Welcome to ThinkVail – we hope you find this article about cross-country ski skins helpful.
Alpine touring, also known as backcountry skiing, skinning and splitboarding is a blend of cross-country skiing and alpine downhill skiing or snowboarding. It is the perfect way to explore the Colorado mountains, but in order to venture uphill on skis you will need climbing skins. Skins are ski-width strips of material that adhere to the bottom of touring skis and provide traction to climb. Here are 10 skin suggestions to efficiently get you up the steepest terrain.
Climbing skins keep you from backsliding on moderate to steeper terrain so you can enjoy taking the direct, uphill route instead of traversing across gentler terrain even when carrying a heavy pack.
The outer surface of the skin has rough textured fibers that grab the snow when moving in the uphill direction but are smooth and glide in the downhill direction. Climbing skins usually cover the full length of the ski and typically attach to the ski base with adhesive, buckles, straps or a combination of all three.
Winter camping or hut-to-hut skiing (where you usually need to carry a big pack) is much easier with full-length climbing skins. Even though skins do smooth out and glide in the downhill direction, you will want to remove them before heading down from the top of the hill for best performance.
Skins are traditionally made from three material options; nylon, mohair, or a combination of the two. The material you choose will depend on ability, weight, packability, durability, grip and glide.
Nylon is the best material for beginners. It is the most durable, but it is heavier and bulky and offers the least amount of glide and provide the most grip. These are also the preferred skins for hard, steep climbs.
Mohair is the best for experienced and competitive skiers because it offers the least uphill traction and you need to have your technique down to use it successfully. But it is lightweight, with very little bulk, easy to pack and offers lots of glide. However, it is not very durable and will need to be replaced more frequently.
Nylon/Mohair Mix is the perfect all-around material that performs well for those with good, established skinning technique. It is lighter than pure nylon skins and less bulky. It will also offer better glide than nylon and better grip then just pure mohair. This is a very efficient combination for skins.
Skins are attached by a sticky adhesive to the base of each ski. Then each end of the skin is attached to the tip and/or tail of the ski. Some skins attach only to their particular brand of skis while others can be cut and trimmed to be attached to a variety of ski shapes and brands.
For general touring, its best to have both tip and tail hardware in case your skin glue fails. This hardware includes hooks or a loop that go over the tip of the ski, and an adjustable strap with a clip at the tail. This traditional design offers a secure attachment on dedicated touring skis that have flat or notched tails. Twin tip and rounded tails can be more difficult and you may need to purchase twin tip connectors to keep skins from slipping.
The Right Size
Sizing skins is by far the most confusing aspect of alpine touring and it may take a couple of tries till you find just the right size for you.
For metal-edge touring skis with relatively little side cut, choose skins in a width as close to your skis’ waist width as possible. You will want to cover the ski base up to the metal edges for best performance.
For telemark and randonee skis with wide tips and tails, you have 2 choices. You can use waist-width skins on these skis, but a large amount of the ski base at the wide tips and tails will not be covered, reducing climbing grip, and making it harder to go uphill. Alternatively, you can choose skins in a width close to that of your skis’ tips and then trim them down to the exact hourglass shape of your skis, ensuring the best climbing grip for uphill ascent
Some manufacturers make skins in precise lengths and widths for their particular ski brands, so check for specific skins for your brand first before trying to trim or customize a pair of skins. Pre-cut skins often have tip and tail hardware already installed. If you cut the skin to the proper length you will probably need to attach the tip or tail hardware before you trim the width.
Trimming your own skins is easy. Instructions and a cutter are usually included in the box with basic directions. Or use a box-cutter, exacto-knife or razor blade to customize size and shape of skins to match your skis. Skin widths are listed in millimeters while skin length is listed in centimeters.
Best Climbing Skins
Black Diamond is known for making high quality, technical outdoor gear that is innovative, durable and works well. These climbing skins check all the boxes for alpine touring.
- Made of 65% mohair and 35% nylon
- Dynex and aluminum tip loop is easy to replace, even in the field and fits a variety of ski tip shapes.
- STS tail clip allows for up to 10 cm of adjustment.
- Available in 110 mm, 125 mm, 140 mm skin lengths
- Weighs 1 lb. 4oz.
- Perfect for the minimalist ski mountaineer’s setup.
- Mohair and nylon combination offers the perfect balance between glide and grip
- Very packable with less bulk to easily fit in your ski jacket or backpack.
- Tip loop provides a secure and field-replaceable connection, while our reliable STS tail attachment
- Perfect for ski mountaineering and racing.
- However, if grip and durability are paramount you may want to try the Black Diamond Ascension or GlideLite style skins.
Contour is an Austrian company that was the first to pioneer using mohair on climbing skins. For more than 40 years they have been creating skins that alpinist have relied upon in the backcountry.
- Made of 100% mohair
- Self-aligning tip attachment
- Clip tail attachment
- Ideal for135mm width skis or narrower
- Available in a variety of lengths: [x-small] 145 – 152cm, [small] 153 – 160cm, [medium] 161 – 168cm, [large] 169 – 176cm, [x-large] 177 – 184cm, [xx-large] 178 – 195cm
- Offers top performance on longer tours in the backcountry.
- Unique twin layer adhesive sticks firmly to skis in all conditions including cold temperatures and after multiple tours on one day
- High quality and durable of skins.
- Easy to use and maintenance-free.
- No skin savers needed
- Easy to clean and once cleaned it will stick like new
- You will never have the need to replace the adhesive sides like you will need to do over time with traditional hot glued climbing skins. After years of use this adhesive side remains strong and sticky.
- Easy to remove from skis when its time to go downhill
Armada was started in the early 2000s and is known for their high-performance backcountry touring skis and skins. These skins are the perfect way to escape into the mountains.
- Made of 65% mohair 35% nylon for lots of performance and durability.
- Skins can be trimmed and customized to fit most ski and tip shapes
- IClip & Cobra Tip Clip included
- Available in 135mm constant width and190cm long.
- Offers maximum glide.
- Water resistant.
- Made in Austria.
The Dynafit brand embodies speed, lightness, endurance and technology. Their alpine touring skins also perfectly embrace these qualities. The Dynafit Speedskin does not disappoint.
- Made of 70% mohair, 30% nylon blend offers outstanding glide and grip
- Dynafit stretch system tip attachment
- Steel tail clip
- Compatible with Dynafit Skis
- Ideal for backcountry skiing, randonee, alpine touring and ski mountaineering
- Available in a variety of sizes to fit specific Dynafit skis.
- Perfect for acceleration on the skin track.
- Three-layer construction features a waterproof middle membrane, so no more soggy skins when the snow is wet and heavy.
Pomoco is the brand that actually manufactures most other brand’s skins. This Swiss company has been the undisputed expert in skins since opening its doors 1933. These skins you will illustrate why they are the masters of ski touring skins for all types of snow conditions
- Made of 70% mohair, 30% nylon
- Available length: Small (155 – 170 cm), Medium (165 – 176 cm), Large (175 – 186 cm) and X Large (185 – 196 cm)
- Includes skin savers to protect your skins adhesive
- Includes a case to store and transport your skins safely
- Ideal for backcountry touring climbing and speed
- The thick mohair blend fibers resist tangling, twisting, and static electricity and treated for reduced friction.
- Skins resist rips and are easy to apply
- Ever Dry treatment repels weight-adding moisture to stay lightweight and fast.
- Back Fix attachment features a light, simple strap at the tip and an easily adjustable tail strap with plastic hook and can be fixed to any type of ski.
- The universal, ready2climb skins can be trimmed to any ski in just two minutes without any special tools.
G3 or Genuine Guide Gear has changed the game of alpine touring with an affordable and completely customizable skin for alpine touring. This skin is perfect for beginners or those new to the sport.
- Made of 100% premium plush nylon for amazing climbing properties on steeper terrain.
- Nylon material is very durable and long-lasting
- Stainless steel tip loop attachment is self-aligning and will fit any ski tip shape
- Low profile, camming tail clip has an adjustable strap so you can cinch it down if your skins stretch over time.
- Available in two lengths: Small (175cm) and Large (200cm)
- Small length skin weighs 10.1oz
- Large length skin weighs 15.2oz
- High quality, affordable skins
- Included a trim tool allows you to fit the skins to your ski’s specific profile.
- Fully customizable climbing skin. Trim the length and edges according to your unique skis. .
- Removable Rip Strip reduces skin-to-skin adhesion, making it easier to pull skins apart. If your glue gets contaminated on an epic traverse, you can remove the strip for extra adhesion.
- Skins offer environmentally friendly waterproofing.
- Made in Canada.
The award-winning Blizzard company has been revolutionizing the ski industry since 1945. They have been innovating both downhill and backcountry ski technology for years, creating new ways to make skiing more fun and accessible. The Blizzard Zero G climbing skins are a perfect example of their ongoing mission.
- Made of 70% mohair, 30% nylon
- Universal steel wire tip attachment with Blizzard logo.
- Elastic, easily-adjustable tail attachment
- Available in two lengths: 164 – 171cm, 175 – 185cm. Each skin size fits two lengths of Blizzard Zero G skis.
- Precut skins are tailored specifically for Zero G backcountry touring skis
- Lightweight skins.
- Ever Dry DWR finish is a long-lasting glide treatment that keeps fibers from adhering to the snow
- Ideal Pomoca adhesive glue offers the perfect amount of adherence.
- Enjoys a waterproof barrier between the mohair/nylon fibers and the backing that repels water effectively.
Rossignol needs no introduction, they are a titan of the skiing industry, so it comes as no surprise that they would make a quality skin to hit the backcountry trail for winter adventure.
- Made of 70% mohair and 30% nylon for glide and grip.
- These skins are produced by legendary Pomoca
- Includes a carrying tote to safely store and transport your skins
- Easy-to-use skin offers lots of uphill traction
- Available in Small (172 cm) & Large (180-188) size
- Pre-cut climbing skin is perfect for the Rossignol SUPER 7 HD ski.
- Rubber lining keeps out moisture,
- Excellent gliding performance
Relative newcomer to the scene, Black Crows is an independent free ski brand from Chamonix, France that was founded in 2006. Created by pro free skiers Camille Jaccoux and Bruno Compagnet, whose mission is to improve upon existing backcountry technology.
- Made of 70% mohair and 30% synthetic nylon offers the best ratio of glide, grip and durability.
- Trim to fit skins will fit skis 120cm to 190cm in length
- Fitted metal tip hook and a polymide tail buckle
- Double layer hybrid glue has perfect adhesion to ski base, even in super cold temperatures.
- Effortless removal from the ski, without adhesive trace on the base
- Maintenance free, as the adhesive does not have to be re-glued.
- Easy handling, as the skins can be folded on themselves to easily store away when its time to go down the mountain.
- High resistance elastic keeps skins from stretching out.
- Skins are shaped and pre-cut according to the shapes of the different freebird skis, plus a wide trim-to-fit model.
- Ideal for all conditions ranging from dry cold to humid heat.
- Lightweight and compact
- Made in Austria,
- Can be easily stored and transported in the bag provided.
BCA Magic Carpet Skins
BCA or Backcountry Access is the most trusted name in backcountry safety. They are dedicated to ensuring you have a fun, and safe adventure in the backcountry. From avalanche classes, innovative and lifesaving products and education they are all about increasing your awareness and getting you high quality alpine touring equipment.
- Magic Carpet skins are made of 100% Nylon
- Designed to accommodate the widest and most rockered freeride skis
- Water repellent thanks to durable hydrophobic synthetic material
- Strong adhesive glue formulated for cold temperatures.
- Universal tip and tail hardware is compatible with most ski designs, including rounded/square twin-tips and skis up to 200 cm long.
- Included trim kit makes it easy to cut your skins to fit any side-cuts.
- Included storage sack protects your skins
- Compatible with widths of 115mm, 130mm, 145mm
- 195 cm length is adjustable
We hope you found this article about cross-country ski skins helpful. Have you used skis before? What are your thoughts on them? Do they make going uphill easier or do you just stay to gentler terrain? What is your favorite cross-country ski skin brand and why? We would love to hear your thoughts, comments and stories about skinning and alpine touring. Thanks for reading.
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