9/30/2021 A Backcountry Skier's Preseason To-do List
For those of us who live for knee deep powder, winding skin tracks, and steep couloirs, the heat of summer feels like it drags on forever. Sure, mountain bikes and trad racks help fill the void. But when it comes down to it, brown pow and finger crimps will never be an adequate replacement for cold face shots and fast carves. So as soon as the leaves start to change and the nights get colder, you bet we’re getting antsy over here at Skimo Co. While January’s deep snowpack may feel far away, winter will be here in full force before you know it. And just as bears must fatten themselves for hibernation, us skiers also have late fall rituals we need to complete for a successful winter.
Honey, where is my skimo suit??
Step one is to pull winter gear out of storage and make sure it’s all there. Pack as if you’re heading out for a tour now and that will help you see what’s missing, needs maintenance, or is due for a replacement. Scrape off the storage wax and put on a cold weather wax. Or, better yet, get DPS Phantom installed and be done with waxing for the season. If you’re anything like me, the headlamp batteries are dead and you probably need to get back that hard shell you left in your buddy’s car. Trust us, you don’t want to leave these tasks until the first ski day. And if you do, don’t say we didn’t warn you when you’re dawn patrolling with your iphone’s light or getting grief from your buddies for showing up late!
Now that everything is accounted for, take the time to do a closer inspection.
Your partners thank you in advance
Your beacon is quite literally a lifeline so give it some love! Treat it to a fresh set of batteries to start the season - pay attention to battery type though since not all beacons play nice with lithium! While you’re at it, look over the beacon for corrosion, cracks, broken parts and - an especially hot topic this year - the slider’s resistance to switching into a different mode without pressing the unlock button. An accidental slide to “off” position could be a fatal problem. If there is any damage or questionable wear and tear, don’t chance it! Retire it and keep it for beacon drills. A rule of thumb also suggests replacing a beacon every five years, but check with your manufacturer’s guidelines for more clarity.
May your turns be wigglier than your bindings
Bindings are magical creations that are perhaps second in line for most critical gear. Break one when you’re far out, and you’ll be begging your partners for their Voile straps out of fear of having to post hole back to the trailhead. Tim, our lead tech, recommends checking your bindings for full functionality and any loose parts. Make sure all of the bolts are tight, secure, and haven’t shifted. Strange things happen in the gear closet over the summer so snug everything up. Anything loose can also be a sign of bigger problems with your ski. Step in, step out, switch to ski mode, back to tour mode, try different riser heights, and since you’re already skiing your living room, practice the double skin rip - just don’t blame us if your skins get covered in dog hair.
Speaking of skins, check the glue for any other debris - think dirt, pine needles, bits of smashed Clif Bars, or whatever else might’ve gotten stuck to them when you hastily threw them in your pack. Also, if the glue makes your hands sticky or peeling them apart creates strings like bubble gum, you’re due for an upgrade or reglue.
The longer you wait, the longer the wait.
If you've pulled the trigger on new boots this season or your feet changed shape over the summer (it happens!), get started on that boofitting process ASAP. Like clockwork, the first snow of the season brings in hoards of skiers who’ve been putting off a bootfitting session. This year, without an appointment, you’re at risk of having your season delayed. Take care of it now and you can get back to hitting the refresh button on the weather forecast.
Stay in school
Lastly, brush up on your avalanche and snow science skills. No matter how many years you’ve been at it, there is always something new to learn. Reread Tremper’s book, attend an avalanche workshop, spend time on Avalanche.org, and practice rescue drills with buddies. Pop Quiz! Which type of new snow is more likely to cause loose snow avalanches - spatial dendrites or needle crystals? That's what I thought, get studying!
Lastly, fix it up!
Although it may not be the latest and greatest, gear these days is built to last. Take care of it and it’ll take care of you. A blown out buckle or busted zipper doesn’t need to spell the end of the road for your trusty ski pants - simply seek out a tailor, or hit the ole Youtube and learn how to throw a few stitches yourself. Is your pack looking tired? A trip through the washing machine and a handful of zipper pull tabs can work wonders. Don’t just spend the preseason waiting impatiently - save yourself a few bucks by breathing life into your old gear! And hey, if your efforts to resuscitate your skins, pack, or boots fail, that’s ok! Take some time to mourn your loss, then head over to skimo.co or give us a call and we’ll help you find some shiny new toys that are guaranteed to help you forget the pain.
Hopefully by the time you get through this list, it’ll be snowing in earnest. However, if there’s not any snow in sight, keep procrastinating. That will ensure a big storm comes ASAP.
This article was originally published on 11/3/2020 and was last updated on 9/30/2021.