The leaves have changed and fallen, the high mountains have a light dusting of snow, people are starting to wear scarves again, and you can just taste it in the air, ski and snowboard season is coming. But before you settle down to watch shred movies and get stoked for the season, it’s a great time to give your gear some love. There’s nothing worse than taking your first few turns of the year and then realizing that you forgot to fix issues you ran into last spring. It takes just a few minutes to review this list and make sure your gear is as ready to get back to the mountains as you are.
The first thing to check is your outerwear. This is where most of your nasty summer surprises can be found. Go through all your pockets and make sure they’re empty. It’s always a bummer to find half a melted snickers bar stuck to the inside of your coat. Then wash them with an outerwear-specific soap like NikWash. This can typically be found at a ski and snowboard shop and is a special soap that cleans technical fabrics thoroughly while also refreshing their waterproof coating. Normal detergent will attack that waterproof coating and take it off, rendering your expensive gear useless, as well as clog the pores on the material, reducing their breathability.
Once your outerwear is clean, restock it with the essentials. It’s a good idea to always carry a small container of lip balm, and another of sunscreen in your jacket. They don’t take up any space, and you never know when you’ll need them. It’s also a good idea to check all the buttons and zippers on your gear and make sure they’re working smoothly before you get to the hill and realize your jacket won’t zip all the way up.
Next, go over your accessories. These are the small pieces of gear that make a huge difference. Check your goggle lenses, are they too scratched up, or do they look ok? Is the foam around the edges of your goggles still attached securely?
Try on your facemask. Does it smell? Wash it then check again. Do the same for your gloves, and check the fingers and seams carefully for holes. Often a couple of loose stitches can grow fast over the course of a ski day and leave you with cold fingers.
Go through your ski or snowboard socks. Do you have enough pairs? No, you don’t, none of us ever do! But that’s beside the point. Do a quick check of all their toe and heel wear areas. If they’re starting to look threadbare, replace them. They can wear through and leave you blistered after just a few runs.
A helmet check is very important. Make sure the foam on the inside isn’t cracked or compressed. It’s a good idea to replace your ski helmet every few years, even if you haven’t crashed hard in it. They lose their efficacy over time, so stay current. The recommended timeframe is don’t use a helmet for more than 5 years.
Finally, check your base layers. Do they still fit comfortably? How bad do they smell? Merino is naturally much more odor-resistant than synthetic, so that can play into their longevity. They’re affordable to upgrade and will make a huge difference in your comfort throughout a day skiing.
Next, go over your ski or snowboard boots. First, just do a quick check to make sure that all the buckles, laces, and BOA systems are still working. Then try them on. Liners pack out over time, so if your boots are feeling too roomy it may be time to get a new liner. A ski or snowboard boot fitting can help you diagnose any pain or issues and fix them. So if your boots feel anything less than perfect, get them checked out by a pro. They have a huge variety of tools to help customize them to your feet.
Your boots have one of the biggest impacts on your skiing or riding experience, but it’s tempting to just let them degrade over time. Stay on top of it over the off-season. Your feet and toenails will thank you.
Finally, the big obvious ones. If you put summer storage wax on your planks, now is the time to scrape and brush them. It’s also the time to fix any core shots you may have put in them last spring. Check your edges and base. If the edges are dinged up and rough, or if the base is scratched up, you could probably use a snowboard tune up. Get on it early, once the mountains are open there could be longer turnaround times at the shops.
If you’ve been considering upgrading your skis or board, last year’s gear is often on sale in the fall, so it’s a good time to buy new skis. Black Friday ski sales are the go-to for most bargain shoppers, as after that timeframe we’re into the heart of ski season and prices usually go back to normal. If you aren’t sure what you may want for your next pair of skis, a good route to consider is doing some high-end ski rentals to try out new shapes. Experiment early in the season so you have plenty of time to get used to new gear.
Don’t leave it all to the last minute and just drag your gear out of the closet and head to the hill now. We’ve all been there before and no one enjoys the ride home that follows that first day out. Throbbing feet, soaking wet baselayers, or a blown-out edge that could have easily been prevented had you noticed it sooner. Some quick maintenance now will set you up for success and make your return to winter seamless.