With ski season right around the corner, many skiers and snowboarders will be spending lots of money for the latest shiny new ski gear. And that means you can pick up their old skis and boards for a song. Whether at a ski swap or a consignment store, Central Oregon is a great place to buy used gear. But Josh Sims, owner of The Gear Fix in Bend, has seen plenty of bad purchases. “We have a lot of folks coming in to consign their skis that they purchased on Craigslist, and then they find out they don’t work for them.”
Read on for a few tips for finding snow gear that will have you out on the slopes, not in the repair shop.
• Think about what terrain you’d like to ride and the right sizing to find an appropriate ski. If you’re planning to stick to the groomed runs, choose a carving ski with a radical sidecut. If you’re mad about powder, a wider freeride ski will give the flotation you need. Check online (for example, www.sizingskis.com) for recommendations on ski sizes for your height, weight and skiing ability. A good rule of thumb is to choose a ski length within 15 centimeters of your height. Beginners may want to stick to the shorter end of the range, while experts skiers might go a little longer. Stay away from straight skis — those are likely 20 years old by now.
• Check for dents, nicks and other damage to the metal edge of the ski. “If you see that ski edge is really thin, that tells you that the ski has been tuned quite a bit so it’s lost a lot of material in the tuning process,” said Mike Cumbie, an employee at the Gear Peddler, a consignment store in Bend. Edges can be replaced, but at a cost of $40 or $50, eating into the savings of buying a used ski. A little rust on the edges can be removed, but major rust suggests the ski was left outdoors or not cared for well.
• ”Look for any delamination on the top of the ski or the sides,” Sims said. “That means snow and water can get into the ski and start to rot out the wood core.” Don’t worry too much about the base of the ski; anything other than major damage can be repaired fairly inexpensively.
• Binding manufacturers won’t indemnify ski shops for work on bindings they consider too old. Each year the industry puts out a list of bindings that shops can still adjust. (The National Ski and Snowboard Retailers Association compiles the list for its members but does not provide it to the public. Nonetheless, the list can be found by searching online.) You’ll want to check to see if your binding is on the list or otherwise it will have to be replaced. “If you buy a ski with too old bindings or a binding that’s not on that list,” Cumbie said. “You’re not going to be able to find a shop to adjust your boot.”
• Sims suggests looking for discoloration in the plastic. “If it’s black binding and it looks a little ashy, or if it’s a white binding and it’s yellowing, that means the plastic is degrading,” he said. “It’s either been around for a while or hasn’t been taken care of very well.”
• Examine the sole of the boot for wear, avoiding boots where the plastic is rounded off or scuffed up at the toe or the heel. “The condition of the boot directly relates to how well the boot releases or functions within the binding itself,” Cumbie said. “So it is a safety issue.”
• Parents often try to get an extra season out of kids’ ski boots by buying them a size too big. That creates both a safety hazard and makes controlling the ski harder. “Buy the size that fits and they’ll have a better experience,” Sims said. “Double check the buckles because those things break a lot, and stay away from rear-entry boots.”
• Check the bindings for discoloration, especially the notched tongues that are inserted into the buckle. “Those break all the time on people,” Sims said. “You can almost tell it’s going to if that thing is pretty much yellow. Those things will snap right in half. They’ve lost all their flexibility.”
• Snowboards “get used a lot in the terrain park and they get slid on various appliances,” Cumbie said. “So you may want to take a harder look at the condition of the base overall and the edges. If the snowboard has been used in the terrain park across a whole bunch of steel rails, the edges will get really rounded off.”•