Whether you’re mourning the snowmelt and plotting how to ski through August or you’re already gleefully breaking out sandals and shorty wetsuits, warmer weather is undeniably upon us. I’m somewhere in between, eager for ocean time, long backpacking trips, and warm weather biking but loath to zip up the ski bag for the next eight months or so. Aside from the occasional spring trip, my ski boots, skis, and cold-weather gear—heavy duty Gore-Tex, zero degree sleeping bag, and storm-down jacket aren’t going to get much love until the weather turns again next fall. Here are a few tips on cleaning and storing your equipment properly, so that when next winter rolls around you aren’t dealing with rusted edges, warped boots, and foggy goggles.

Give your down a little breathing room.

Sleeping bags and puffy jackets often come with stuff sacks to streamline packing, but that doesn’t mean they thrive under pressure. Stuff sacks compress down and minimize loft, which compromises insulation. After cleaning, store your sleeping bag loosely in a large canvas or mesh bag in a cool, dry location. Jackets are similar: Wash according to instructions on the tag (typically this means using a front-loading washing machine, down detergent, and drying with tennis or sock balls to maintain loft), and store them on hangers or folded loosely in a cool, dry spot.

Wash your Gore-Tex, for goodness sake. And re-up on your DWR.

I’ll admit it—I didn’t know you could wash Gore-Tex or similarly water-resistant hardshell fabrics until a year ago. I had heard a rumor that Gore-Tex was a one-way membrane that would be ruined by immersion, and I figured detergent and hot, soapy water couldn’t be good for technical fabrics. On the contrary, washing and drying your water-resistant shell actually refreshes the DWR and keeps performance high. Dirt, sweat, sunscreen, burrito leakage, and beer all compromise the water resistance of your gear. You can add a wash-in formula to refresh the DWR coating, which isn’t necessary with every wash but is a great thing to do at the end of the season.

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Tune and wax your skis before you store them, not after you break them out again.

A core shot or burr on your ski edge isn’t going to get worse in storage, is it? Well, probably not, but moisture and debris will settle into those little wounds over time and make them far tougher to patch properly in late November than they will be now. Remedy any damage to your precious steeds before you lay them aside for the summer, and consider coating your bases in wax and letting them sit in storage with a thick protective layer. Wax actively moisturizes the base of your skis, and keeping them coated (rather than waxing and scraping) during the off-season will keep them from getting dehydrated. When you break them out for those early-season turns, simply scrape off the old wax and you’re good to go. Store your skis with a race strap or two to keep the bases apart and the skis together, and make sure they’re totally dry—edges rust quick.

Check all your avalanche and backcountry gear and store it carefully. 
When was the last time you checked your probe? Affirm that all your avy gear is functioning properly before returning it, ideally, to the bags and boxes they came in and store, yet again, in a cool, dry place (the back of your car, next to a heater, or in a damp basement are all no-nos.) Follow a similar program for skins and backcountry poles. Make any necessary repairs, clean them–a wet wipe-down is fine for poles, and you can pull debris off skins with tweezers if you’re so inclined. Your skins should be fine with or without the mesh “cheat sheet” they came with, though I use mine, but do your best to make sure there’s no glue exposed. Folding shaped skins in half on themselves can leave edges susceptible to dust. Store them in the bag they came in, and make sure they stay cool all summer; heat can compromise the glue.

Take the batteries out of your beacon, backcountry radios, and any other equipment that calls for battery power before you set it aside for even a few months—acid can corrode the battery terminals and destroy your electrical equipment in storage. This happened to a headlamp of mine that sat unused for just a couple months, and when I hit the trail I realized that the batteries weren’t just dead—the whole thing was unusable. Imagine that happening on your first backcountry jaunt next winter (though I hope you’d discover it before packing, rather than halfway into your journey).

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Let those ski boots breathe.

It can take days for ski boots to dry out fully, particularly if they haven’t gotten a break in weeks. Pull your liners out of your boots and let them dry completely. While you wait, wash your shells with warm water and a gentle detergent to get rid of any debris. You should never wash your liners in any kind of machine (washing machine or dishwasher), but you can wipe down the outside of the liner and the base of the footbed with a wet towel. The best remedy for ski boot smell is prevention—letting them dry between ski days, and wearing clean, dry socks—but if you’re still rocking a little sourness at the end of the year, you can place a sock full of baking soda in the boot before storing, or place a few dryer sheets in there. (You can also read AJ’s strategies for avoiding stink here.) Buckle them down to help the plastic retain its shape, zip them into a clean boot bag, and, as always, keep ’em cool and dry.

Photo by Zach Dischner.

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