feet need to upgrade. When buying taller and longer, do it in inches not feet.

I'll never forget my time selling ski gear at a now out-of-business ski shop. A buyer I was helping couldn't understand why I argued so strongly against him buying 7-foot skis for his 3-foot-tall daughter.

His argument was why pay for the shorter ski when he could get the taller pair for the same price, "and she can grow into the skis."

It's a fact of skiing, though. Old equipment needs to be replaced. Binding parts start to wear and become unsafe; boots wear, especially the toes and heels, which work in cooperation with the bindings; and skis, well, if not new ones then at least get them tuned before the season.

There's no question, either, that new, shaped skis are much easier to ski. Just ask the pros who are now skiing shaped skis shorter than they are.

What comes after the sale are the annual ski swaps, at least a half-dozen good swaps Snowbird and Park City. Starting it off this season will be the Snowbird swap, scheduled for Sept. 21-23.

Smart sellers mark their gear, some only slightly used and some new, to sell rather than go to the trouble of having to reclaim it.

Oh, and while on the subject of saving money this winter, lets not forget ski areas' lift-ticket sales.

All Utah resorts have preseason ticket sales for locals, either in the form of season passes or when buying in multiples of five or 10 passes at a time.

Buy early and ski Snowbird this coming winter for $49 a day; Park City Mountain Resort for as little as $40 a day; Solitude for $36 a day; The Canyons for $32.80 if purchased by Monday; and Alta for $44 a day.

There are sizable discounts for season passes, kids passes and senior passes if purchased within time limits ranging from this Monday through November.

The secret, of course, is to go to the resort of you choice, look at the available passes and then buy before the deadline.

The argument has long been that skiing and snowboarding are expensive sports.

With a little preseason effort, starting with the Labor Day weekend and extending to preseason passes, skiing and snowboarding suddenly become far less expensive.

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