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The Art of Duct Tape: Field Fixes for Ski Failures

Forgotten skins and P-Tex shots don't need to be major downers. You just need to improvise. Patagonia photo.

As the final entry in our three-part collaboration with Patagonia’s Worn Wear program, we're focusing on ways to keep cash in your pocket, with a handful of ski hardgood specific fixes and remedies to make sure you get the most mileage out of your gear. We spoke with some gear gurus and brainstormed a few more ways to keep your ski stoke alive without breaking the bank. Here they are:

Wipe Away Early-Season Mistakes

The first sign of snow after a long, dry summer is enough to send any pow-deprived skier into hyper drive. It was late October, fat flakes were falling out of the sky, and all my apprehensions about sketchy early-season skiing flew right out the window. After sending a few text messages, I had rescheduled my morning to score some fresh, early-season turns up on the pass.

Fully at the mercy of my unquenched thirst for snow sliding, I eagerly went out the next morning to sink my new sticks into that white fluffy stuff I'd been longing for all summer. After a quick hike we exchanged high fives and I was finally floating dreamily through frosty October powder. I slashed a few turns through the slope, thinking about how much better this was than fighting for my life on a mountain bike or dragging feet through a grueling trail run.

Unfortunately, every day won't be as pristine as this one was for Johnny Collinson. Sometimes, you need to prepare for core shots. Nic Alegre photo.

Just as I was marveling at my good fortune, I caught my tips and launched out of my skis. When I recovered and began to investigate the ski carnage, I discovered I'd ripped a good chunk of my base out on a rock garden peeking through the shallow snowpack.

It's always tempting to lug your skis into the shop and let someone else pick up the pieces, but it's actually pretty quick and easy to patch up your mangled powder machines yourself.

"We see a lot of stuff brought in that people could definitely do themselves" says Sam Kroll, a ski tech at Wasatch Touring in Salt Lake City. "It's a lot of minor gauges and scratches from hitting rocks or logs, especially this year with the low snowpack."

It's relatively simple: all you need is a P-Tex candle, lighter, and a razor blade.

Before you start, clean dirt and debris from the bottom of the ski and trim off any dangling splinters. Then, use a lighter to melt the P-Tex candle and move it close to the gouge in your ski.

Let the melted P-Tex slowly flow into the gouge. P-Tex shrinks when it cools, so slightly overfill the hole. Let it cool for about a half-hour and then use your razor blade to level off any excess.

This works for most medium-sized gouges. The P-Tex will be slightly softer than the rest of your base and can wear down quicker. Kroll advises black P-Tex over the clear option. "A lot of people like to use clear P-Tex so their ski doesn't look as damaged" he says, "but black P-Tex is actually much stronger and will stay in your ski longer."

You'll save money, time, and resources—plus, your local ski tech won't shame you for irresponsible shark-tank skiing. Just do yourself a favor and wait for a few more storms to blow through before you test out your handiwork.

Ski Straps Save Lives

There are tons of quick fixes for your skins in the field. Skins picking up too much snow? Throw some  Black Diamond Glop Stopper Wax on and keep moving. No skin wax? Sun screen or any other type of lotion will do the trick—since most lotion is hydrophobic it works to repel moisture.

Sometimes you head out on a brutally cold, sub-zero day and your skins are so frozen they won't stick to the bottom of your skis. If you throw them in your jacket for your ride down and the warmth will keep the glue activated.

There are a multitude of quick fixes to make sure your climbing skins work to the best of their abilities. G3 photo.

But what do you do when you drop off the backside of the resort and realize that you forgot your skins at home? Those polyurethane straps that you've got stashed in the bottom of your pack could very well become your dirt bag in shining armor.

A few years ago I was on a ski trip in Colorado with some college friends. On our way to the trailhead we were joking about the old skier legend that you can replace your skins with pine branches if you're really in a pinch. We laughed at how hilarious one might look trudging through the backcountry with trees attached to your skis and wondered if it would really be effective.

"I have a friend who lost a climbing skin due to high winds and I thought he was shit out of luck" Patagonia ambassador Forest Shearer remembers, "but we strapped some thin cord around the ski and it actually worked to get back home at the end of the day."

When we pulled up to the trailhead to meet the rest of the group, our friend Thomas was rummaging around in an outcropping of trees. It looked like he was trying to pull one down and after a minute or so I realized exactly what was going on: He had actually forgotten his skins.

Incredulous at the coincidental aspect of the events unfolding, we could barely contain our laughter as we watched him meticulously strap down two large pieces of foliage to his skis. From the plethora of forestry around us, he had carefully selected two large pine branches that were roughly the length of each ski. Fishing out eight ski straps from the bottom of his bag, he lined up the branches and fixed them to the underside of his powder sticks, first placing a strap near the tip, then one on either side of the binding, and one at the back to hold the "tail" in place.

It might sound crazy, but a collection of pine branches can help you continue on your journey in case of lost skins. Max Pixel photo.

Coffee cups drained and real skins on the rest of our skis, we started up the trail.

I kept glancing back expecting to see Thomas exploding in frustration—for being royally shit out of luck just a few minutes earlier, I had to admit he was making pretty steady progress.

It wasn't perfect, but at least he didn't have to stay behind at the car all day or arduously posthole up each slope. Plus, he was easy to find after each lap because of the Hansel and Gretel trail of pine needles he left in his path.

"I always carry a ton of ski straps that can be used to repair almost anything" Shearer said. "They've gotten me out when equipment failure really throws a wrench in a big backcountry day".

Larry Goldie, head guide and owner at North Cascades Mountain Guides in Mazama, Washington, agrees. "I've actually used a Voile strap around the instep of a boot and around the rear post of the tech binding to hold the boot to the ski when the heel piece failed or it wouldn't adjust to the boot. I've done it a few times and it actually skis pretty well in soft snow."

A New Life

Retired skis often get banished to the deep, dark corners of a garage or incinerated by superstitious skiers in hopes of a good haul of snow for the coming winter. But just because you can't ride them, doesn't mean they're totally useless. Eliminating waste is one of the driving factors of Patagonia's Worn Wear program, a mentality that includes repurposing something you might otherwise consider junk into something universally loved: a device for alcohol consumption!

While it's still technically up for debate, the history of the shot ski dates back most consistently to the original Austrian schnappski. While the mechanics of it are almost the same, Austrian old timers forgo any attachment and rely on superb precision and teamwork to hold the shot glasses in place.

The shot ski has worked its way into ski cultures around the world—whether you're in the Alps or the Rockies, it's a pretty universal way to celebrate the end of a day on the slopes.

Maybe you've got an old pair of skis that have been beaten to a pulp and drilled into oblivion, or maybe an ultra-deep day swallowed up one of your skis and you keep its mate around just to be safe. Either way, if you've got those extra planks on your hands it might be time to craft a proper delivery method for the bottom-shelf whiskey that's been floating around your cabinet for quite some time.

Wasatch Brew Pub in Park City is the current record holder for the world's longest shot ski at 2,255 feet. They stole the title from Breckenridge in October of 2017 when 1,250 thirsty skiers and riders showed up to down a shot of Wasatch's Premium Ale.

"It sounds kinda silly, but it really connects people" a representative from WBP told TGR. "I know a few people who drove from California to get here—no one can resist a shot ski. This definitely wasn't the easiest shot ski to construct though" he added, "440 skis are a lot to work with."

Not only does it give your ski new life, but a shot ski invigorates any social situation it is inserted into. Alan Turkus/Flickr photo.

Perfect shot skis don't happen by accident, but luckily making one is exceedingly more simple than 440. There's a careful art to creating this après classic, and the secret is magnets. By securing your shot glasses to the ski with magnets, you can easily store your shot ski without worrying about breaking off the glasses, plus you can pull them off to wash them out between uses.

You'll need:

1 - well-loved ski

4 - shot glasses

4 - 1/2-inch round magnets

4 - 1/2-inch washers

Superglue/hot glue gun

Start by removing the binding or anything else on top of the ski. Once you've got a smooth surface, use a measuring tape and a permanent marker to space out your shot glasses 18 to 20 inches apart. Use superglue or a hot glue gun to attach the magnets to the base of the ski.

Unless you've got a super old school 220-centimeter ski, four shot glasses create the perfect spacing for you and three of your closest friends to stand comfortably shoulder-to-shoulder.

Glue the washers to the bottom of your shot glasses, and voila! Let it dry overnight and you'll be ready to quench your thirst on Fireball, Jäger, chocolate milk—whatever you're into. 

Nice article.  Some excellent practical solutions!  I can attest to the ski strap method for replacing a busted dynafit binding.  Mine was 5 turns in on a descent of the South Teton.  The rear binding snapped and the top half busted off.  The Exum guide, Dan Corn, had an extra long, beefy ski strap that we used.  We didn’t want to take the risk of trying it on the SE Face, but we down-climbed thru the short NW couloir and then I skied the rest of the way out, down thru Garnet Canyon.  After blowing out of the binding on one of the first turns, we figured out that if I locked the toe-piece in touring mode, the strap would hold.  Here is a link to the account of the episode.

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