Checking off days on the calendar waiting for snow feels like it takes an eternity, but opening day will be here before you know it. Don’t waste those first glorious runs on the hill with clapped-out gear that won’t hold an edge and wretched outerwear that’ll leave you freezing and pining for flip flop season. We already explained how to store ski and snowboard gear at the end of the season so you can hit the ground running. But let’s assume you ignored that advice and put everything away somewhere either exceedingly damp or scorching hot—don’t worry, we all do it.
The simple answer is to go out and get brand new everything: custom-fit boots, futuristic 10-layer membrane outerwear, carbon race skis and boutique bamboo ski poles. For those of us who don’t have $4,000 burning a hole in our pockets, however, there are a few easy things we can do to keep our gear going strong for the season ahead.
Skis and snowboards need some yearly love. Go for a full tune with a base grind, edge sharpening and wax if you can and your skis and boards will feel like new. But if you don’t want to drop coin before hacking up your gear on the thin, early season snowpack, take the DIY approach to get things running adequately.
The first step is to deburr your edges. Feel with your fingernail for those nasty burrs and bumps, especially in the tips and tails, which can get pretty hooky on hardpacked. Use a diamond stone or steel sharpener to lightly file the imperfections away until smooth. Even if your edges aren’t razor sharp, at least they’ll be predictable.
Next up is some attention for the bases. You’ll want to get out all the nasty dirt, oil, mud, rust and whatever other summer nastiness found its way in there. The finest way to do that is by giving them a quick wax and scrape using a hot wax and iron. If you don’t have a purpose built waxing iron, use the most delicate setting on a regular one. Wax will work better than any cleaning solvent you’ll find around the house and won’t be as harsh. Once that’s done, give them another hot wax—let the wax sit and cool on the bases for at least 20-30 minutes—and your skis or board will be fast and ready for the varied snow conditions the early season presents.
Now it’s time to tune up the boots. First, make sure they aren’t totally trashed. For example, check the toes and heels on your ski boots to see if they still have some sharp angles and aren’t totally worn down. If they are and have replaceable bits that can be screwed on, pick some up. If not, they might not be safe for use. In that case, take them to a reputable shop to have them checked out, and prepare for the possibility it could be time for new boots.
Check any hardware (screws and rivets) to make sure it’s hand tight, especially on touring boots with a bunch of moving parts. Then take out the liners to see if any rodents, insects or arachnids have made a summer vacation home in your foot’s winter vacation home.
There’s nothing major to do with bindings, but give them a once-over to ensure everything is in working order. Click in and out a few times to make sure all the moving parts move and there isn’t a bunch of rust or gunk built up that could impede release. Then check the mounting hardware on both skis and snowboard bindings to ensure it’s in there hand tight. If any mount screws on your skis are significantly loose, it could help to throw a bit of wood glue in the hole before retorquing to keep the screw secure and water out. If you have any questions on bindings, it is best to consult a professional!
Quality outerwear doesn’t come cheap, but you can keep it functioning for a long time with a bit of attention. Most jackets and pants include a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coating that loses effectiveness over time. Many can be revived by laundering—we recommend using a technical fabric cleaner—and the application of low heat with a dryer or iron (check your outerwear’s instructions). If your gear is well-loved, there are a number of spray-on or wash-in DWR treatments you can use to bring waterproofing back to factory fresh levels.
What about holes? Pick up a roll of Tenacious Tape for smaller repairs. It sticks incredibly well and is super waterproof. You can put a piece inside and out for a more serious tear for added protection. I used that method with inferior duct tape, and it lasted for two seasons. I avoid sewing whenever possible, but some waterproof tape over a sewed seem can work wonders. If you're not so much of a DIY'er, the local SLC ski shop Lone Pine Gear Exchange performs all sorts of gear repairs at reasonable prices!
Re-waterproofing applies for gloves and mittens, as well. For leather, Sno-Seal still can’t be beat. For fabric, many of those same DWR treatments will do the trick.
With so many people going into the backcountry these days, there are a lot of climbing skins out there getting used and abused. If you, like most of us, chucked your skins into a pile of pet hair in a basement corner for the summer there’s probably a bunch of stuff stuck in the bases. You can re-glue skins and do all sorts of things to keep them going, but the method I’ve found most effective is the paper bag and iron trick, detailed in this video.
Anything else you do to get your gear ready for ski season? Let us know in the comments.
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