Saturday, October 17, 2009

How to NOT Buy New Snowboard Gear

The Anti Buyers' Guide

Dropping temperatures. Cloudy days. Cool rain. Here it comes. Not the actual snowboard season, but that trip to the closet (garage?) to check on all your gear from last year. All that busted up equipment you were hoping would last another season. Three seasons ago. Whether it's the board with more core shots than an infested crate of apples, the boots that are held together with shoe goo and duct tape or the jacket that soaks up water like a dehydrated raver, something might need replacing. Welcome to the puzzle we call snowboarding. Here are a couple simple suggestions that will see you through the season with enough money left over to, uh, you know, buy a lift ticket. You should still look through the other buyers' guides, though, to see what you'll be buying in the future. More on that when the time comes. Here's how to make everything last just a little bit longer, so you don't have to buy new gear in the first place.

Before I get into things like maintenance and repair, a quick note on the hype machine. You know what I'm talking about. It's what makes you want to buy the latest and greatest to begin with. You see that new sidecut, that new camber, that new print, that new tech and you gotta have it. No, you don't. Don't listen to the ads. Riders jibbed rails and bombed big mountain lines long before this new wave of technology. Skill trumps gear every time. Boards, especially, last much longer than most people think. I bought my first board (not counting the Wal-Mart one) in '00/'01. It was my only board until 2006. I rode it again when my new board that year got stolen. A friend of mine rode it all last season. It's taken some lumps, but nothing I couldn't repair for cheap. When you can make it last, it feels so much sweeter when you finally buy something new. Maybe you'll make that new purchase with durability in mind, too. Now that's a self-perpetuating cycle I can get behind.

Now, do you really need new gear or is it more of a want? This is an honest question. Even the best GoreTex jacket will eventually succumb to the harsh little crystals of ice we call snow and turn itself into spongy, tattered rags not fit for a homeless shelter. I'll tell you how to score a deal in a future article. Until then, there are things we can do to repair the water repellency of outerwear. I like to use Nikwax products and find that they extend the useful life of my jackets, pants and even gloves. If I'm out on a rainy or particularly wet day or a day that I spend a lot of time on the ground, I just spray some on the arms and back of my jacket and the seat and inseam of my pants (the high-wear areas) after riding. If you prefer the fewer applications style, go for the kind you wash in. One bottle in the washing machine should bring 3 or 4 garments to like-new condition. For less than 10 bucks a bottle you could get an extra season out of your gear or at least give you time to save up. Sure beats paying hundreds of dollars for new stuff.

My current supply, $30 to save $300.

What about boots? I mentioned the two magic ingredients already. If you weren't paying attention the first time, they were duct tape and shoe goo. Got holes where your board rests on the lift ride or where your binding rubs a little too much? Either one of these remedies will have your boots back to normal in little time and little money. Shoe goo is far more permanent, but a little trickier to apply. Once you get it right, your boot will actually be as good as new. I just read in the new Transworld that author Joel Muzzey uses it for everything from boots to gloves and jackets. He also uses an ice cube to smooth out his goo. I have no idea where that came from, but I tried it on the gloves below and it worked fine. I'll probably stick to the toothpicks that I used on the boots, but it's always an option.

The repaired glove isn't as flexible and it looks like I just jerked off on it, but its weather resistance is restored and it's probably more durable than before.

Shoe goo is nigh transparent on the boots.
The one on the right (for comparison's sake) hasn't been treated.

Duct tape is sometimes hard to get to stick to the uneven, textured surfaces of a boot, but if you can pull it off, it'll make a lasting patch. Some say if you can't fix it with duct tape you should just throw it out. These folks aren't far off. If you can use shoe goo on gloves and jackets you can be damn sure duct tape works on those, too. Rocking outerwear repaired with duct tape will undoubtedly get you nods of respect in the liftline and free beers apr├Ęs.

My only current duct tape job is keeping a toe strap on.

Bindings are a tricky bitch to repair. No one wants to be dropping cliffs and bombing chutes in duct taped highbacks. Fortunately, spare binding parts are cheap and easy to come by. Any resort repair shop should have an assortment of hardware, straps, buckles and ratchets for you to get back on the hill without missing a fallen flake. Highbacks might require you contacting the company for a replacement. One thing I like to do to keep my bindings in order is to dab a drop of bike chain lube on each of the moving points before I put them away for the summer. That helps clear out the spring salt and protect the hinges from the dust and rust.

We all know that maintaining our board is job #1 in saving money in the long run, right? No? OK, quick question, which costs more A) an iron, a bar of wax, a p-tex candle (with lighter), a file an edge stone and a scraper or B) a new board? Trust me, the correct answer is A. I feel that every able-bodied boarder should acquire the 'A' package and do his own maintenance. That investment will pay for itself almost immediately. Once you realize how easy waxing, edge sharpening and minor p-tex repairs are, you're likely to do them yourself and do them more often. If you can't find instructions for that stuff on the internet, you need to stop searching for it in youporn and start using google. With your base in better shape, you get to ride the same board longer, hence, you save money! Another win! This also means you can wait out that whole camber quagmire for another year.

Armed with this information any rider should be able to save a little scratch. Less time worrying about money means more time spent on the hill having fun. For all those of you who do have gear that is more fit for an ambulance ride than a chairlift ride, I'll have a post coming up about ways to save when you buy gear. Any questions? Hit me up. See you on the hill, I'll be the one with the old gear...


  1. You are so right. Last year I got a new board and bindings (gifts from a super awesome generous boyfriend) then spent all my money on a new jacket, pants, helmet. Then, I could only aford 2 freaking lift tickets all winter.
    This year I plan to buy NOTHING and a 10 pass!

  2. WOW! such a useful info thanks for sharing. I got my new snowboarding shoes from vans trainers uk i will not let them happened it again.

  3. Snowboard sizing is one of the most important decisions to make when you are contemplating which snowboard you are going to purchase. longboard


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