Snow season is on its way, which means it’s time to bust out all the gear that’s been hibernating in your basement or attic all summer long. But before you tackle the slopes, the rink, or the trails, you’ll need to ensure your equipment is ready for the elements. That means everything from sharpening your skates to adjusting you ski bindings to waterproofing your snowshoes. Here are a few tips to ensure your winter sports gear is ready to go outside when you are.
The most important thing is to, of course, ensure that your skates are sharp. Dull blades will prevent your skates from grabbing the ice and give you less control over your movements. But steer clear of automated sharpening machines. They may seem quick and easy, but going to a shop that has a proper tabletop sharpener will give you better results, whether you’re using figure skates or hockey skates.
Before you hit the ice, it’s also a good idea to examine the mountings on your skates. Check that no screws are missing and give the blade and base a bit of a wiggle to ensure none of the rivets are loose, which could lead to damaged skates—and damage to you if you wipe out.
And don’t forget that you should do preventative maintenance all throughout winter as well: for hockey players, skates are generally sharpened every five to 10 games; for figure skaters, after about 20 to 40 hours of ice time, depending on your level. But those are just rules of thumb, and you’ll probably know when a sharpening is due, as it’ll be harder to manoeuvre on them. Lastly, all winter long while your skates are in use, be sure to wipe the blades down after every skate, let them dry before packing them away, and don’t walk on concrete or other non-ice surfaces without a rubber or plastic skate guard in place.
Skis and ski boots
Everything from your skis to boots to bindings will benefit from a proper tune-up before you hit the slopes. Skis will need to be sharpened and any rust and burrs removed (if you’re doing your own sharpening, be sure to check with the manufacturer for the correct bevel angle for your skis before doing any filing). A proper waxing will require some time commitment, as it’ll include repairs of any scratches, a cleaning, a few hot wax cycles and a final condition-specific wax. So if you’re doing it yourself, make the time to do it right.
For your boots, give them a good inspection, pulling out the inner linings and checking for worn spots or even any insects that have climbed inside over the summer. You should also check for wear and tear at the heel and toe—if anything looks too worn down, you may want to look into getting those pieces replaced.
Lastly, your bindings may need to be readjusted, especially if the heels and toes of your boots are damaged. As well, you want to ensure your bindings are clean and no debris has gotten inside and damaged them—which could lead to a dangerous wipe-out on the hills for you. And don’t forget, if you’ve changed weight, height, or even skiing ability, your binding setting will have to change. If in doubt, it can’t hurt to take your boots and bindings into a ski shop for a professional look-over and resetting.
Snowboard and boots
Similar to skis, you’ll need to check that your board, boots, and bindings are in quality shape before you head to your first hill of season. Your board has likely dried out from being stored away all summer, so you’ll want to get it waxed for a smoother ride—otherwise it’s going to be sluggish and hard to turn. As well, it’s a good idea to get your edges checked for rust and burrs, and sharpened if they’re blunt. Check for any nicks or scratches that your board base may have gotten while packed away (or that you forgot about from last season) and have those repaired with a good waxing. Many snowboarders regularly remove the bindings when their boards aren’t in use; if you haven’t been doing that, loosen the screws before you re-tighten them to ensure they haven’t seized up. Lastly, air out your boots and check for anything that may have crawled inside while they were stored away.
The level of snowshoe maintenance you need to do depends on whether you’re using traditional or modern shoes. If you have traditional snowshoes with wooden frames, a coat of varnish will help to preserve the shoes—otherwise, you risk moisture seeping into the wood and weakening the frame. Before you varnish, though, wash the frame with water (do not use any detergent) to remove any dirt, then thoroughly dry them and let them air out, possibly even for a few days. Then, use sandpaper to gently remove any old varnish before applying a new coat. It’s also a good idea to waterproof the leather bindings (saddle soap, neat’s-foot oil, or Sno-Seal are all good options). For those with modern snowshoes, the synthetic bindings tend to be waterproof, but they still might benefit from a plastic protectant such as Armor All or silicone spray.
Equipment such as hockey sticks, helmets, and ski poles will also need a bit of TLC. While you don’t have to do much to prep these pieces of equipment for the season, it’s a good idea to give them a good once-over to ensure they’re in good condition for heading outside. Helmets should be free of cracks, and the inner cushioning should still feel snug. If your helmet is over five years old or you’ve had several falls with it, it’s likely time to look into buying a new one. For kids who are still growing, check that hockey sticks and ski poles are still right for their height. Check as well for any cracks or weak spots where the stick or pole is at risk of snapping.
All good? Good. Now get outside!