When shopping for mountaineering equipment, some pieces of equipment are more exciting than others. It's easy to become infatuated with carbon skis or the latest binding technology. Geek in search of the touring boot with the perfect balance of stiffness, weight and range of motion can be extremely fun. However, a piece of equipment that is often underestimated is your climbing skins.
These incredibly important and less sophisticated elements are an essential part of your configuration. Without mountaineering skin, skiing and flashy attacks would be absolutely useless. New people in off-piste skiing may find their choices in leather materials confusing. Furthermore, understanding the width of the skin can be difficult. Here is a brief analysis of some key elements to consider when making a purchase decision.
Originally, climbing skins were made by … guess, animal skins. Fortunately in 2018 and we have the technology on our side. These days, there are three main types of climbing skins and finding the right material is important. While you can certainly get away with one of the three common materials, it helps to understand each other's strengths and weaknesses. This guide helps you maximize your hard earned dollars.
- Nylon – Nylon mountaineering skins are the most convenient option for backcountry skiers. These nylon skins also offer the best grip. This can be extremely beneficial for beginners, as it makes navigating difficult sections of the skin a little less frightening. However, the quality of the grip comes at the expense of the ability to glide. Nylon skins have more resistance so they are not energy efficient compared to other options. Although they can not glide like their Mohair cousins, Nylon skins are also extremely durable, which is perfect for those who often experience "low tide" conditions in their region. Nylon skins are also typically the heaviest.
Unofficial Pick: Black Diamond Ascension Nylon STS
2. Mohair: Mohair is a product of the noble goat of angora. Mohair climbing skins offer a much better glide than those in nylon. Higher glide can be important for longer tours where skiers want to maximize their energy at every step they take. Furthermore, mohair is significantly lighter than nylon. The downside of mohair skins is that they sacrifice significant grip compared to nylon. Furthermore, the material is a little more fragile and does not withstand rocks or stocks. They are also the most expensive option.
Example: G3 Alpinist LT Mohair
3. Mix Mohair – As the name suggests, these skins use a mixture of mohair and nylon materials. There are about 70% of mohair. As you might expect, these are a happy medium in terms of performance and weight. They offer better grip and durability than mohair while sliding better than nylon. This half-way approach makes these skins a very popular choice and they generally have a price tag between mohair and nylon.
Example: Pomoca Climb Pro S-Glide
Choosing the width of the skin is relatively simple, but it can be confusing for those unfamiliar with the process. Manufacturers offer their products in different widths. For example, Alpinist G3 leathers are available in 100mm, 115mm, 130mm and 145mm widths. When you resize your skin, you want to focus on the width of your tips, which is the widest part of your ski. You want your skin to be the approximate width of your ski tips. It can also work a skin narrower than a few millimeters from the tip of the ski. Cut the skins to fit the shape of the ski leaving the edges uncovered. The width of the tip is often printed on the ski, but it is also very easy to measure with a metric ruler or a meter.
The length of the skin is a little simpler. That said, it varies depending on the manufacturer. Black Diamond skins have a very generous length and you will cut them before attaching the toe and tail clips. Other brands such as G3 offer their skins in small, medium and long. You will need to visit the website of each manufacturer to see which length of ski covers.
Point / tail connections / Proprietary designs:
There are different ways to attach skins to skis. There will always be an attachment on your advice and an attachment on your cross. Most skins like the Black Diamond Ascension Nylon or G3 Alpinist work with any ski. They have rings or brackets that fit on the tip and a singular clamp that pulls on the tail.
Some skis such as Volkl VTA 98 or Dynafit DNA will have special attachment systems integrated into the ski. In this case, you will need to use the proprietary skins designed to work with that attachment system. These skis are often pre-cut to fit your particular ski perfectly.
Here it is. We hope this helps alleviate any confusion surrounding underrated climbing skins. This is by no means a comprehensive guide and, as you can imagine, you can be quite nerd on this subject.
Read also: How to find the right ski for off-piste skiing