After a long, cold winter spring is here and while some people are thrilled about the change, others (read: skiers and snowboarders) aren’t quite as happy. Though there are many mountains still open across the country and up north, it’s only a matter of time before the lifts stop turning and the snow melts away.
As you prepare to trade in snow goggles for sunglasses and transition to warm weather sports, there’s still work left to do. Don’t drop your still-wet skis on the floor of your garage, there are a few things you can do now to ensure a smooth transition from storage to slope come November.
First, buy your season pass now for the lowest price and then prepare your equipment for proper storage. Carelessly stashing your skis or snowboard can lead to damage—everything from rust to broken bindings—and those problems will put a damper on your early-season plans.
We spoke to Lou Dawson, owner and publisher of WildSnow.com, for his expert advice on ski and snowboard storage. He has made a career out of backcountry skiing and mountaineering. The first person to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, Dawson has also written several books on skiing and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska.
The Active Times: How do you prepare your skis for storage?
Lou Dawson: We deal with a lot of skis here at Wildsnow.com, so we keep our summer storage systems simple.
First, if our skis are dirty or dusty (from the roof rack, road salt, etc.) we wash them down outside with plain water and a soft bristle brush. We thoroughly dry after that, usually outdoors in a sheltered spot. This washing includes flushing out the bindings, so be aware that the drying process includes draining moisture from inside the binding housings, which may take a day or two. Ski bindings are designed to get wet, so nothing to be overly concerned with here—just be sure everything has a chance to dry.
If the skis still have a light coating of wax on the base, we don't do any additional base prep for storage. If the skis have been used hard, we clean the base with a name brand ski base cleaner, and then hot wax. Some experts suggest a "storage wax," but we've had good results from simply using a wax we anticipate being appropriate for our first days of fall/winter skiing here in Colorado. So, we usually use a colder alpine wax. We don't scrape and polish the wax until just before we start the next season's skiing.
Aside from draining, do you do anything else to the bindings before storage?
You should visually inspect your bindings for discolored or cracked plastic. Either condition can indicate a binding that's past its service life. Likewise, give some thought to how many season's you've used your bindings. While there's no rule for binding life, in my experience a binding used more than few hundred days or five seasons—whichever comes first—should be considered for replacement. If you set your bindings at higher release values, we recommend backing off the settings so your binding springs are not under excessive pressure in storage. At lower settings (below around 7) this process isn't worth the time. If you re-adjust bindings, tape a note on the skis with a reminder to reset before next season begins.
Where should people store their skis?
In my view, how skis are physically stored is more important than base preparations. Never store skis in a hot attic or other location where excessive heat could damage composite materials. Likewise, keep them out of direct sunlight. Don't strap the skis tightly together and if leaned against a wall or suspended in some fashion, be sure nothing is inducing any bending that could take a "set" after a few months. Modern skis are quite resistant to this sort of thing, but you never know for sure.
Is there anything else skiers should know?
A well-used pair of skis might be ready for a shop tune. In that case, consider getting it done before storage rather than rushing at the last minute when next season rolls around. Ask the tune shop to wax for next season start, rather than a summer storage wax. If they insist on a storage wax it won't hurt anything, but will involve an extra step next fall when you need a re-wax.
When next season does roll around, remember to scrape thicker storage wax and adjust your bindings. Getting your bindings checked by a qualified technician could also be a good idea. In the case of well used or older bindings, have a technician test them at highest release value to determine durability.