Pre Season Checklist — Ski Touring Gear Upkeep

Post by blogger | October 11, 2016      
Fix now, ski later.

Fix now, ski later.

“I was just skiing along and. . .” disaster. A morning full of excitement of the much anticipated earning of turns is thwarted by a faulty piece of equipment that leaves you cursing at the trailhead or sends you home early.

Ski touring gear is expensive and much is built to be so minimalist and lightweight that we are asking for problems if we don’t treat it with some tender love and care. You wouldn’t drive a brand new car off the lot and expect it to perform flawlessly over the years without some oil changes, part replacement and attention to detail. Hopefully, by paying attention to your gear and performing simple checks a few times a season, you can catch malfunctions before smoke begins billowing from under the hood.

While working at Cripple Creek Backcountry (I’m co-owner) I have seen hundreds of sudden failures, on customers’ gear and even my own. The problems often seem to come out of nowhere, when just the day before your gear looked shiny and eager to propel you up and down the mountains. But this stuff doesn’t really come out of the great mysteries of the universe. Most often, there are warning signs. To that end, how about a checklist? (Please note, below is oriented to tech bindings, but the concepts apply to frame binding systems as well.)


As my ski bindings have dipped under 200 grams and still firmly holds me to a ski going up to 50 mph through every possible snow condition, it frankly surprises me every time these things don’t blow up.

  • Check all binding mounting screws. If screws are loose, back them all the way out and add wood glue or epoxy to the hole and tighten back down. In Lou’s opinion epoxy is better in this situation, but wood glue does work.
  • Make sure binding is completely flat to ski, not “screw jacked.” This is a common problem and leads to all sorts of failures.
  • Check for cracks especially in the heel piece of binding, but examine the metallic toe plate as well (use a magnifying glass or 2x reading glasses). This check is important for your personal safety, as are most others we list here.
  • Check all machine screws for tightness. If a screw has backed out add Loctite and tighten down. These screw heads can be easy to strip so pay attention and go easy when retightening. If you’ve never done this and feel uncomfortable with it, seek the services of a professional binding technician.
  • Click both boots into bindings and check heel spacing
  • Repairable or not?

    Repairable or not?

    Skis vary immensely in strength and durability. Yet common to all, the stress they endure is amazing — and breakage isn’t exactly rare.

  • Examine skis for delaminations in top sheet and sidewalls. If cracks are found add epoxy and clamp with medium tightness.
  • Examine bases for dimples or core shots. Fill core shots with P-tex. If core shots are large (over a cm wide) you may want to visit a shop for a more serious repair.
  • Check bases for wax. If the base looks white or dry it is time for wax. This is essential for backcountry skiers to avoid dry bases pulling off skin glue.
  • Skins
    Does the state of your climbing skins reflect your personality, or just how busy you are? If you can tell the color of your dog’s hair from looking at your skins, or they’ve been cursed at so much they seem to curl up on their own, time to look at how they’re treated.

  • Check skin glue for balling and general stickiness. Once it is balling up it is time to consider new skins, but adding a little glue can help you scrape through a season and prevent you from wallowing in the backcountry.
  • Check tip and tail attachment on skins. Make sure all parts and pieces are there and in good condition.
  • As alluded to above, check how contaminated your skin glue is with effluvium such as pine needles and ski wax. Some brands (Contour) can be cleaned fairly effectively. Others do better if the glue is removed and new stickum applied. In the later case, DIY is possible but it might be best to just pay a shop employee to suffer.
  • Organize skins. If you use multiple setups and find yourself pawing through a pile of skins in the morning before a trip, perhaps it’s time to figure out a storage system. A simple approach is to have a dedicated bag for each set of skins, with the ski designation written on it.
  • Poles

  • Check pole baskets to make sure they are firmly secure
  • Inspect shaft for cracks.
  • If you’ve got pole straps that are hard to adjust or broken, now is the time for a swap.
  • Boots

    Sometimes, ski boots just seem to charge along for years with nary a problem. But. Especially when it comes to the boot being a key part of the binding due to tech fittings, attention to detail is vital for performance and safety.

    Check rivet for play in cuff.

    Check rivet for play in cuff.

  • Add a small coat of white lithium grease to the ski/walk mechanism to prevent it from sticking in one mode or the other.
  • Overly worn cuff pivot rivet: check by manipulating cuff to see if there is excess play. Tips for rivet repair here. And don’t forget the Ultimate Cuff Pivot for your Dynafits. These are not exactly the easiest DIY projects but can be done at home. Any fairly active and reputable ski touring shop has probably installed a few.
  • Check tech heel fitting to make sure it’s firmly fixed to boot. Tighten screws, remove and bed in JB weld if needed. If you are a large and-or aggressive skier, consider “beef” boots that mold the heel fittings into the shoe plastic rather than attaching with a screw.
  • Check boot function in several different new tech bindings, especially by doing a hand check of lateral release. If boot behaves poorly in a variety of new bindings, it’s possible the tech fittings are worn.
  • Readers: Give us more for the checklist!

    (Editor’s note from Lou: This post is produced as part of a modest partnership between Cripple Creek Backcountry and It’s actually co-authored by myself and Lisa along with Doug, but since our software only allows one author, we put Doug on there — he started it.)


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    9 Responses to “Pre Season Checklist — Ski Touring Gear Upkeep”

    1. Maciej Pike-Biegunski October 11th, 2016 11:36 am

      Great Article guys! Checking the gear before heading out seems basic, but is easy to forget.

      A couple of other gear things I check:
      Replace beacon batteries and test the beacon. Also, if your beacon is out of warranty consider a new one (the current Pieps and Mammut stuff is notably easy to use).

      Check your hydration gear. Is your reservoir or water bottle scummy? Clean or replace.

      Check the gear in your pack, especially the first aid kit. Replace expired pills (Benadryl, Ibuprofen, etc.) and any first aid tape more then a couple of years old (it deteriorates). Check and wash (as needed) the spare gloves and hats that have sat in your pack all summer. Also, throw out that 8 month old (and expired) energy bar that’s still in the snack pouch on your hip belt.

      Check your goggles. Is the foam in good shape? How about the lenses? Replace lenses (or goggles) as needed.

      Check your apparel. Patch or mend the holes in your shell layer, wash and restore the DWR coating. Is your down jacket fresh and fluffy, or did you forget to air it out over the summer and leave it in a compression sack? Take it out, air it out and wash as needed. Are your base layers in good shape? Does your favorite touring shirt have perma-funk? If you replace them, your touring partners will appreciate it.

      If you use a helmet, check that too. If it’s 5 years (or more) old, replace it (helmets degrade even if they don’t take a hit). If there are any dents in your helmet, replace it. Helmets are designed to crush under impact, but it’s a one-time trick. If your helmet is in good shape, you can wash it with soapy water if needed.

    2. Guillaume October 11th, 2016 11:38 am

      Renew skin’s glue: I don’t think I’ve seen that tip anywhere on the interweb before, but I’ve been doing that several times with great success: ironing the old glue makes it super sticky again. Yes, the glue will look terrible but I don’t care as they stick to my skis again !

    3. Lou Dawson 2 October 11th, 2016 11:58 am

      Thanks Maciej, we were focusing more on the ski gear side, but we should keep the checklist going in the comments, and widen the scope! Beacon batteries especially!

    4. See October 11th, 2016 12:34 pm

      Re. the first picture: it’s weird how the metal binding plate is on top of the glass layer on some skis, like the one pictured and the Huascaran. In my opinion, epoxy is mandatory for mounting in this construction (and also good for filling old holes, especially in a swiss cheese mount).

    5. XXX_er October 11th, 2016 1:08 pm

      yeah you can re-iron old glue with an iron (higher temp than waxing) over some parchment paper but really take it as the sign to get a tube of gold label cuz its time to reglue

    6. jay October 12th, 2016 9:44 am

      To add to this. Don’t assume a brand new pair of skis and freshly mounted bindings are mounted properly. You’ll end up like me last season taking a rescue sled down the mountain because the idiot you paid to mount your setup didn’t know what they were doing.

      So double check everything, especially someone elses work.

    7. Eric Delaperriere October 19th, 2016 11:33 am

      If you binding mounting screws are loose, there is a chance that moisture got inside the ski and the wood core started desintegrating. In this case, wood glue won’t do, epoxy could do it if the screw hole is more or less intact, but the best thing to do is to redrill slightly larger and put a metal insert: DIY if you can buy inserts, or a good and reliable (!) ski touring shop !
      Also, change the batteries of your beacons no matter if they have only a few outings.

    8. Chris K March 7th, 2017 10:55 am

      “Epoxy” you say. What kind of epoxy? There are so many kinds out there…

    9. Lou Dawson 2 March 7th, 2017 11:07 am

      Chris, try entering the word “epoxy” in our search box at top of page. You’ll get a lot of hits. I mostly use cheap hardware store epoxy because I don’t want it too strong, and I want it heat sensitive so I can back screws out without breaking them. Ski shops often use Double Bubble. Cheap hardware store epoxy isn’t the strongest, it tends to crack. Lou

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