A failure in your snowboarding hardgoods doesn't need to be backbreaking financially. Patagonia photo.
In part two of TGR’s collaboration with Patagonia's Worn Wear program, we’re moving past the outerwear fixes to cover more problematic breakdowns: hardgoods. While a ripped puffy might mean you’re a bit colder getting down a backcountry line, finding out your skis or board has failed can mean having to abandon said line entirely. And nobody wants that.
So, here are some anecdotes—and a couple quick fixes—to keep money in your pocket and make sure you’re able to keep riding until you can get back to town and bribe one of your buddies at the ski shop with a a 12-pack for a free fix.
A Rite of Passage
Hugging the steep slope, wind lashed Alex Yoder as the heli dove into the emptiness below. Relieved of the maelstrom, Yoder stood to take in the full majesty of the Alaskan peaks in the distance. All alone, he began readying for descent, but upon trying to clip in, he discovered one of his binding’s straps was gone.
“I wasn't going to get picked back up,” Yoder recalled. “So I dug into my pack and found a ski strap, looped it through the binding and synched it around my ankle as tight as possible. And honestly, it was just as good—if not better—than my actual strap. Sometimes, you just have to make it work.”
This scenario—discovering a malfunction at the top of a line—is the stuff of nightmares. Repairing a snowboard binding in the backcountry tests grit and resourcefulness—but it’s amazing what someone can come up with when there’s powder to be ridden.
That said, the decisions you make after getting home are perhaps more important than the MacGyver fix you deploy to harvest fresh tracks. The process of getting to know your kit and ironing out the kinks is an important part of extending the lifecycle of your bindings.
You might not be sending it off rock faces with your ski strap binding fix, but you'll at least be able to get down the hill. Patagonia photo.
“Modifications are a rite of passage for backcountry snowboarders,” Rossignol athlete Mackenzie Ryan told TGR. “Splitboard bindings were pretty rudimentary until very recently, meaning you had to be willing to tinker and troubleshoot, and then tinker again to find the right fit and response.”
As Ryan points out, the philosophy of Worn Wear aims to get people to view their gear as something to be tuned, upgraded, and tinkered with, but rarely replaced. And most binding manufacturers (with a few notable exceptions) make their parts cross-functional, so it’s possible to keep adding components when they break to extend the life of your bindings in perpetuity. Among dirtbags, these are known as frankenbindings.
Speaking of frankenbindings, I’ve been riding the same pair of Rome binders for over 10 years. The aluminum chassis finally fractured last winter, but lo and behold, Rome still produces a replacement (because they’re OG), so I was able to stop into my local shred-friendly repair shop and kick down $20 instead of re-upping entirely and spending $200+ on a brand-new pair. So I bought contraband instead.
“‘Don't buy what you don't need,’ is a famous Yvon Chouinard quote,” Yoder wrote. “It implies that our system is wasteful. We're led to believe we ‘need’ things that we already have because they're new versus old, when that old thing is probably functioning just as well as the new thing. That's really the message that Worn Wear is spreading. Keep your stuff and simultaneously save money while reducing your impact on the planet by limiting your personal consumption.”
Love Your Rock Board
It was 2007, and I was walking home from Durango, Colorado’s historical downtown district when I came across a man clearing out his garage. Curious, I stopped to check out the growing pile of lightly used gear that would soon be heading to the dump. A semi-new Burton Canyon 162 caught my eye, and I picked it up to feel the board’s flex and inherent power.
“It’s all free,” the man said. “An old tenant just up and left, so I’m trashing all the stuff he left behind.”
Making off like a bandit, I grabbed the Canyon and never looked back, and over the following years, that board gave me some of the best turns of my life. In fact, some of the best days of my life were spent on that deck, and over time (and many core shots), I came to know and love it like no other board I’d ever owned.
Eventually, I trashed the base too much for it to remain the top board in my quiver, but any thin, early season day saw the Canyon’s resurrection, and the board that was once deemed “trash” lived to turn another day.
It might seem obvious, but if you're looking for a beater board, a good place to look will be end-of-season sales and ski swaps. Remember, there will be sharky days, so you're looking for something you don't mind taking a bit of abuse. Pixio photo.
Most of us have boards like this—once new, now beaten and haggard—that we just can’t bear to give up, so the slow process of metamorphosis eventually produces a rock board.
For those that don’t know how to make your new deck into a rock board, it’s very simple: Rip the shit out of it until it’s delaminating, the base is filled with gashes and your edges are fractured and protruding like hangnails. Now it’s ready for rock-board duty!
Why a rock board? Well, the sad truth is, conditions aren’t always blower, so using a rock board allows you to ride harder—to commit more aggressively to your turns—when the coverage isn’t fantastic, but the shred must go on.
“A lot of people buy the same board year-after-year, using last season’s board as their early season board,” Yoder wrote. “That's a 'disposable commodity' model. If instead, you just used that one rock board for multiple years, you could either not buy a new board and keep your non-rock-board in good shape, or put that money toward buying a board and using it less frequently for a longer time.”
Unfortunately, every day isn't a powder day. So while it's great to have your Holy Grail board, it's equally valuable to have a daily driver you don't mind collecting a few bumps and scratches. Patagonia photo.
But beyond the economics of using a rock board, Forrest Shearer points out that repairing and reusing gear is an act that borders on romanticism.
“My gear is a part a me, and helps tell my stories. I have so much old gear that I refuse to get rid of … I probably look like such a dirtbag, but I love it!” Shearer said.
On the hunt for your own rock board? Well, stop looking, because you already have it under your feet. But if you're literally starting from scratch, ask friends about their old decks, show up early at your town’s ski swap, or hit up local rental/demo shops about buying a used board for a steep discount (showing up with a case of beer in tow will help your ability to negotiate prices).
Learn To Thumb It
This last one isn't gear-centric, but a core tenet of Worn Wear is to prevent unnecessary consumption. This can look like many different things, whether we’re talking outerwear or hard goods, but it can also be something as simple as jumping in the back of a stranger’s truck to get in another lap.
Many of the best memories come this way: unexpectedly, grinning ear-to-ear in the back of a random pickup, sharing stoke with people you’ve never met.
In 2011, Alex Yoder found himself in such a situation.
He and a crew had planned to rendezvous in Chile to help friend and filmmaker Aaron Robinson complete his project, Manifest. But a week before his departure, Alex discovered that Robinson had perished in a Chilean snowboarding accident.
While it might look great for odd, soft-focused Instagram shots, it's generally not advisable to try hitchhiking while hooded and facing away from oncoming traffic. Unsplash photo.
“We were all gutted and confused,” Yoder recounted. “But we knew we had to finish the film for him, so we all flew down.”
The crew stayed with local rider Sebastian Goni who lived about 20 minutes from the nearest ski resort. A core group of dirtbags, they couldn't afford to rent a car, so the only means of getting to the hill was to thumb it.
“It was pretty brutal because, as you can imagine, getting a ride for eight was basically impossible,” he remembered.
One morning, the crew awoke to find over a foot of new snow, and after getting their kits together, they started the long walk toward the resort prepared to settle for seconds. But about halfway, a little red truck pulled up, stopped, and gave the crew the universal “hop in” wave.
“So, without hesitation we all just loaded ourselves into the bed of the truck like it was a rescue boat and our ship was sinking,” Yoder wrote. “As we got closer to the mountain, the truck started to lose traction in the deep snow. … I'll never forget that trip. Nothing but love.”
Far from unique, Yoder's story is a testament to the way snowboarding brings people together. Despite having no car and reconciling the death of a close friend, the crew found joy and community in the sanctuary of their shared passion. But they also had strength in numbers.
Hitching is far from an exact science (and in some states it’s illegal) and thumbing for a ride solo can make you feel shady, but there are some tricks to getting picked up. So next time you’re standing on the side of some obscure mountain pass and you need a ride, try the following:
1.) Make eye contact! It’s harder to say no when you’re looking someone in the face
2.) Smile! You’re stoked anyway—let your potential ride share some of that
3.) Display your board prominently! Show people you’re a rider, not a weirdo
4.) Don’t be bashful! Raise that goddamn thumb high and proud like it’s your first-grade science fair project
5.) Bonus tip: Have courtesy “thank-you” beers at the ready
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