Get Ready for Backcountry Ski Touring Season — 6 Things To Know


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | October 13, 2014      
Getting ready for the pow fest.

Getting ready for the pow fest.

When October temps drop with the falling leaves, it is time to get ready for a new ski season. As bin after bin of gear is retrieved from summer storage, you can feel like an astronaut getting ready for a space walk when you realize this chaotic pile has to all fit onto your body and into your pack.

Forthwith, a few tips to make sure your equipment is as ready for the snow as you are.

Skis –- Preseason Tune

In the hurry to pull out your mountain bike, sport rack and other warm weather toys last spring, the storage wax had been forgotten again. But don’t panic if you now find insidious brown rust creeping along your previously shiny steel edges. It is probably superficial and will come off during your first tune. Hit those dry bases with universal wax. You can dial it in for colder temps later. Most importantly get it done now! If you bring your skis into a shop the night of the first big dump you could be sitting out that first powder day (or, you do still have those snowlerblades if all else fails?).

Boots — Allen Keys and Fit

If your boots have screws anchoring parts and pieces, check to see if any are loose (this is good to do a few times during the season too). Lock loose screws down with thread locker before your boot tongue falls off on the side of the skin track.

As for fit, if you were getting crushed at the end of last season, have your liners remolded now. Modern heat moldable liners can be baked several times (some companies claim as many as 10-12) It is my personal belief that you lose a little life from the liner every time you bake them, so unless you were in pain last year try to ski the kinks out.

Bindings

Binding grease does hold up for years, but I have seen some seriously dry Dynafit bindings in need of lube. Each brand has its own proprietary grease, so check with a dealer to get the right one if you want to be super careful.

Click your boots into your bindings to check that spacing (forward pressure) and release values haven’t somehow changed. This may be a bigger issue for me since all my personal gear inevitably gets demoed at the shop, but I have seen it happen to many friends too. In case you forgot the time last spring when your brother-in-law’s cousin took your setup out for a test spin. It is a real drag trying to crank a posidriver screw a hundred times with a multi tool on top of a cold windy mountain.

Binding comparison here.

Skins

We are lucky that touring gear holds up for years, but skins definitely need replacing most often of anything. If the glue is balled up on one side when you separate the skins for the first time, do yourself a favor and get a new pair. It is this time every year when I find myself regretting offering skin re-glues. It can be done but you are guaranteed to make a mess. (Spring storage tip: always apply release/protective sheets to skins for summer storage. This adds quite a bit of life to the glue instead of letting it sit there and stew for months.)

Transceiver Check

This is more involved than checking the batteries, but if performance is under 50% replace, period. Check out the Wildsnow post on how to check range, drift and corrosion in your beacon.

Car Check List

Tape it to your steering wheel or tattoo it on your forehead! There may be a time in the middle of the season when your bag is packed at the door and you live in your base layers, but trust me it takes a few times to dial in the systems. Go through a checklist before you leave. There is nothing more frustrating then getting to the trailhead and having to turn around for home because you forgot something.

Blunder list, just from last season!

  • Cotton running socks are not as good as ski socks
  • Forgetting my pack. Not my beacon shovel or probe but the whole thing!
  • Two left feet! This happened to two separate partners — the pitfalls of working in a backcountry ski shop.
  • Forgetting skins. This one happens so often that I leave two extra sets in my car.
  • Car chains. It can be a long wait for a truck to pass by when you are in a ditch, and it’ll usually cost you a cooler full of après beer.
  • The list goes on… What early season mistakes have you made?

    (WildSnow guest contributor, Doug Stenclik is an avid skimo racer, ski tuner, and backcountry ski traveler. Doug co-owns our local shop with Randy Young, Cripple Creek Backcountry in Carbondale, Colorado. If it’s ski related, they do it.)

    Splitboard and ski touring packages available at Cripple Creek Backcountry.

    On November 8, 2014, Cripple Creek Backcountry will host a backcountry only ski swap in Carbondale, CO — excellent deals on alpine touring, telemark, splitboard, skimo race gear, and more.



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    Comments

    27 Responses to “Get Ready for Backcountry Ski Touring Season — 6 Things To Know”

    1. JB October 13th, 2014 12:18 pm

      An actual car list. Anti-freeze, tow rope. Real shovel. Tires. Old sleeping bag or puffy jackets. Scrapers. Old gloves.
      Beware too much stoke for what we used to call ‘powder on a hard base’ (rocks). Getting hurt in October or November is not worth it.

    2. Ben W October 13th, 2014 1:11 pm

      I forgot to adjust bindings after lending skis to a friend AND left my multi tool in the car after using it for some non skiing related task. Dynatele isn’t fun.

    3. ty October 13th, 2014 7:11 pm

      the worst thing about Dynatele is that you probably wont realize the problem until you get are forced into the situation. I got a good 1200′ in last season with low tide conditions at the bottom. not cool. dont just assume the shop mounts them correctly

    4. Erik Erikson October 13th, 2014 9:47 pm

      Once forgot my skis AFTER the tour – plugged in a snow pile at the parking area… so I need one list for leaving home and one for going home again 😉

    5. Robin October 13th, 2014 11:14 pm

      Usually a list-keeper, but heck, been doing this for years, right? Realized at the trail-head that the boots were on the step at home. Two and a half hours later returned to the trailhead, with boots. Good thing it wasn’t a BC (British Columbia) trip. Snow too good not to get in the usual vert, so returned over the ridge from the backside as the sun was setting. No problem … um, yes problem – headlamp back home on the bench, so groped the way down. Those flip-phones just don’t get much screen shine, eh? No moon, but starlight gave the illusion of guidance the first 1300′; could have lived without the inspirational alder bashing that last 700′. Fortunate to have avoided injury. Now the boots live in the bag that holds the skins, beacon, and doo-dads for the up, and the headlamp lives in the pack with everything else but the food and water for the next trip. Luckily my partner forgot his poles on a trip soon after, so the critique was short lived. New errors guaranteed to find me regardless.

    6. Hank October 14th, 2014 12:42 am

      I always thought leaving the “cheat sheets” did more damage than they were worth in long turn storage… the glue kind of seeps in between the openings of the grid material and rips out a lot of glue after sitting all summer. What do the rest of you guys think???

    7. Lou Dawson 2 October 14th, 2014 4:59 am

      Sometimes I leave a cordless drill with pozi bit in the truck, when I’m doing a lot of skiing with a lot of different people. At the least, a good idea to have a pozi screwdriver in the toolkit that lives in the truck. Main thing I do, however, is keep a small bag in the truck with spare beacon, probe, hat, goggles, gloves. I also keep a shovel in the truck, and sometimes even a smaller chainsaw.

      As for the backpack, the repair kit lives in the backpack and has the bit driver. Headlamp generally lives in there as well, and I still always have two light sources with me, so I can lend one out or swap if a battery dies. Secondary source is usually the flashlight built into the radio, or a tiny LED button light in the repair kit.

      And yes, I’ve forgotten nearly everything at one time or another!

    8. Aaron October 14th, 2014 5:23 am

      Heads up keeping a beacon in the truck. Cold warm cold warm will accelerate signal drift.

      Don’t forget to snoseal the kinkos!

    9. Lou Dawson 2 October 14th, 2014 7:23 am

      Aaron, also, probably good to remove the batteries and keep them stored separately.

    10. Tyler October 14th, 2014 9:37 am

      After sleeping through my alarm I forgot my poles, gloves, jacket and goggles. Ended up doubling up on hooded sweatshirts, borrowing poles and goggles, and buying a cheap pair of spring gloves.

      Ultimately I wasn’t able to ski a full day, but I didn’t miss out!

    11. lederhosen42 October 14th, 2014 9:42 am

      On the note of ‘cheat sheets’ for skins; I really don’t know what the best solution is for storing skins long term over the summer. I used the cheat sheets regularly on multiple pairs of skins and with a few of them, the darn plastic shed an outer layer of plastic totally contaminating the glue in that ‘cross hatched’ pattern!!! ‘reinvorating’ the glue with a hot air gun melted all the goo together though and life went on but still….really don’t think that there’s a perfect system. My latest efforts involve hanging the skins like meat on a hook in free air in the cool basement….coat hanger, skins side by side, plush side on hanger wire, glue side out exposed to clean air…i figure it’s dark, cool and relatively dust free…can’t be worse than either storing skins clamped together glue on glue or the ‘cheat sheet’ style where my aforementioned issues arose.

    12. lederhosen42 October 14th, 2014 9:45 am

      Just occurred to me…you know that release plastic stuff brand new skins are shipped with protecting the glue? I wonder if just saving and sticking that stuff back on the glue would be a better way? Anyone out there with some opinions?

      Been ski touring and skinning for 30 years now, it’s time to figure this stuff out.

    13. zippy the pinhead October 14th, 2014 9:59 am

      Hank,
      One time, putting on skins at the trailhead, a friend pulled her skins apart and the cheat-sheet disintegrated when she removed it.

      The disintegration wasn’t complete; the cheat-sheet was mostly intact, but a large number of small plastic bits were left embedded in the glue.

      I suggested that she return the skins to BD as they were still fairly new, but she said the plastic bits reduced the stickiness of the glue, which she thought was a good thing, as she’d previously had trouble pulling them apart.

    14. Maciej October 14th, 2014 10:14 am

      Fully stripping the glue off skins and applying fresh Glue Renew transfer sheets is indeed a massive hassle. However, I’ve had good luck using an iron to touch up the glue on skins. I apply a dab or glue to any bare spots, but otherwise use the iron to smooth out the factory applied glue. This smooths the glue layer, gets rid of any water in the glue, and helps lift dirt out of the glue. I have a pair of BD mohair mix skins with 150+ days on them and that’s all they’ve needed. Ditto for my g/f’s splitboard skins.

    15. Maciej October 14th, 2014 10:33 am

      On another topic, it’s good to check the whole wardrobe during the fall inspection, not just socks.

      1) How old is your helmet? Have you had any hard knocks wearing it? When in doubt, get a new one.

      2) Check your goggles and sunglasses. Are the lenses in good shape? How about earpieces and nosepieces (sunglasses) and the sealing foam (goggles)? Repair or replace as needed.

      3) If you have leather (or partial leather) gloves, bust out the Snoseal or Nikwax waterproofing stuff.

      4) Speaking of gloves or mittens, how do they look? Are they torn or padded out? Make sure you have at least one or two pairs that will keep the digits toasty if you have to spend more time than planned in the cold.

      5) Do a stink check of your base layers. No amount of washing can get the aroma out of an old synthetic base layer. Be kind to your touring partners and get some fresh ones if needed.

      6) How do your insulating pieces look? This is a good time to wash them. Also, check for tears in the baffles of any down (or synthetic down) jackets and patch as needed.

      6) Get some Nikwax and wash your shells (jackets and pants). Then, get some Gore-Tex patches and patch as needed. Finally, apply some Nikwax TX Direct to rejuvenate the DWR coating on your shells.

      7) On all stuff with zippers, check that the zippers work smoothly. If not, try washing them with soapy water, then applying zipper lube when dry. Get any fully broken zippers repaired.

      8) Hats don’t wear out (often) but make sure you’ve washed your hats and you know where they are.

      I think that about covers the apparel end of things.

      Anyone else check something that I neglected to mention?

    16. Nate Pickens October 14th, 2014 4:30 pm

      I recommend you save the plastic sheets that come with the new skins and apply that for summer storage. I have not had an issue with our skins but I think that would do some good to keep them alive longer.

    17. Joel October 15th, 2014 7:36 am

      The main thing I usually forget my first day is to crank the din back up from zero to normal before showing up at the trailhead.

      My skins usually last longer than my skis. Skis will usually be mostly dead after 2-3 seasons of heavy use, although we don’t realize it until we get a new pair. It might be sooner.
      Right now, my dynafit skins have that white plastic material I peeled of when new stuck on them and they live in the freezer for the summer. It’s not a skin saver (not a mesh).
      I’ve had bad luck with what people describe above with mesh and glue turning bad on G3 skins before so I just stay away from that company altogether now.
      By the way, other than original price, I see no advantage in view of ”durability” for buying nylon skins compared to mohair or mix since the skis will die much before the skins. I haven’t done a glue renew either since by that time I change skis, but the glue will be done for much before the actual mohair skin material.
      That’s my experience from ski touring 80-100 days a year around Revelstoke/Roger’s Pass.

    18. Doug CrippleCreekBC October 15th, 2014 8:18 am

      On the skin topic. At the shop we don’t put the skin saver between our skis for summer storage, however it is absolutely imperative to store them at a stable temperature. I think the sheet that comes attached to the skins would work ok, but most of the problem with storing skins stuck to themselves was solved when skin companies started getting their glue right.

      I mostly agree with the durability of the glue running out before that of a mohair skin. I used to be the strongest advocate to mohair until my two years in the PNW. You better make sure to take your skis off even for brief steps over volcanic rock if you are using all mohair, that stuff is sharp! Also the mohair can retain extra water when you are in the super warm and wet skinning conditions.

      A friend brought us back a skin glue removing hot scrapper from Europe. Best tool I have ever had. Make sure you get all that glue off before you add on anything from a different brand!

    19. Lorne October 15th, 2014 11:27 am

      I was totally smart and saved the greaseproof-paper-like backing that came with my new skins last winter, to use for summer storage. Too bad I forgot about that. Next year, maybe.

      I did put BD cheatsheets on over summer once – the older style which were a loose weave of black plastic. The bonded to the skins and completely fell apart when I tried to remove them. One hour later there were still lots of tiny bits of plastic stuck to the glue. Newer style BD and G3 sheets seem more sturdy.

      Fridge/freezer makes sense for summer storage, but mine is full of food and beer.

    20. lederhosen42 October 15th, 2014 12:08 pm

      speculating here but perhaps plain old release paper from the bakery would work as well for summer storage? cheap, easy to find. use it for iron based touch ups of skin glue, lots kickin’ around.

    21. Ben2 October 15th, 2014 2:52 pm

      Many of you may not have this problem, but I live in an area where it gets really hot in the summer. I take my skins to work and store them in a drawer, in an office that has AC 24/7, stuck to themselves per usual. Seems to work ok, although I do not get many days a year, they have survived storage ok. Of course, then I have to remember to bring the skins back home before the first outing of the winter!

    22. David October 15th, 2014 3:54 pm

      Mentioned, but not clarified: parchment paper on the glue, then ironing the plush helped my skins quite a bit last season. Now if only I could find a magnet for pine needles…

    23. Don Gisselbeck October 15th, 2014 5:08 pm

      Lou, You are underrating the longevity of skins. I have a pair of at least 12 year old G3s on their 5th or 6th reglue with both paint on and iron on glue used. They are still good for a couple trips a year. (It helps to have duller rocks.) I have had good luck using the newer BD cheat sheets. When the glue starts losing its stickum a pass with a hot iron over wax paper on the glue usually gives it another 6 months.

    24. David Aguilar October 16th, 2014 3:37 am

      I once forgot my poles. 🙁
      Not funny

    25. Gord October 16th, 2014 8:30 pm

      A warm iron over cooking parchment is the thing for rejuvenating skin glue. Pick out all the sticks and fluff stuck in the old glue. Put a bit of new glue on any bare spots, put some masking tape where you don’t want the glue, like the centre strip on BD skins, then cover with parchment and iron with a warm iron. Smooths everything out nicely.

    26. XXX_er October 17th, 2014 4:58 pm

      keeping the paper that came on your skins to use for the glue renew is probably best, the plastic sheets that come on G3 skins work fine and will not melt, I think we need to differentiate between wax paper or baking parchment, wouldn’t wax paper melt & make a mess? The glue renew needs a hotter iron than you would use for waxing, i wax at 270ish but for glue renew i had the digital iron maxed at 320

      no problems here using G3 or BD skin savers for summer storage but it doesn’t get that hot in northern BC

    27. Nate Pickens October 17th, 2014 5:05 pm

      We recommend storing Gecko skins out of the sunlight and below 70F, however I have had my skins in our storage unit in Boise just folded in half and they are as good as they were the day I put them away. Boise has a couple of weeks a summer 100F plus temps.

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  • Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

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