Field repair of ski equipment

  • Skis
  • Boots
  • Poles
  • Bindings
  • Release plates
  • Skins

Skiing provides a convenient, enjoyable and relatively quick means to travel over snow-covered country. However, equipment failures do occur, and can result in greatly-reduced travel speeds, which in bad weather or with limited supplies can can expose a group to significantly increased danger. The repair options described below come from experiences on many ski tours where there has been a necessity to repair gear inside cramped and wet tents. It may prove valuable if you find yourself with broken gear a long way from civilisation.

Skis

With the use of heavy, metal-edged touring skis, it is becoming less common to see or hear of broken skis in the field, yet it still may happen. To fix the ski so it can carry you and your pack efficiently back to your car over a variety of terrain will take some time if the repair is going to last the distance.

Broken ski tip
This is no longer a common occurrence with the advent of metal-edged skis. The approach is to carry a spare ski tip, and slip this over the broken ski tip. Check that the spare tip fits the width of your skis. If you use non-metal edged skis, then it is worthwhile taking a spare ski tip.

Broken ski above the binding with the ski bottom (P-tex) still in one piece
A brace is required to provide strength and join the two parts together, and a 3-ply, plywood stove base is handy for this. Use the saw in your pocketknife or use a pruning saw to cut off a piece that is as wide as the ski and 10 cm long. Thoroughly dry the ski where you are going to apply the glue. Gentle heat from your stove will dry the required area of the ski very efficiently, far better than a damp and smelly thermal. Apply five-minute Araldite to both ends of the ski and to the plywood brace. Fix the brace to the top of the ski with the glue and binding screws. The top sheet of the ski is very hard to screw through. To assist the screw biting, drill a hole with your pocketknife first. Glue screws in place with Araldite for added strength.

You can buy pruning saws at any nursery, hardware or outdoor-gear shop. The type that folds back on itself so the blade is tucked safely out of the way inside the handle and can be locked into place when in use are generally most satisfactory. The saw also comes in very handy for other emergencies, such as building stretchers.

Broken ski behind the binding or the ski is in two parts
Move binding forward or backwards as required so the binding is centred on the longest remaining part of the ski. Given the shortened length of the ski, it may act more like a snowshoe than a ski.

Binding screws are usually glued in at the time of mounting. Ski shops often use Araldite as the preferred glue. If you heat Araldite to above 60°C the holding properties of Araldite cease to work. Use your stove to warm the binding and screws if the screws are refusing to come out.

A suggested ski repair kit

  • 1 x 3 pin binding
  • 9 self tapping screws
  • 5 minute araldite glue
  • 1 stock basket
  • Pole splints
  • Wipe on glide wax
  • Plywood (3 ply) stove base
  • Wire
  • Jet, duct or gaffer tape
  • Cloth lined tape
  • No 3 posi-drive (Phillips head screwdriver)
  • Stock tip, especially if it’s a Leki stock
  • Pocket knife
  • Pruning saw
  • Small long neck pliers

Optional, depending on type of equipment used, length and type of trip

  • 3 hexagon screws for release plate
  • Release plate spring, outer housing and locking nut
  • Needle, dental floss & shock cord
  • Spare skin basket
  • Spare ski tip
  • Hexagon nut key

Boots

A common boot failure is when the three pin holes under the front of the boot become so damaged they cannot engage with the ski binding satisfactorily, often from misaligning the three holes in the sole of the boot to a three-pin binding. If hired boots are to be used with a three-pin binding system, always check the state of the holes on the boot, to ensure they are in good condition.

If the three holes on the sole of the boot are torn out, dry the front section of the boot thoroughly, using gentle heat from your stove. Apply cloth tape over the three damaged holes, the sides and front of the boot. Add as many layers as is practical, especially at the front of the boot to create as much strength as possible. The limiting factor is the width of the binding. Only apply as much tape as the binding will allow, so you can still slip the boot into the binding. Gently heat cloth tape as this assists its adhesion to the boot. Spike the holes for the three pins.

Its surprising how this simple repair, if done with care, can get you back to your car and still manage to do a few telemark turns along the way. This is a temporary repair, and your boot is ready for the rubbish bin.

Poles

There are two methods of dealing with broken poles. Either carry a spare pole, or carry duct tape and some splints. Splints are generally very satisfactory, and the advantage is that they are lighter to carry and cheaper than a spare set of poles.

You will need two pole splints made out of split plastic conduit, with a diameter of approximately 15 mm and about 15–20 cm long. Cut the conduit at home. To fix the broken pole, place the two broken parts together, place the splints either side of the break and wrap the splint with jet tape.

If you have a bent aluminium pole do not attempt to straighten it when in a cold climate, unless you want to repair a broken pole. Wait to where you can create a warm environment and then straighten the pole. The warmer air temperature makes the aluminium less susceptible to breaking.

Replacement of basket
It is always worthwhile to carry a spare basket. Do some research as to what basket will fit your poles as well as those of the people you ski with regularly. If you cannot get the old broken basket off or the new one on try heating up some water on the stove, place the basket in the water to soften and then try again.

If you do not have a spare basket, use an empty sardine tin or similar item. Punch a hole through the tin, and tape it in place on the shaft.

Bindings

Due to the extreme pressures that are put onto bindings while executing turns, all binding screws can work loose. Regularly checking and re-tightening screws as necessary will prevent damage to skis and bindings. Screws can be glued in place with araldite if loosening becomes a nuisance.

NNN Back Country bindings
It is rare that this binding system needs repairs, as one ‘old’ ski tourer commented, even after an 84 day ski tour!

Three-pin bindings
A piece of wire can come in handy to replace a hinge and hold the bail together.

Cable bindings
If you lose the locking nut on the cable, use a piece of wire to connect the cable to the clasp that tightens down the cable. You should be able to tighten it down well enough to still have a lot of fun down the home trail doing graceful telemark turns.

Release plates

Ensure you carry spare hex screws. On arduous ski tours they have a tendency to work themselves loose. Check this daily and tighten as necessary. On extended trips especially in very cold climates, particularly overseas, carrying a complete spare of the release mechanism is recommended. The plastic casing can crack in extreme cold, with the resultant loss of the spring.

Skins

If you are using Voilé skins, take a spare basket that slips over the ski tip to attach the skin to the ski. These baskets are prone to breakage.

If using cloth skins, ensure you re-glue them occasionally. Wet Australian snow plays havoc with these skins. If they are not sticking at all, sew some shock cord to the end of them and tie them off to your binding. Dental floss makes excellent sewing thread as it has a very high breaking strain.