Ski boots are the most important aspect of your ski setup. They anchor your body to your bindings & allow you to pursue a variety of skiing objectives. But boots degrade over time, and older boots can break and cause you pain while you ski. To keep your feet comfortable & happy, you need to know how long ski boots last and what you can do to extend their life.
In this guide, we’ll cover the factors that affect how long your ski boots can keep up with you. There are several important ones to discuss, and once you have this knowledge, you’ll be better prepared to help your ski boots live to their fullest potential.
Let’s dive in!
So, How Long Do Ski Boots Really Last?
For skiers living close to the mountains, high-quality boots last about 150-200 skiing days. This equates to a couple of seasons for experienced skiers. Expert skiers and aggressive skiers are more likely to damage their boots faster than an average skier.
If you get 5-10 days of skiing one year and 50-100 full skiing days the next year, your boots will degrade faster. For those who only get to ski for one trip or several days a year, lots of boots can last for up to 6 or 8 years.
How long your current boots work will depend on three things:
- How often you use them
- How well you take care of them
- The build-quality of your ski boots
However, there's good news for frequent skiers. We’re going to talk about all the ways you can extend the life of your ski boots - no matter the brand or design.
Factors That Affect The Lifespan Of Ski Boots
Before we talk about how to make your pair of boots last as long as possible, let’s check in with the factors that give them a shelf life.
No, it’s not planned obsolescence, but ski boots are exposed to harsh weather and don’t last forever. Here's some reasons why…
- Plastic: The outer shell of ski boots is made of plastic. Plastic wears down over time. Each time you pull the boot open to shove your foot in, you’re putting stress on the plastic, and eventually, the plastic will warp.
- Ski Boot Liners: Inside the plastic shell is a liner. At first, they are wonderful, cradling your feet and providing comfort. But over time, shoving feet into them compresses the liner. Eventually, the liner will rip or become so compressed that it no longer holds your foot securely in place.
- The Sun: While we often associate winter with dark, cloudy weather, that's not always true. In many snowy places, the sun comes out and beats down on us and our gear. Direct sunlight will eventually make the outer plastic brittle and could degrade your liners.
- Improper Storage: After a long day of skiing, it’s tempting to rip off your boots and chuck them into a corner. Don’t. Improper storage is a major factor affecting the lifespan of a pair of boots. Take care of your gear.
- Walking: Any time you walk on a surface that isn’t snow with your ski boots, it affects the soles. A ski boot with damaged soles won’t grip well while you walk and might not fit into your bindings. Even worse, damaged boots may slip out of your bindings while you ski!
- Quality & Durability: Simply put, high-quality materials last longer. Weight and durability are also related. Lighter materials create comfortable boots but will break faster than stiffer and heavier boots.
5 Tips For Extending The Life Of Ski Boots
Now that we’ve covered some major factors, let's talk about how to address each one and keep your ski boots working for longer!
1. Rebuckle Your Ski Boots
Every time you finish skiing, take your feet out and re-buckle your ski boots. This is critical. Leaving a ski boot open with the tongue out and various plastic parts tangled will accelerate the wearing down of the plastic.
Step out of your boots, put the tongue of the boot in its original position, and buckle it up. That will help the plastic keep its shape.
2. Replace Old Ski Boot Liners
Degrading liners is a common problem, and proper storage can help increase their life. However, if you ski a lot, they’ll eventually get damaged. The best action is to replace them when they no longer work as they should.
Luckily, replacement liners are easy to find and can work with old boots as long as the sizing matches up.
3. Store Your Boots Correctly
It’s important to store your ski boots out of the sun. It’s an easy step to take and will help reduce UV damage, which ages ski boots.
The best place to store ski gear is a dry space with decent airflow. If you can’t get that, get a ski boot dryer and dry out the liners before storing them. Lingering moisture elevates bad odors and helps degrade the liners.
4. Limit The Damage Of Walking
There are two strategies here. First, use Yaktrax or something similar that can slip over your boot heels to help prevent the grip from fading.
Or, make sure you buy boots with replaceable heels and toe pieces. Replacing toe and heel pieces will help your boot soles last a lot longer.
5. Get High-Quality Boots
If you ski often, get high-quality ski boots. If you want lighter boots for backcountry adventures, treat them with care. Lighter materials tend to break and crack faster when abused. Being rough with cheaper or thinner materials will shorten the lifespan for boots.
Buying expensive ski boots isn't the most appealing proposal, but high-end ski boots will last a lot longer than cheaper, low-end boots.
3 Signs You Should Change Your Ski Boots
There are several key signs to pay attention to before changing a pair of ski boots.
1. Your Boot Starts To Feel Loose
If a snugly fitting boot starts to feel loose, or you need to buckle it tighter each time, it may be on its last legs. Improper fit doesn’t mean the boot is entirely broken, but a poor fit can lead to injury and reduced performance.
2. Cracks Or Chips In Your Ski Boot Shells
Take a look at your ski boot shells and note any boot cracks or chips. Visible damage to ski boot construction should be addressed quickly. Over time, those issues will increase, so when you start noticing them, start thinking about how to replace your boots.
3. Snapped Or Broken Buckles
Another obvious sign is if your buckles break or snap. They are hard to replace for individual boots, and a loose buckle or one that’s popped out will cause issues down the road.
On a positive note, you may need to replace your boots if you're an advanced skier. When we start out, we want beginner boots with a lower flex for comfort. As you progress, beginner ski boots won't cut it, and you'll want a stiffer boot that can handle steeper terrain. If you no longer feel supported on steep slopes with an older beloved boot, it may be time to upgrade.
What Should You Do With Your Old Ski Boots?
What we should do with old boots is a little complicated, especially if it involves your favorite pair. If your current ski boots are old but still in workable condition, you can sell them to a used gear shop or put them up for sale online. If they’re ancient boots, you have a couple of options.
Because ski boot construction involves several components, you can’t recycle them all together. Liners usually need to be thrown, but you can recycle the plastic shell. Separate the plastic boot shell and metal components and check with your local recycling center to see if they accept them.
Alternatively, you can use your previous ski boots for Halloween decorations, planters, or decor around the house. In truth, there aren’t a lot of straightforward ways to recycle boots. However, it is worth asking your local recycling center what they do and don’t accept.
How To Buy The Perfect Pair of Ski Boots
Given the importance of ski boot selection, it makes sense to talk about how to buy the perfect pair! I’ve broken it down into digestible steps with links to other content that will help you find that ideal pair.
- First, find your ski boot size. Ski Boot Size Chart.
- Then, focus on comfort and fit. How should ski boots fit for pain-free skiing?
- Now, determine your ski boot flex, which is often tied to your ability level.
- If you’re a beginner, check out 8 Best Ski Boots For Beginner Skiers.
- If you’re an intermediate skier, check out 10 Best Ski Boots for Intermediate Skiers.
- If you’re unsure of your ability level, check out 10 Best Ski Boots for Every Skier.
- If you want women-specific boots, our 10 Best Ski Boots For Women guide is helpful.
- If you have wider feet, check out the 7 Best Ski Boots For Wide Feet.
- If you have narrower feet, check out the 9 Best Ski Boots For Narrow Feet.
- If you have wide calves, check out the 7 Best Ski Boots For Wide Calves.
- If you’re a backcountry skier, it’s important to check out my 6 best backcountry ski boots guide for the right information. Different boots and bindings may be required.
At first glance, this might all seem like a lot, but the process isn’t so bad. You want to find out your ski boot size and how to elevate comfort and fit.
Then, find out what your ability level is, whether you have specific foot issues or preferences (narrow, wide, big calves, etc.), and if you are a resort or backcountry skier.
It is a lot of information to go through, but it will absolutely help give you the best option. Painful footwear not only ruins your experience on the slopes, but it can also destroy your ski boots before you get any meaningful use out of them.
High quality ski boots can last for 200-250 ski days if you take care of them. For irregular skiers, this amounts to roughly 6-8 years. If you get cheap boots, expect them to last less than half that time.
There are several strategies you can use to make high-performance ski boots last longer but once you notice cracks in the shell or boots that cause pain, it's time to move on.
Getting rid of old alpine boots is a bit complicated. If you have an old but intact boot pair, you can resell them. If they aren’t intact, find out if you can recycle them. If not, you may want to repurpose them as a planter, a flower vase, or as a decoration. You can trash them, but with global waste on the rise, it should only be a last resort.
*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.