When Should I Replace My Ski Equipment? Hardgoods Edition // Helpful Hints
Ski equipment can be pretty expensive, we know that. When we're spending hundreds of dollars on new gear we expect it to last at least for a few seasons, if not longer. We understand trying to keep our gear going as long as possible, but sometimes skiers hold on to their gear so long that it starts to reduce the enjoyment we get from skiing or worst case scenario becomes unsafe. Sometimes it's hard to know when to replace gear. After all, skis made from predominantly metal, fiberglass, wood, or other durable materials seem like they should last for a long time. The same can be said for ski boots and bindings. How do we determine when to replace gear when visually it looks just fine? We're here to help.
When to Replace Your Skis:
Let's start with skis because after all, they're kind of the most important piece of equipment for skiing. Sure, you can make an argument that boots and bindings are just as important, but the sport is called SKIing, not bindinging or booting. Skis can last a long time if they're taken care of properly and there's no set amount of ski days before a pair is worn out. It depends on the ski, the skier, and the terrain he or she is skiing. There's no end all, tell all answer for when to replace skis, but here are a few things to look out for.
Ski edges and base materials only have a certain amount of life thanks to the wear and tear of skiing as well as the act of tuning. Every time your skis are tuned the techs are taking material away. Even if you're not getting your skis tuned frequently just the act of skiing is wearing down your edges. There comes a point when the edges are so thin that it's definitely time to replace your skis. The same can be said about the actual base of your ski. If you are getting frequent belt and stone grind tunes you're going to wear through that base material very quickly. Another thing to look out for is damage. While damage is often repairable, an abundant amount of core shots in the base of a ski or a bunch of cracked edges from sliding rails or hitting rocks means it's probably time to replace your skis. Cracked sidewalls? That will drastically reduce edge grip, not to mention let moisture into the core of the ski, which is a big no-no.
If your skis have been mounted multiple times, it might be time for new skis. Most experts will say a ski can be drilled and mounted up to three times before it starts to ruin its torsional stiffness and structural integrity. If your skis look like a piece of swiss cheese underneath your bindings it could be time to replace them. Not only do multiple mounts hurt structural integrity, it also gives moisture a way to enter into the ski. Even a tech who is very skilled can have a hard time truly sealing up an old hole with plugs and glue. Be strategic about your re-mounts or you may be unnecessarily shortening the life of your skis. Just because a ski can be mounted three times, doesn't mean you'll be able to safely or with the bindings where you want them to be. Different bindings use different hole patterns, which sometimes can conflict with each other.
What about general wear and tear? Skis will start to naturally lose their torsional stiffness and stability the more you ski them. Are you finding it hard to hold an edge on firm snow even after a fresh tune? Your skis could be wearing out from the inside! The wood core that's found in the center of most skis will start to break down ever so slightly and the epoxy that holds the ski together will eventually start to give. This is probably the biggest gray area when it comes to replacing skis, but if you feel like your skis aren't performing the way they used to, you're probably right, and it's probably time for a new set.
There can even be reason to replace your gear if it's not suffering from excessive wear and tear or other damage. Advancements in technology happen at an exponential rate and that concept is pretty obvious in the ski world right now. Just within the past 10 years we have seen huge improvements in ski design and construction. If your skis are more than ~5 seasons old, chances are there have been some significant improvements since the release of your skis. We're seeing a lot more carbon fiber in ski construction as well as other rare materials like graphene, Koroyd, basalt, and plenty of others. Don't let skiing be harder than it should be. In our opinion it's often worth upgrading your gear to a more current design and construction just to maximize the fun factor.
When to Replace Your Ski Boots:
There are two big concerns to look out for with ski boots: the wear and tear on the soles of the boot and the actual structural integrity of the plastic. Not only can boots start to lose their performance, they'll also start to get uncomfortable. It's less of a concern for performance and safety, but if the liner of your ski boot is super packed out and the boots uncomfortable, that seems like a pretty obvious reason to get new boots.
Let's talk about wear and tear on soles. Have you ever been turned away from a ski shop when you're trying to have your skis mounted because of worn out soles? When bindings are mounted on skis they are torque tested to ASTM standards. Before this happens boots and bindings both have to pass a visual inspection. Your local shop should have a device to help determine whether the soles of your boots are too worn down to function correctly, but it's relatively easy to see just by looking at them. Is there significant wear on the soles, especially at the end of the toe and heel? If so your boots may not pass inspection and probably won't release properly out of a binding. This is a huge safety issue and not something to take lightly. Luckily ski boot soles are often replaceable, something that's becoming more and more common. Unfortunately when the soles are showing significant wear chances are the actual boot is pretty worn out too.
What about the actual structural integrity of the boot? How long does a ski boot last for? Most people will tell you the shell of a ski boot will start to break down and lose its structural integrity after about 150 days of skiing. Now, there's some varying factors that go into that number. Do you ski full 8 hour days every time you go skiing? Your boots may wear out faster than that. Do you just ski a couple hours per day then call it good? Your boots could last longer. 150 days, however, is a general rule of thumb. Think about how many days a year you ski. Do you ski 30 days a year? Chances are your boots will last about 5 seasons. Do you ski over 100 days a year? You could easily justify getting a new pair of ski boots every season.
The way you store your ski boots can have an effect on their longevity as well. An important rule for taking proper care of your ski boots, especially during the long off season, is keep them buckled. If you don't store your boots fully buckled you're allowing the plastic to stretch and expand in directions it's not meant to. Go look at your ski boots. Are they buckled? If they're not we would venture a guess that the plastic on the upper cuff is sticking out straight forward instead of the nice curvature it's intended to keep. Not storing your boots correctly will drastically shorten their lifespan, that is if you care about them functioning properly.
When you keep skiing a boot longer than you should you're actually putting yourself in pretty significant danger. The boot is no longer flexing properly and supporting your legs and the rest of your body properly. A worn out ski boot will start to "fold" on the sides of the boot and will essentially lose all of its stiffness and integrity. This drastically reduces the control you have over your skis. Know someone with old ski boots who always says stuff like, "this used to be easier when I was younger," or "skiing is for young people," chances are they just need new boots.
When to Replace Your Ski Bindings:
Bindings are perhaps the most important piece of equipment to regularly replace because they are a big factor in staying as safe as possible on skis. Bindings have a lot of moving pieces that can wear out resulting in a poor connection between the skier and their skis, not to mention the dangers of not releasing or pre-releasing. Each season the industry releases a list of "indemnified bindings" that are still covered by manufacturers. This means there are actually bindings each year that according to the manufacturers cannot be skied anymore due to safety issues. It might sound like a trick to get you to buy new bindings, but it's really just intended to keep skiers safe. If you think you're bindings might be too old check with us or a local ski shop and we can help determine if they are still indemnified.
In addition to this list bindings also just wear out. Just like your boots when you have your bindings torque tested to ASTM standards they first have to pass visual inspection. If anything is broken or missing on your bindings they will not pass visual inspection. If your AFD is all scratched up and worn down your bindings will not pass visual inspection. This all comes down safety once again. Broken and worn out bindings will not function properly, which means your bindings might not release when they should or might pre-release, both of which can cause serious injury.
Keep your bindings clean and dry. Don't leave your skis outside after a day on the slopes as moisture can enter into the bindings and then freeze causing damage. Another good habit to get into is turning your DIN all the way down during the off season. This allows the springs to stretch as much as possible and helps your bindings function properly longer. Bindings can be the hardest piece of equipment to know when to replace, so we recommend having your bindings torque tested by a professional before each season. That is the best way to determine if they are still functioning properly, but if there's anything broken on your bindings, if they're exceptionally worn down, or if they've been left for years with the DINs cranked up in a place that's not warm and dry, it's probably time for a new pair anyways.
There are, of course, often additional factors that can play into needing new equipment. Perhaps you just bought ski boots with Grip Walk soles and your bindings don't support multiple sole types (many bindings even just over 2-3 years old will not), then it's time for new bindings. Skiing is supposed to be fun, and while it's nice to save some money by keeping your gear going for multiple seasons, don't let it ruin the enjoyment of the sport and don't let it put you in unnecessary danger. Those are easily the two biggest factors here: stay safe and have fun out there.