Of course, you're like me and began thinking about this months ago. You laid on top of your sheets sweating in the July heat trying to fall asleep and dreaming of winter. So now that it's socially acceptable to start getting excited about winter, you don't need to hide it -- grab your scraper and declare proudly that you're ready!
Ski prep: You remembered to put storage wax on last spring, right? If so, congratulate yourself and scrape it off. If you’re like me and your storage “wax” is mostly embedded dirt from that desperate last ski run in July, it’s time for prep the bases and give them a new coat of wax. You can certainly use swix's excellent base cleaner to prep your bases, but I typically just give them an extremely light sanding with fine grit sandpaper to get any old wax / pine / etc. off...
Skins: After huffing a lot of gold bond adhesive fumes in my days as a ski shop "tech", I shudder at the thought of completely re-gluing my skins, but if your glue is clumped up a bit, you can smooth things out and improve the glue function without a complete re-glue using waxed paper and an iron. Simply lay a strip of waxed paper on the glue and run the iron at medium temperature along the waxed paper. Then take a rolling pin (or water bottle) and roll firmly over the waxed paper to spread and smooth the glue. Remove the waxed paper and let the skins cool completely before folding.
Bindings: It’s a good practice to completely loosen the retention spring screw for the summer, and it can lead to some entertainment when you forget to re-tighten it on the first run of the season. Most tech bindings are not yet DIN certified (although that will soon change) so the number is referred to as a “release value.” That detail doesn’t matter as much as having the number right. Because the tech fittings on boots can be damaged (e.g. by walking in rocky terrain), it’s a good idea to have a shop do an official release check at the beginning of each season to make sure that your bindings are releasing with the appropriate amount of force.
Avalanche Rescue Gear: By far the most important early season gear checks are for your beacon, probe and shovel. The shovel is the easy one, just check for cracks and a smooth action in the telescoping mechanism. Probes should be deployed and the cable checked for any serious kinks or frayed sections. Almost every year, I watch someone's probe explode during rescue practice...don't let it be you! Beacons should be retired every 5 years or so, and all the beacon manufacturers will test your unit if you send it back to them. If you didn’t send your beacon in to the manufacturer this past summer, make a note to do it next summer. The complete pre-season beacon check is well described in this article in the Avalanche Review.
Beyond checking your gear, it’s critical to refresh your brain and prepare mentally for the decision-making challenges to come. Our Terrain Assessment Tours and Rescue Refresher Course are a perfect way to tune up your backcountry tour planning and decision-making skills.