Frugality Or Familiarity Might Be Reasons To Hang On. Should You? It Depends.

Editor Note: This is the first of a two-part article where ski industry veteran Val E. discusses whether using old equipment is safe and/or worth it.  We’ve seen people on the lift line with really old equipment; ours not to reason why. But you should know what the risks are.

Skis

Well, maybe not 360s.

Imagine you have 20+ year old skis, you used them 7-10 days a year, so the total work days would be 200-300 days. Can you still use them? If they have no major delamination, cracked edges, broken sidewalls, then yes. Do you want to use them? Maybe not. Test a few pairs of skis made in recent 10 years. You may notice that they are easier to maneuver, easier to carry, and have different graphics. If you still want to ski on your old skis, then sharpen the edges, clean and wax the base, make sure you bindings are safe (see below).

Bindings

Bindings are for safety and comfort. Manufacturers do not allow ski service people to service bindings older than 10 years, and they send a list of “serviceable” models every fall. Bindings stored 360 days a year in a dusty room or wet garage may not release when you need it or can false release. Dust on lubrication, corrosion, and other factors may change the planned schedule. Major problems could be cracks in plastic parts that are hard to identify. A binding can still be OK for many, many years. Manufacturers just don’t want to be responsible for risk anymore, and they also want us to buy new and better bindings. You can install new binding on your old skis (if you love them unconditionally); a technician will plug the old holes.

Boots

Famous Lange boot ad from the early 70s

Most people don’t like to change ski boots often, though there is always a limit. We are talking about boots that are 15-20+ year old. Shell: if you see cracks in plastic, your soles are worn out and won’t have good contact with the binding. If buckles are broken and non repairable, go to a ski shop. Liner: you should feel comfortable without two pairs of thick home made wool socks, your heel shouldn’t ever move up from the insole. If your shell is in a good shape, but you are not happy about the liner (too loose or destroyed) keep in mind that you can purchase a pair of liners. Canadian company Intuition Liners makes different types.

Helmets

Almost all ski helmets use foam (Polystyrene or Polypropylene) in their construction to crush, thus absorbing energy when contacting something hard. Researchers say this foam doesn’t change much for 20-30 years under normal conditions. But hard hits, long exposure to UV and heat sources may change the properties of these materials. Manufacturers recommend replacing a helmet after a significant collision. Once foam is compressed at some spot, it would not protect you anymore.

Helmets have come a long way since Jean Vuarent wore this variant from the cycling world.

9 Comments

  1. It seems to me that the plastic in the boot gets extreamly hard and it becomes almost impossible to get them on. They ate quite comfortable once on . My boots were only nine years old and I just purchased a new pair that go on very easily. Is hardening really possible .

  2. I work in a ski shop and as the article states we cannot work on any ski that has a binding more than 10 years old and we use the published list of acceptable bindings. As for boots – I have seen some really old boots come into the shop when folks have decided to buy new skis. They keep them for ‘comfort’ reasons but I caution them that the older boots, in particular some rear entry boots, can fall apart. I had a college students buy new skis but to keep cost down in brought in a pair of rear entry boots that he bought at Goodwill for $7.99. I do hope they don’t come apart.

  3. Avatar Cathy Meyer says:

    Larry, try heating your boots with a boot warmer before you put them on and they should be softer.

  4. Last year I had a pair of 20-year-old ski boots literally disintegrate under me on the slopes. A few weeks later I tried another slightly older pair I had and the same thing happened! This pair had very little previous use. Neither pair showed any obvious damage or cracking beforehand. So, it’s pretty clear that 20 years is the lifetime for plastic boots. The material itself deteriorates due to processes like loss of plasticizers.

  5. Avatar Mike Stebbins says:

    Simplistically, plastic is made with oil and it’s the nature of the oil used that provides much of the flexibility. Just like a fresh piece of bread, it flexes without breaking. Let that same piece of bread sit out for a couple of days and try to bend it..snap.

    Over time the oil in plastic will evaporate, leaving the remaining solids brittle and just as the stale bread became easy to break, so too, does your plastic gear.

  6. Being a Plastics Engineer, I find the public’s understanding of what goes on with plastics is based on a lot of questionable facts. It is true that oil is used to make plastics. The crude oil or natural gas is converted into small molecules that are reacted together to make long-chain molecules. It is true that there are plasticizers that will migrate out over time. These plasticizers can used to make the plastic more flexible. It is these that will “evaporate”, not oil. Plastics themselves do not evaporate. The molecules are too big, considering vapor pressure, etc.

    Plastics will age (the long-chain molecules breaking into smaller molecules) also occurs. The repeated stress of skiing will exploit the weak areas and start a crack to form.

  7. Why aren’t my 90’s vintage Raichle Flexon Comp boots acceptable at my local shop with new boots or bindings ?. The boot is Din ISO 7880. The new boots are Din ISO 5355. Are there bindings out there that work with older boots?. These boots are still in excellent condition, and fit like a dream. Thanks for the help here.

  8. As a follow up. Spoke to a ski tech, Robere at P3 Ski Shop in Mammoth, that was in the industry when I was a ski technician industry member. He said no huge differences, since thermoplastic boots were outlawed back in 80’s. My local young technician gave me flawed information. Whomever he spoke with informed incorrectly. As long as the heel, toe, and AFD area are in good condition, you’re fine. Of course, please inspect the rest of the boot for decay, and abnormal wear, cracking, rivet failures, liner deterioration, and the likes.

    ADL

  9. Avatar Francis Cooper says:

    Luckily this happened at home and not on the slope. These boots were 20 years old:

    https://youtu.be/iHARIXzOjhM

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