The Lifespan of Skis: How Long Do They Last and When Should You Replace Them?Published on 09/27/2023 · 9 min readSki Expert Tom Bartholomew walks you through all the factors in replacing your skis and explains how to keep them in good shape in the meantime!
Photo by Bear Fotos
Here I sit, wondering if this is the year I should get some shiny new skis. Or do I get another base grind from my local ski shop and extend my skis for another season?
I can remember when I first started teaching skiing back in the early '90s, and the choices for skis were how long and how stiff you wanted the ski to be. They used to say, "hold your hand as high as you can, and that is about the length of ski you want ." Flash forward to today, and there are many more options in ski gear and ways to tell if you need new skis or if you can get by with your old sticks. I mean, skis are not cheap, so you want to be able to get as many turns out of them as possible.
How long do alpine skis last?
You can get about 100 days of skiing out of a pair of skis. One hundred ski days is one season for some skiers, and it's a lifetime for others. I would add that it’s more than just that—how aggressive are you skiing? If you go out and cruise the greens and blues, your skis can handle a few seasons. On the other hand, if you are stomping street rails and dropping cliffs, you might need to upgrade your skis more often.
Factors that can shorten the lifespan of your skis
- Delamination of the ski tips or tails
- Core-shots or gouges damaging the ski base
- Ski edge breakage/blowout
- Not waxing/tuning skis
- Not correctly caring for skis
- Skiing over rocks or other foreign objects
How do I care for my skis?
Basic care and maintenance will go a long way to extend the lifespan of your skis. Simple things like drying off your skis after you use them to prevent corrosion can extend their life. Caring for your skis almost becomes a ritual, from waxing the skis to removing burs, all to keep the sliding fun and the smiles big when skiing. For details on mid-season care, check out How to Take Care of Your Equipment During Ski Season, and for post-season care, read How to Store Your Ski Gear in the Off-Season.
How often should I wax my skis?
Waxing skis has a significant effect on how long a pair will last and how well they will perform when you go out. I will wax my skis every time or every other time I go out to keep my bases in good shape, and so I have the least amount of friction as possible. Friction can slow your speeds, but it can also cause wear and tear to your ski bases. Think of fine-grit sandpaper—a.k.a. snow crystals—rubbing on your bases. If you continue rubbing with sandpaper, you will dry out the base and start causing damage. A simple application of hot wax, preferably on the regular, can protect your skis and extend their lifespan.
Signs your skis need to be waxed
- You can't remember the last time they were waxed
- Your bases look strange and have a furry white color
- Your skis are sticky on the trails
- All of your friends/family are lapping you
When should I sharpen the edges of my skis?
Like waxing, sharpening your skis’ edges can significantly affect their performance. Ski edges are made of metal, and when they hit something under the snow, it can cause damage, including dulling, burs, cracking, and breaking. If your ski edges are damaged or dull, they might not grip as well and cause you to lose your balance and crash.
With the proper tools, sharpening your skis can be done at home. If you are skiing more than 20 days a season, I highly recommend investing in your own tuning equipment. Fewer than 20 days on the slopes, you can save time and have your local shop tune your skis one or two times a season.
If you have broken or cracked edges, you should consider replacing your skis for safety.
Do my skis need a base grind?
The base of the skis will wear out and become concave, convex, or edge high. Once this happens, the ski's performance diminishes, and the once playful, responsive skis are not so much anymore. To tell if your ski bases are flat from edge to edge, you need to use a true bar to detect it, as it is usually invisible by the naked eye. Other signs that the base isn’t flat are the edges not holding on ice, even when sharp, and boot canting issues that suddenly pop up.
A pair of skis can get a base grind 4-6 times before you’ll need to purchase new skis. A base grind is essentially a large belt sander that grinds down, flattens, and restructures the base of your skis. It would be best if you only got a base grind when waxing & hand-tuning won’t fix the issue you are having with your ski performance. While base grinds can extend the life of your skis, at the same time, they shorten that same life span by removing layer after layer of ski material.
For a wide range of reasons, professionals in ski tuning sometimes prefer to resurface the entire ski with a base grind. As discussed, a pair of skis can only be base-ground a limited number of times because it removes so much material. So while this procedure repairs minor base damage and results in a perfectly sharpened ski, it may not always be the right choice.
What is my skiing style?
If you ski open-to-close every time you are at the resort, replacing your skis should happen every couple of years. Now, say you are an easy-cruising, groomed-run skier; you might be able to get 5+ years out of a pair of skis. Bashing the mogul lines or sliding rails? You will be replacing your ski equipment every year or two.
How hard you ski is a significant factor in how long a pair of skis will last. Skiing with the kiddos is not as hard on the ski gear as skiing Mary Jane at Winter Park daily!
How often does skiing get new technologies?
With technology changing so rapidly, we see significant changes in skis about once every five years. This might be an advancement in lighter or stiffer materials, or a different camber profile that provides more versatility from park to all-mountain skiing. Current technology has made skiing more accessible, affordable, and, most importantly, more fun. With turn radiuses from 11 meters to 20+, you can easily pick a ski to make small, medium, or large turns.
New tech is being released every year in ski gear, so an update might be in your best interest. Maybe you are a solid blue square resort skier that is challenged by black diamonds; a new pair of skis with different technology might be the ticket to propel you into your next phase of skiing ability. Better materials, along with a new side-cut profile, can go a long way to make turning easier and build your confidence on more challenging terrain.
How long do ski bindings last?
Alpine ski bindings are the part of the skis that keep you safe. Bindings are designed to release your boot when the pressure goes above a set amount; this is called the DIN setting. DIN is named after the German Institute for Standardization called Deutsches Institut für Normung (DIN). There is also an identical set of published standards by the International Standards Organization (ISO). Still, the ski industry as a whole refers to it as the binding DIN setting. You can read more about DIN settings here.
Alpine bindings should be tested yearly with the proper tools to ensure they are functioning as they should. It’s recommended to get your bindings tested by a certified shop tech. Also, bindings are indemnified by the manufacturers, which means they will support the binding when tested by a certified technician. As a general rule, ski bindings are indemnified for ten years. You can check to see if your bindings are serviceable here. If the manufacturer no longer supports them, then it is time to replace your bindings.
What should I do with my 'old' skis?
If you own skis that still have a little life left in them and aren't sure you're ready to get rid of them, consider declaring your old skis to be your “rock skis”. These older skis will be used on the early/late season days where the snow is thinner and there is a greater likelihood you will hit rocks on your runs. By letting the the older skis take these skis scratches and scrapes, you can extend the longevity of your new skis.
This practice also helps reduce stress on days where core shots and ski repairs are likely, because if you do end up with damage to your skis, it isn’t your brand new carving skis with sharp edges, a perfect bevel, and a fresh universal wax job. Even if your rock skis have burrs or rust on their edges, the sad-looking P-Tex is in need of repair and the glide they used to provide in the flats is long gone, you can have tons of carefree fun on them while other skiers are worried about rocks and trees lurking beneath the snow.
So, when should you replace your skis?
- As a general rule, you can get around 100 days of performance out of a pair of skis, unless that 100 days takes more than ten years!
- By investing in a few tools like a diamond stone, a file guide, brushes, a gummy stone, and a metal scraper, you can perform minor repairs, maintenance, and edge sharpening in a way that gets the most out of those 100 days. This kit may be enough to do base repair and correct edge angles on your own, but it will also prevent unnecessary wear as well.
- You should still consider getting a second pair of skis that is reserved for the more pristine snow conditions!
If you have any questions about the information above or if you want to replace your old skis, reach out to a Ski Expert here on Curated.