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The University of Montana’s fall outdoor gear sale was set to begin at noon Wednesday. But buyers from on and off campus were ready long before that.

“The line starts about 10:30 or so,” said Jefferson Heath, UM’s Outdoor Program coordinator. By the time he and the student volunteers open the sale area, he said, it’s 30 or 45 yards long.

Awaiting them, in a cordoned-off area of the University Center, were tables and racks’ worth of jackets, backpacks, ski gear, bikes and footwear. The sellers would receive 80% of the proceeds, and the outdoors program, 20%. Heath said that this sale, held once each semester, moves thousands of dollars’ worth of gear. The spring sale tends to have a lot of boating gear, he said, but “this one’s kind of ski-heavy.”

Students eager to tackle the slopes and trails around Missoula can find a steep discount here. “I got boots, poles and skis and it’s going to be under 150 bucks,” said senior Cierra Reynolds, an elementary education major from Alaska. “It’s (expletive) insane.”

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About 30 to 40 student volunteers set the items out and rang them up. Before the sale area opened to everyone, Heath said, they had an hour to peruse the racks — giving them first dibs on gear before the long line was allowed in.

The crowd had thinned by 3 p.m., but there were still good deals to be had. Sam Walter, a sophomore volunteering with the sale, said he had just seen another buyer find a $5 Stetson hat. He’s scored good deals in previous sales — including $3 for a Smartwool base shirt that he estimates would have cost $30 at an outdoors store.

UM Outdoor Programs have given him plenty of chances to use that gear, whether with skills classes, discounted tickets to local ski areas, or outdoor excursions around western Montana and beyond. Walter, an environmental studies major from South Carolina, especially enjoyed leading eight students on a backpacking trip in Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park last spring — and said this sale helped make these offerings possible.

“It’s good for the outdoor program, it’s good for the students,” he said.

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