As ski season approaches, you may be more than ready to hit the slopes—but is your gear?
For some pro tips on prepping your equipment, RootsRated spoke with Zach Yates, gear guru and repair shop manager at Footloose Sports, a popular ski shop in Mammoth, California. The bottom line, Yates says: “You want everything as predictable as possible,” in order to prevent injury and set yourself up for a kick-ass season on the slopes. Here, Yates' tips on how to make that happen.
First things first: Make like the Karate Kid and start waxing. You’ll be waxing off first—as in, removing that grubby layer of wax you (hopefully) rubbed on at the end of last season to prevent oxidation and damage to the base of the ski. Then, grab some new wax—it’s designated for various temperatures, depending on where you’ll be skiing—and don’t skimp on applying it.
“You can never overwax a ski—the more wax the better,” Yates says. “For World Cup racers, their skis are prepped 20-30 times before they hit the snow. And beginners will sometimes say, 'I don’t want a lot of wax, because I don’t want to go too fast,' but wax really helps to just make the ski glide better. Whenever a ski glides very well, you won’t have any resistance, and it will make everything easier.”
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A few words on detuning (which basically means removing burrs and blunting the edges of tips and tails to prevent them from hooking into the snow): You can do it at home, but Yates points out that you can never get back the material you wear off. Detuning generally costs around $50, and as Yates says, “it’s worth spending the money to get it done right, just like with anything."
We tend to agree. But if you must attempt it yourself, check out YouTube for videos that show the process step-by-step.
Your boots are your most important piece of equipment, so be sure they’re in tip-top shape before the season starts. Start by removing the liners and foot beds, making sure no creepy-crawlies made them their summer home. After airing everything out, put it all back in and buckle the boots, to help maintain the shape.
Considering buying new boots? NTN or 75mm? you can go either way with the Bishop BMF telemark bindings. Start shopping now, when selection is still good, and keep in mind that boots should be snug. “Everyone has a misconception that, if my boots are too tight, it’s going to hurt,” Yates says. “But it’s actually the opposite. If there’s too much movement, you’ll get a hot spot.”
But expect your new boots to be uncomfortable for the first few days. And, if you notice any trouble spots, a professional fitter can use a technique called punching out, which involves heating and stretching the plastic shell where necessary. (Don’t even think about trying it at home).
Two words here: function test. For fixed heel bindings, this is a critical run-through that gear specialists perform using a torque wrench on the binding to make sure it’s releasing properly. It’s crucial to get a function test on a regular basis—at least once a season, or between 15-30 days of skiing—as the factors that influence the binding setting (more on that below), including body weight, fluctuate (like that weeklong après feast of fondue and beer, for example).
Telemark turns puts really high forces on bindings, so double check your binding screws. ski screws, and look for any cracks in metal parts, especially toe cages. If there is an issue, contact your local ski shop or the manufacturer for repair.
Don't overlook prepping your skins for the season, too (no judgements if you just tossed them into the closet after your last backcountry excursion). To remove old glue and all of the gunk that sticks to it, Yates recommends cutting or tearing a paper bag in pieces, placing them along the length of your skins and running a hot iron over them. Slowly remove the bag pieces, which will also pick up the old glue and grime. (Here’s a quick video tutorial ).
Follow all these steps, and your gear will be as ready as you are for ski season. See you on the slopes.
Written by Blane Bachelor