As chilly November days give way to snowy ones, it signals the start of ski season. For a lot of folks, that means rummaging through closets and basements to break out gear that hasn’t seen the light of day in months, sometimes years.
If you’re one of them and you’ve owned your equipment since VHS rentals were popular, it’s probably time to consider replacing it.
Because ski gear tends to be a fairly expensive investment, it’s not unusual to find people hanging on to it for years. And almost like a favorite pair of shoes, once skis are worn in and comfortable, it can be difficult to part with them.
“Skis and snowboards wear out, but people love them. They have an emotional attachment,” said Don Haringa, the director of education and programs for the Professional Ski Instructors of America, Eastern Division.
However, despite misgivings over expense or attachment, said Haringa, it’s important to stay current with your equipment for any number of reasons, starting with technology. “If you haven’t purchased skis in the last ten years, they’ve changed a lot.”
Among those changes, he said, are a new generation of skis vastly more advanced than older versions in a variety of ways. They include changes to width and camber allowing for easier turns, better balance, subsequently giving the skier far greater control on the slopes.
Beyond advances in technology, another reason to replace gear is simply old age. Over time, just like anything else, skis can wear out. Bases dry out, edges become worn, grip becomes loose, and boots can crack from repeated exposure to ultraviolet rays and other elements.
Still another consideration, and perhaps one of the most important, is the bindings. Since they are the only link between your skis and boots, you don’t want them to be outdated.
Neither do the manufacturers, who put out a list each year of indemnified bindings, or in other words, bindings they continue to support. If a binding doesn’t make the list, then the manufacturer no longer backs it. Why is that important?
“When a manufacturer stops supporting a binding, most retailers won’t service it,” said Eric Barber, the general manager of Alpine Haus ski and snowboard shop in Wethersfield. “Manufacturers want a safe product and retailers want a safe product, too.”
Signs Of Stressed Equipment
So how do you know if your bindings are indemnified? Bring them to a retailer at the start of each season for an inspection and tuneup.
“They should be tested every year,” said Barber. “The biggest thing is that people don’t take the annual tune-up for equipment as seriously as they should to make sure it functions properly.”
But they should. Regular tuneups not only help prolong the life of your skis, according to Barber, but, more important, they help ensure safer skiing through equipment and binding inspections.
Without them, you run the risk of serious injury from a faulty binding or other malfunction.
“If the binding goes out and you fall, you can tear your ACL or MCL and it gets potentially catastrophic from there,” said Oliver Pelton, owner of New England Ski and Scuba in Vernon.
As far as older boots and the skis themselves are concerned, Pelton said that aside from inconvenience, there’s no real harm in using them. “They’re just backdated on technology,” he said, “It’s like trying to use Windows 98; it’ll work, but not great.”
Not to be forgotten in gear assessment are helmets and outerwear. If you’re still rocking blue jeans and a pom-pom hat on the slopes, you might want to reconsider. That ship sailed right along with pet rocks and the Sony Walkman.
“The old Boy Scout rule is no cotton,” said Pelton. “It retains moisture.”
Instead, he recommends investing in a good pair of waterproof pants, a warm base layer, a waterproof, windproof jacket, and a solid helmet, which Pelton considers an essential part of all skiers’ gear, no matter how high their skill level.
“Just because you’re a great skier, doesn’t mean someone else won’t take you out,” he said.
Finally, if you’re unsure whether your ski gear is too old, your best bet is to bring it a retailer to have it assessed.
“If you have older ski gear, bring in what you have and we’ll take a look,” said Barber. “Sometimes it needs to be replaced, but a lot of times it just needs maintenance or an adjustment.”