(Last Updated On: April 22, 2010)
I’ve been thinking a lot about how much we, as ski mountaineers, rely on our gear to perform flawlessly and get us home safely. The potential failure of an AT boot, and the injuries caused by that failure, really drives the point home- if your gear fails, you’ll get hurt, or even killed. Granted, your ski gear isn’t the only thing you rely on, your car is another obvious one, but your bindings better keep you attached when you’re skiing something exposed, and your beacon better work if you get buried.
I have already experienced one injury caused by equipment malfunction. In the 2004 Crested Butte Freeskiing contest, my binding pre-released in my Superfinals run. My buddy Ian took this photo on my first run, and I prereleased in about the same area, going REALLY fast.
Pre-releases happen, especially when you’re really pushing it, so I don’t begrudge my Salomon bindings at all for failing me. I broke a bunch of branches with my back, one of which was 4″ in diameter. I was wearing a spine protector at the time, which really saved me, but I still missed about a month while doing PT.
You’re less likely to push the limits in the same way out in the backcountry versus at a freeskiing comp. But of course some of the other hazards are greater. I’ve been out with people who were using the old Ortovox m1 beacon, which was a horrible beacon which only occasionally worked, even after Ortovox “fixed” the battery issues with them. Since I couldn’t get a signal, and my buddy couldn’t reliably search for me either, we turned around and called it a day.
Just the other day on Little Bear, Pam lost a ski and almost lost her ski over some pretty big exposure, but thankfully Brittany was able to grab it. Dynafits are fickle bindings, and she thought she was in them properly. She wasn’t. Locking the toepiece in a situation like that will help ensure that you’re really in the binding, in my opinion.
So what can you do? Well, beacon checks are always a good idea. Check your gear for excess wear and tear, micro-cracks, that sort of thing. Check the screws in your bindings for tightness. Lube and clean your bindings. Sometimes, you’ve just got to bite the bullet and replace gear, too, even if it seems fine. In the end, though, there’s still a lot of trust in your gear. Anyone have some good maintenance tips?