Don’t wait for the first snowfall. Trek down into the basement, out into the garage, or deep into the closet and pull out all of your winter gear—tonight. A thorough preseason evaluation of everything from clothes to skis to crampons will help preserve your gear, keep you safe, and prevent problems once you do head into the elements.
Start by taking stock of your winter attire. Do you have the proper layers you need for cold weather? “Take everything out, down to your socks,” says Chuck Waskuch of skiessentials.com in Stowe, Vt. “Pull out your base layers, your jacket, your pants and put everything on to make sure it fits right and is in working order.” Assess each piece, trying out zippers, looking for holes and damage, and repairing or replacing as necessary.
Check the seams in any waterproof gear. Consider the age of the clothing and the manufacturer’s recommendations for care throughout its life cycle. “If your gear is only a year or two old, you don’t want to re-waterproof and cause harm to what is already there,” Waskuch says. “But for older gear, protection breaks down over time, and you may want to think about a waterproof washing treatment.”
TIME TO REBOOT
“Put your boots on before you head out into the mountains,” says Rick Wilcox, owner of International Mountain Equipment in North Conway, N.H., and head of Mountain Rescue Service, a volunteer search and rescue team. “Make sure they are in good repair; replace the laces; and see that you have wiggle room, as feet sometimes change shape.” The same goes for ski and snowboard boots. Try them on before your first outing and look carefully for damaged laces or buckles.
Also check your crampon bindings, looking for loose screws or rivets that need tightening or replacing. Replace worn straps or buckles; make sure the crampons still fit the radius of your boots; and finish by sharpening the crampons.
Your at-home fashion show extends to ski and snowboard gear: Suit up in the living room as if you were about to hit the slopes. Check for broken zippers, torn pole straps, and damaged buckles. Click into the skis to check their fit and strap your helmet on, reviewing for damage. Give your goggles a good clean with an eyeglass cleaner. Look for cracks, making sure the foam around the edges is intact, and check that the head strap has not lost its elasticity.
Hose off any dirty skis and snowboards to get a good look at the bases and edges. A full tuneup may include sharpening these edges and smoothing and waxing the bases. You can do this at home, but Waskuch recommends having a certified technician give them a once-over. “You want to have the bindings checked each year, but it’s important to tune up only as much as needed. Overturning may take the life out of the ski too soon.”
Although ski maintenance is most crucial in the spring, when skis should get a postseason cleaning and a coat of warm glide wax to lock in hydration, cross-country equipment begs more frequent inspection. “Old skis lose their kick and need to be updated even more than alpine skis,” says Nate Harvey, a retail manager at Great Glen Trails in Gorham, N.H. Assess your boots and bindings to make sure they’re in working order and consider bringing your cross-country gear into a specialty shop for a thorough evaluation.
Sharp ice axes help preserve a climber’s energy and assist in secure placement, so keeping them in good shape is critical. Both new and old picks benefit from preseason and mid-season sharpening, but take care to find a balance as chronic filing can wear them out.
A mill bastard file, the same kind used to sharpen crampons, has a cross pattern allowing it to go any direction, making the task easier. File the end of the pick, following the manufacturer’s bevel, until the edge is razor sharp