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Volcano Skiing - Climbing Skins - Things Skiers Carry - and more

Issue XLIX
March 2011
Climbing Skins
n essential tool for backcountry skiing, climbing
skins rarely get the respect they deserve, yet
without them, we are, literally, going nowhere.
Skins turn our skis into touring tools, and given
the width of skis today, the skins we choose
are more important than ever. Wide skis
require wide skins. Wide skins equate to
more drag and weight under our feet
while climbing.
There are three basic categories
of skins: synthetic, mohair and
blended (hybrid of mohair and
synthetic materials). The category
refers to the materials used to
create the plush or skin material. To
generalize, synthetic skins typically
offer the best climbing traction,
mohair skins offer the best glide
characteristics and blended skins
are somewhere in between. Mohair,
a weave produced from the hair of
goats, has long taken a backseat to
synthetic skins because of its perceived
weaker climbing performance, but with the
width of todays skis, mohair skins now have
enough surface area to rival synthetics in uphill
Recent testing by the Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF) indicates that skin glide characteristics are directly
related to snow type and temperature. According to the SLF study, synthetics are better suited to warmer temperatures (-3 Celsius or
above), while mohair is best suited to colder temperatures (-8 Celsius or below). Our tests were not as scientific as the SLF study, but we
did conduct side by side comparisons in a variety of temperatures. Our tests confirmed that the glide on synthetics improves in warmer
snow conditions (especially above freezing), but we still found mohair to offer the best overall glide.
All of the skins included have proven to offer reliable glue performance, good long term durability and solid overall performance.
Colltex Extreme
100% Mohair, $210-$235
Colltex pioneered the
adhesive climbing skin
business in 1968. They have
been a primary European player
in skins ever since.
The Colltex Extreme mohair skin is easily the best gliding skin we
tested, in all conditions. Climbing performance was great on the skins
trimmed to fit our 105mm waisted test skis.
The Extreme skins are light, easy to fold and use a simple wire bail
tip that accommodates wide, modern tip shapes. The tail clip is a
simple cam-action hook that proved to be as reliable as any tail clip
on the market. The tail is laminated to the skin, eliminating rivets
and making for a clean, low friction tail.
The Colltex glue is not nearly as thick as the glue on most North
American companys skins; still, it proved to be 100% reliable in
all conditions, warm and cold. In general, the European sourced
skins seem to use thinner, less tacky glue than North American
counterparts. The Colltex glue is actually a new patented compound
(called ct40) that claims functionality from +50 Celsius to -50 Celsius
and is pressure sensitive (the more pressure, the better the stick).
We used the skins for a full year, running them in temperatures down
to -20 Celsius without any issues. The European style glues require
a little more attention during a day of skiing, especially in very cold
temperatures, but overall, my experience has been that the glue
is less prone to clumping problems and sticking to everything it
Black Diamond Glidelite Mohair STS Skins
100% Mohair, $190-$195
The Glidelite Mohair Skins are identical to the Glidelite mohair blends,
except they use 100% mohair plush. The results are great. The
Glidelite Mohair offered the second
best glide, the Colltex
Extremes were first,
and they out glide the
synthetics in all but wet
corn snow.
Uphill traction was great
on the skins trimmed to
fit our 105mm waisted
test skis. Synthetics
will out climb mohair in
the steepest of tracks,
but the improved glide
of the mohair skins is
well worth it. The glue
and STS cam-action
tail clip and adjustable tip loops are identical to the other Glidelite
and Ascension skins from Black Diamond, and they work great. The
new tail is advertised to be 20% stronger and provides up to 10
centimeters of adjustment.
The Glidelite skins also include a cloth strip, sometimes called the
wimp strip, up the center of the skin. Designed to help reduce
adhesion when the skins are folded glue to glue, the wimp strip can
actually be removed to allow for some emergency glue to help
rejuvinate an otherwise uncooperative skin.
Dynafit Speed
60% Mohair/ 40%
Synthetic, $200
Dynafits Speed Skins
are designed to work
specifically with Dynafit
skis. As a result, they
come pre-trimmed and
100% ready to roll for
18 Off-Piste March 2011
Gear Talk
reviews, innovation and chatter
-Dry skin glue is happy skin glue. Keep the glue side of your skins out of the snow and dirt. If your glue becomes covered with
snow, you can clean the snow off by running the glue side of the skin across the edge of your ski by holding one end of the skin
in each hand and pulling it across the ski edge (ski standing upright). Normally, it is the tips or tails of the skin that first de-
velop snow buildup. Maintenance is the key to keeping your skins functioning all day. Check your skins during transitions, and
clean any snow from the glue as needed before the buildup becomes a problem. If the glue becomes iced to the point that it
fails, scrape as described and stuff skins inside your jacket or base layers for the descent. Given significant glue problems, a few
wraps of athletic tape (or a Voile strap) around the skin and ski can work wonders for keeping your skins working until you get
-Dry skin plush is happy skin plush. In wet snow conditions and warm spring tours, skins can absorb water causing snow to
clump on the plush. Treat your skins with skin wax (apply in the field), or use a skin-specific waterproofing treatment (apply the
night before).
-Always hang and dry skins at the end of the day. Be sure to hang them in a dust free area and away from direct heat. Pet hair,
pine needles, dirt and hot wood stoves will shorten the life of your skin glue. If drying skins near a direct heat source, take them
down as soon as they are dry, and put them away. This will extend glue life
-Store your skins between trips folded glue to glue and tucked into their bag. For long term storage, use the glue saver or cheat
sheets that now come standard with many brands, and store them in a cool dry place away from direct heat.
-Skins climb best if they run almost edge to edge, often called wall to wall carpeting. But it is important to leave at least the
width of your edge exposed to allow for edging in firm snow conditions. A general guideline for buying skins is to purchase skins
that are approximately 10mm narrower than your tip dimensions. Trim the skins to reveal at least the width of your metal edge,
if not twice the width.
Tips and Care for Climbing Skins
a corresponding Dynafit ski, no trimming required. The attachment
system is also specific to Dynafit skis, so you will not be using them
on any other skis. The attachment might appear a little rando-racer
centric at first glance, but it is actually quite nice and has proven to
be super reliable over the course of a two seasons of use.
The Dynafit skins detach at the tip, unlike all of the cam-action tail
connect systems out there, and the short rubber pull tab has proven
the test of time. It is also replaceable, should it break down. The
Speed Skins mohair blend glides well, but not as well as a full mohair
plush. The glide is on par or a little better than the best synthetic,
depending on the conditions.
As you would expect from Dynafit, the Speed Skin is light-weight
and packs small. The glue, in typical European style, is not nearly
as thick as the glue on North American sourced skins, but works
great nonetheless. In fact, having used the Dynafits for a couple of
seasons, I have become a convert to the European style glue. Like
the Colltex skins, a little extra attention keeping the glue free of snow
during cold days pays off with reliable adhesion.

Black Diamond Glidelite Mohair Mix STS
65% Mohair/ 35% Synthetic, $160-$175
The Glidelite Mohair blend
skins are remarkably
light-weight and fold
into a slim package.
They use the same
adjustable width tip
loops and time-tested
cam-action STS tail
that Black Diamond
uses on their Ascension
synthetic skins. The tip
and tail connections are
proven and functional.
The glide was not
as good as we had
hoped with the 65/35 mohair blend, but it is definitely better than
the full synthetic Ascension skins, just not as good as the BCA or G3
synthetics. The skins repelled water well and maintained their glide
in a variety of conditions, warm and cold. The glue is one of the more
time-tested on the market, and lived up to its reliable reputation in
our testing.
Like other Ascension and Glidelite skins, the Mohair Mix has the wimp
strip and come with glue saver sheets for longer term storage.
G3 Alpinist Skin
100% Synthetic, $155-$165
G3s Alpinist Skins have a nice
supple hand and fold into a
light package. The Alpinist
uses a unique tip connection
system that uses two self
aligning stainless steel clips
that conform to a myriad of
tip shapes. The clips are low
profile, easy to connect and
secure. The tail system is very
clean and features a rubber tail
laminated to the skin (no rivets)
and a simple cam clip to secure the
tail. Like other cam-action tails, the G3
tail works best when the ski has a notched
tail, but G3 also makes a cool aftermarket clip to accommodate
rounded, twintip tails that works on the same principle as their tip clips.
The twin tip tail connector retrofits with G3s tail as well as other similar
tail set-ups (Glidelite and Ascension).
The Alpinist offers excellent glide for a full synthetic skin. In fact, they
proved to offer the best glide of all of the synthetic skins we tested. We
did experience some unexpected snow buildup on the skin plush very
early in testing the Alpinist skins, but once we applied a healthy dose of
skin wax, the problem was solved. Either the factory coating was weak,
or the Alpinist plush simply benefits from an extra dose.
Glue performance has proven to be reliable. We have actually run a
pair of the Alpinist for two full seasons with good results. The glue is
relatively thick and definitely benefits from using the glue saver or
cheat sheets (included with the skins) when stored for longer periods of
time. If there was one complaint about the Alpinist, it is that it does not
climb quite as well as some synthetics.
Backcountry Access Magic Carpet
100% Synthetic, $135 - $180
Backcountry Access
updated their
skins two years
ago, sourcing
new skin
material for their
Magic Carpet
skins. The new material has great glide for a 100% synthetic skin, and
actually out performed some of the mohair blend skins.
continued on page 20
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The Magic Carpets strengths are in their grip and glide. The skins
proved to withstand wet conditions well, and the synthetic plush is
known for its overall durability. The skins are modest in their bulk,
not the fattest and not the slimmest.
The glue proved excellent, if perhaps a little too vigorous. Pulling
these guys apart when new takes some muscle, but the tenacious
glue served us well in the field. The only real weakness in the Magic
Carpet is the tail clip system. The tip and tail bails accommodate
a variety of tip and tail shapes, but the tail pull is a little awkward.
It uses a rubber connection similar to what many skins once used
on their tips. The system definitely works, but is not as slick as the
now more common cam-action tail clips. Otherwise, BCAs Magic
Carpet does the trick, and its glide is one of
the better for a full synthetic skin.
K2 Skins
100% Synthetic, $170-$190
K2 began offering precut skins
for their Backside ski line two
years ago. The skins use K2s
proprietary Z-Clip attachment
system that interfaces with the
holes in the tip and tail of all their
Backside skis. The attachment
system is slick. It is easy to use
and creates a clean, friction free
attachment to the ski.
Glide was great, matching the
performance of the BCA Magic
Carpet and outperforming the
rust colored Ascension synthetics.
The glue also proved reliable and functional, if not a little too sticky
when folded glue to glue. Similar to the Glidelites, the K2 skins
have a glue-free strip up the center of the skin. On the K2 skins,
the strip is actually glue free versus a fabric strip covering the glue.
The end result is that it helps reduce the skins stick when folded
glue to glue, making for easier pulling apart of the skins between
laps. The skins come with glue saver or cheat sheets, and the glue
will last longer if you use them for
long term storage.
Black Diamond Split Skin
100% Synthetic, $190
The Spilt Skins are a unique
concept where the center of
the skin is replaced with
a slick piece of durable
ripstop nylon, leaving
two strips of skin that
run up either edge of
your skis. The Split
Skins are designed to
be used on skis at least
110mm wide underfoot
or wider. The design
decreases the weight of
the skin and improves
the overall glide. A fat
ski already has more
than enough carpet on
the snow for adequate
grip, so the Split Skin
aims to improve glide and reduce the penalty for dragging a fat ski
up the mountain.
Overall, the skins perform well. They are much lighter than a
comparably sized traditional skin. The improved glide is most
notable when breaking trail, but is less dramatic when climbing
a packed skin track. The improved performance also comes with
a few downsides. The main drawback is the lack of glue on the
nylon portion of the skin. With less glue surface, you need to be
extra careful with what little glue surface you do have. Unlike Black
20 Off-Piste March 2011
Gear Talk
reviews, innovation and chatter
Diamonds traditional skins, there is no wimp strip the material
that runs up the center of the skin to reduce the overall grip of
the glue when skins are folded against themselves - so, it pays to
be careful with the glue surface that you do have. The Split Skins
orange Ascension plush also lacks the glide of some other skins.
A plush with a little better glide would make the Split Skin even
Nonetheless, the Split Skins work great. They are durable, the glue
performs well, and the new adjustable tip attachment and the tried
and true STS tail attachments are bomber. Best of all, these skins
give you one more excuse to leave the skinny
skis at home.
Clip Skins
100% Synthetic, Glueless, $150
Clip Skins are regular synthetic skins that
use small metal clips, rather than glue, to
hold the skin to the bottom of the ski. Thats
right, 100% glue free skins. The tip and tail
connections are similar to other skins. The
tip clip is a standard metal bail, while the tail
is a unique cam clip that uses the inherent
stretch of the skin material to create tension.
The skins also have a non-slip coating up the
center of the skin base. The coating helps reduce skin
stretch and movement.
The skins glide and climb great. In fact, it is the same plush
as is used on the K2 and BCA skins. The skins have been in an
evolutionary process for more than a year. Our initial pair had a
few quirks, but the clip attachment and tip and tail connections
have been standardized with current production.
Setting the skins up for your skis is more involved than trimming
standard adhesive skins. The process involves setting skin length,
attaching the tip bail, trimming the skins, and placing and gluing all
of the metal clips. It is not rocket science, but it does take time and
attention to do it well.
The clips are placed about every foot or so along the edge of the
skin (the set-up directions spacing specifications). The nicely
designed clips simply clip onto the ski edge. The design is simple
and clean, and yes, it really works. A quick hand down the plush of
the skin helps to make sure all clips are in fact secured to the ski,
and you are off skinning just like with an adhesive skin.
The skins pull off much like regular skins. The clean, fast removal
and extra supple feel of the skins takes a little
getting used to, but it is actually easier than
pulling and folding adhesive skins. Infact,
there is no folding - just roll them up any way
you like. The clips are very low profile and
present very little interruption along the ski
edge. The result is that the skis can still edge
in firm snow if need be. One disadvantage to
the system is that if you happen to lose your
tail connection, as can occasionally happen
with any skin, the Clip Skins are very quick to
peel off because there is no glue holding them
in place. This is not a big deal, but in select
lofty locations, it could pose a challenge.
Aside from edge control, another concern
we had was with snow build-up between the
ski base and the skins. We did find minor
amounts of snow between skin and ski on
occasion, but we never experienced buildup
that affected the functionality of the skins.
Clip Skins have the benefit that you have no glue
to worry about. You can drop them in the snow with
impunity, folding and pulling them apart is not an issue
and their attachment is not affected by cold temps. For skiers who
do not have complaint with traditional adhesive skins, it is difficult
to let go of the known quantity, but for those frustrated by their
glue experience, Clip Skins are a viable alternative.
Issue XLIX Off-Piste 21
Gear Talk