Welcome to ThinkVail – shop our list of the year’s best cross country ski skins featuring Black Diamond, Contour, Black Crows, Dynafit, Pomoca, G3, Fischer, Rossignol, Backcountry Access and more.
Fastening skins on your skis is like putting them in 4-wheel drive so they can tackle steep terrain. Choosing the right skins for your skis is important for a successful winter alpine adventure but selecting the right skins can be confusing. We’ve made it easier with a list of 10 skins that are bomber and you are sure to love!
Cross-country skiing, alpine touring, back-country skiing, and split-boarding are all ideal ways to explore the Colorado mountains, but to venture uphill on any of these types of 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.
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.
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.
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.
Sizing skins is by far the most confusing aspect of using skins 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.
See Also: Best Women’s Ski Jackets
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.
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.
Karakoram skins are made by Kohla in Austria, who have been making innovative mountaineering products since 1932 . These skins are perfect for your splitboard
The Dynafit brand embodies speed, lightness, endurance and technology. Their alpine touring skins also perfectly embrace these qualities. The Dynafit Speedskin does not disappoint.
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
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.
The award-winning Fischer company has been revolutionizing the and setting the standard on the track for years. Experience Easy Skin, the easiest way to attach climbing skins.
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.
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.
BCA or Backcountry Access is the most trusted name in back-country safety. They are dedicated to ensuring you have a fun, and safe adventure in the back-country. From avalanche classes, innovative and lifesaving products and education they are all about increasing your awareness and getting you high quality alpine touring equipment.
See Also: Best Places to Alpine Tour in Vail, Colorado
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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Awesome article about the best cross country ski skins. I have only ever uses short cross country ski skins that are only about a foot in length. But since I have moved to Colorado, I realize there is no more gentle cross-country skiing. Well at least not on the trails I want to go so I am looking more for a pair of aggressive skins to get me up the steeps. All of these are great, I am leaning towards a mix of Mohair and nylon but not quite sure which ones. However, I am leaning towards the Pomoca skins because I love how they are the manufacturer of other brand's skins. So they must really know their stuff.
Hi Benson, yes these skins are definitely more for cross country trail skiing not so much speed-gliding on cross country skis. They are good for back-country skiing, alpine touring, cross country skiing or randonnee on steeper slopes and make it much easier to hike up vertically to get where you're going in the mountains. Enjoy, the Pomoca skins are a high quality skin that will serve you well.
Hi! very informative post about the best cross country ski skins. I have been skinning all winter but now after almost three seasons, it is time for me to get a new pair of skins. I have spent quite a long time checking each one of these options and I have arrived to the conclusion that the best skin for me is Pomoca Climb 2.0. I like that it includes skin savers to protect the skin's adhesive and I also like that it comes with a case to store and transport skins. Great selection of skins to choose from!
Hi Ann, I am so happy to hear that the article about the best 10 cross country ski skins was helpful and that you were able to find a new pair of skins to replace your other ones that finally wore out. Now you'll be all set to get out and hit the trails next winter.
Great post about skins for skis, I am looking for a new pair of skins for my telemark skis. I like a lot of these skins but think I am going to go with the Black Diamond skins. The blend of mohair and nylon will let me go steeper but also allow me to glide as well, best of both worlds. Thanks for the great selection, these are all really good.
Rad article about cross country skins, exactly what I needed to help me buy new skins for my girlfriend who is a beginner. I am gong with the G3 Escapist Universal climbing skin until she gets some mileage under her belt and gains some confidence. She's pretty timid right now so I think less glide and more control is perfect for her. Thanks so much for the great insight.
Hi Shamiimbd, so happy you found this post about the 10 best cross country ski skins helpful. I think the G3s are a great choice for your girlfriend. The G3 Escapist has a removable rip strip which is a small strip that runs down the middle of the glue and makes it easier to remove the skins (especially for women). But if your glue loses adhesion for any reason, remove the strip and it sticks again, like magic.
Hi, great webpage. I've never seen such a great and thorough article on skins. It was nice to see all the best selections and read the features back to back and compare. I plan on coming here when I purchase my skins. Thanks so much for a great review!
Hi Jamie, thank you so much for your kind words and nice comments about this post The 10 Best Cross Country Ski Skins. Feel free to bookmark this page and use it when you are ready to purchase your new skins.
Hello there! This is an amazing review you've got here. These ski skins are great and has got amazing features especially the Almada multifit skin as the MULTICLIP SYSTEM comes in 135mm constant width and is 190cm long. Maximum glide, superior durability, and water resistant. Thanks for sharing, it's helpful for me!
So happy you found this article about the best cross country ski skins helpful and you found the perfect skins for you!
I love skinning uphill at ski resorts. So far I have Vail, Beaver Creek, Cooper, Ski Cooper, Steamboat Springs, Copper Mountain, Keystone, and Breckenridge. Next on my list is Aspen. I use Rossignol Super 7 Skinsto get up the steeps, I got them for a great price, and they work great. I love up-hilling I do it with friends and even take my dog during the off hours when the resorts are closed. It's a lot of fun and amazing exercise. I highly recommend it to any one looking for a new adventure.
Thanks for sharing your adventures with us Taufique and I am so happy you found this article about the best skins for skis helpful. You are really doing great hitting all the nearby ski resorts and crossing them off your list. It can be fun skiing with your dog. If you are skinning up the mountain at night you may want to check out the article about Glow in the Dark Dog Collars so your dog is visible to you and to Cat drivers and snowmobilers working on the resort after dark. Have fun and keep your best furry friend safe.
Love Black Diamond Skins! I have only ever bought Black Diamond. I have tried others but they have never been as good and I have never found a reason to get a different brand. They have great adhesion, last a long time (for skins) are easy to skin in and they are easy to fold up and put in my pocket. they are simply the best.
Great article about skins. As a traditionalist, I prefer mohair skins, so my choice would be the Contour Hybrid Pure Skins. They are 100% Mohair and this natural fiber offers a superior glide, is very lightweight and packs awesomely. Great info I will share this post on my back-country outdoor group so everyone can know about these ski skins. Thanks
Hi Tanvir, thanky ou for your kind words and for sharing this article about the 10 best cross country ski skins and sharing it on social media, it is greatly appreciated! Yes, you are a traditionalist and you must be a great back-country skier as mohair does have all the wonderful qualities you stated above it is also very tricky for beginners to master as it is so slippery and glides so well! But when you have the skills this is a great material so I am so happy it works for you! Thank you so much for sharing and enjoy the snow!
Hi, I have just moved to Vail, Colorado this year. I love downhill skiing as well as snowshoeing but am also very interested in getting into cross country skiing and alpine touring. I have not done it before and I am just trying to get all the necessary equipment to get started. What do you recommend for a never-beginner who is ready to get started?
Hi Shanta, welcome to the valley! Ok, yes I do have some recommendations. For skins since you are a beginner I would recommend nylon skins, as they are more forgiving. The G3 Escapist Universal Climbing Skin is a great choice. Also read the article Where to Go Alpine Touring in Vail, Colorado to find out great place to try, but always go with friend, never by yourself. Also check out the article 20 Essentials for Winter Hiking to find out what you should wear while in the back-country to stay warm, dry and safe. Enjoy your new adventure, you're gonna love it!