Time to Consider the Condition of Your Gear

As social media becomes satiated with memories and images from riders sharing stoke from winters past, it’s easy to see how many people are eagerly anticipating their first day on the snow. My newsfeed is strewn with pictures of new wraps, upgrades and sled-related questions such as: what’s the best can, clutch setup, shocks, and riser height? Grab bar or no grab bar? But with limited garage space and some lessons learned the hard way, my initial winter stoke leads me not to my sled. Rather, I am drawn to the chaotic, disorganized and often smelly gear room. It’s time to consider the condition of your gear.


Condition of Your Gear

It doesn’t so much matter where you last laid your gear from the previous season, but more importantly, how? I mean, after a summer of doing some pretty epic shit, do you really remember in what condition your winter gear was left? With that ever-anticipated first day on the snow not far off, the time is now to inspect the gear that is so crucial to our success and safety on the mountain.

I take this time to grab my favorite beverage (from Three Ranges Brewing, of course) and hunker down with my gear for several hours or even over a few evenings. As a gear addict, this is super fun for me, but it is also a very important step in our pre-season preparations whether you like it or not. I inspect everything that comes on the mountain with me.


Outerwear and Gear

What’s the condition of my outer gear? Jacket, pants, boots, gloves, helmet etc. Is it all there and in good shape? After all, this stuff is your first line of defense against the elements.


First-Aid Kit

Is your first-aid kit still complete? Did you use up all the advil after a rough night on the town? Is there anything you should consider adding or upgrading this year? Maybe a SAM splint. My personal first-aid kit is one made by Mountain Sledder, with a few of my own special touches.


condition of your gear



Emergency Kit

What about your emergency kit? There is a pile of info on these online and I encourage you to do a search. Being prepared and as comfortable as possible in an emergency situation can make a big difference in the final outcome. A few of my must-haves besides the obvious are a bivy sack, small cook stove, flares and two-way reliable communication that can reach the outside world.


Avalanche Gear

Spend some significant time on this one. Test your transceiver’s sending and receiving capabilities and practice searching with your friends. Look for damage and wear to both your probe and shovel, and replace as necessary.


condition of your gear

This probe has been used 100s of times a winter and is over 10 years old, but it is also well beyond its useful days in a true emergency. Frayed cable and cracked carbon mean it’s time to upgrade!



Radio and Communication

These are a mandatory must check! We often rely so heavily on these devices. Do you know they work properly? Just like your transceiver, all devices and tools needs to be checked frequently for proper performance. I often involve my kids when checking radios; after all who doesn’t like to play with walkie-talkies?



There are many more items that I have left out, but you get my drift. A broken or damaged piece of essential equipment can become a backcountry nightmare.



Take the Next Step

Now what if we thought about things a little differently? Instead of a new exhaust can, maybe add an auxiliary power supply to our sleds instead? We could charge emergency devices such as an inReach, satellite or cell phone. What about looking to upgrade your transceiver, getting a longer probe or a stronger shovel?

I guarantee you that there is something in your winter gear that you can upgrade and one day it could help save your life or the life of a friend. And don’t forget about that thing between your ears, it’s our most important piece of equipment and often needs a reality check or refresher.

Remember the saying, “proper pre-trip planning prevents piss-poor performance.” Realizing you are about to perform piss-poorly when it’s too late to do anything about it does not make for a good time and it can often end badly. Diligence and preparation can go a long way.


— Curtis


Curtis Pawliuk is the owner/operator of Frozen Pirate Snow Services and the general manager of the Valemount and Area Recreation Development Association.