Skis, bindings, and boots get a lot of attention in the touring world, but don’t overlook your humble climbing skins. Most importantly, you want to match the design and materials with your local terrain and snow conditions to optimize performance. Some models utilize nylon to offer better friction for climbs, while others prioritize gliding quickly with mohair. Serious backcountry skiers will want an ultralight and packable build. Below, we’ve included all varieties in our picks of the best climbing skins for the 2023 season. For further guidance, see our comparison table and buying advice below the picks.
Our Team's Climbing Skin Picks
- Best Overall Climbing Skins: Pomoca Climb Pro S-Glide
- A Close Second: Contour Hybrid Mix
- Best Climbing Skins for Grip and Durability: Black Diamond Ascension
- Best Skimo Race Skins: Pomoca Race Pro 2.0
Best Overall Climbing Skins
1. Pomoca Climb Pro S-Glide ($210-$240)
Weight: 1 lb. 6.2 oz. (120mm x 180cm)
Materials: 70% mohair, 30% nylon
Widths: 100, 110, 120, 130, 140mm
What we like: An optimal balance of glide, grip, adhesion, and packability.
What we don’t: Has a shorter lifespan than 100% nylon designs and the Contour Hybrid Mix below.
Although Pomoca has specialized in climbing skins since the 1930s, the Swiss company only entered the U.S. mainstream this past decade. And while they still lack the name recognition of Black Diamond or G3, their products are widely used: In fact, skins from many major ski brands—including backcountry powerhouses like DPS and Dynafit—are rebranded Pomoca designs. The Climb Pro S-Glide is a great example of their expertise. Using a 70/30 mohair-nylon blend that both glides and grips well, it’s lightweight and has a suppleness that packs down small into a ski pack or jacket. Skiers often rave about Pomoca’s glue, which is sticky enough to stay attached all day while releasing a bit more readily than other brands. And to get you started, their included trimming tool makes cutting new skins a breeze.
As with anything that’s rated best overall, the Climb Pro S-Glide makes some compromises. First, while it doesn’t require regular maintenance like the Contour Hybrid Mix below, the Pomoca’s glue isn't a standout in longevity. Neither is its 70% mohair plush, which is less durable than nylon. Finally, Pomoca’s tail clips are plastic and can break if you’re not careful when putting on and taking off your skins or shoving them into your pack. But minor gripes aside, the Climb Pro S-Glide is our top choice for most skiers and should last for many seasons to come. If you’re looking for an even lighter (but less grippy) option, check out Pomoca's Climb Pro Mohair (15.8 oz.), which we’ve included below.
See the Pomoca Climb Pro S-Guide Skins
A Close Second
2. Contour Hybrid Mix ($190-$210)
Weight: 1 lb. 6 oz. (115mm x 176cm)
Materials: 70% mohair, 30% nylon
Widths: 115, 135mm
What we like: Performs on par with our top pick.
What we don’t: Requires regular maintenance to maximize life.
Austria-based Contour has more than 45 years of experience when it comes to climbing skins, and it shows in their Hybrid Mix here. Featuring a similar cocktail of mohair and nylon as the Climb Pro S-Glide above, the Hybrid Mix offers a balanced combination of glide and grip—and for the most part, its performance is on par with our top pick. The main distinction is Contour’s hybrid glue, a unique technology that merges features from both standard (“hot melt”) and glueless skins. The Hybrid skins adhere securely to your skis (even at low temperatures), rip off easily when it’s time for the downhill, and—here’s the true kicker—are easy to revive with a simple wash (most skins require re-gluing). In our experience, we’re doing a little glue maintenance for every ten days or so of touring, but the benefit is a longer lifespan and great performance in the field.
Like most modern skins, the Hybrid Mix comes in different sizes with hardware preinstalled. The tail clips make it easy to adjust length with a simple pull tab, although it is worth noting that, like the Pomoca above, their plastic build is less durable than the metal tail clips you’ll find on Black Diamond’s models. Nitpicks aside, this is a well-made skin from a company that’s done their research, and an especially great option for those who want to try something a little different. And if you don’t like the idea of regular maintenance, check out Contour’s Guide Mix, which has glue that’s similar to what you’ll find on Pomoca skins. Finally, of note: Backcountry Access has collaborated with Contour to deliver the Hybrid Mix to their customers, which they advertise as the BCA Climbing Skins.
See the Contour Hybrid Mix Skins
Best Climbing Skins for Grip and Durability
3. Black Diamond Ascension ($190)
Weight: 1 lb. 10 oz. (133mm x 180cm)
Material: 100% nylon
What we like: Long-lasting, grips well, and affordable.
What we don’t: Only comes in one width; fairly heavy and bulky.
Black Diamond’s Ascension is one of the most ubiquitous designs on the market, and for good reason. Rather than the nylon-mohair blend of our top picks above, the entry-level BD design uses 100% nylon plush that’s incredibly durable and offers a more secure feel on steep skin tracks (at the sacrifice of glide in flat sections). In addition, the pre-installed and easy-to-adjust metal tip and tail clips are a nice bonus for new backcountry skiers trying to learn their way around unfamiliar gear. And at $190, the Ascension is a solid value considering the long-lasting construction that should see you through many seasons.
The Ascension is a direct competitor to the all-nylon G3 Escapist Universal below. Both skins run notably heavier and bulkier than momix (mohair and nylon blend) alternatives, but are nevertheless great options for penny pinchers or those just starting out. And while the Ascension will cost you $35 more than the narrowest G3, the preinstalled hardware could be worth the extra money if DIY isn’t your thing. What's more, many skiers prefer BD’s cable toe loop over G3’s hook system (this will ultimately come down to a matter of preference and familiarity). We do wish the BD came in multiple widths to eliminate waste (most skis are much narrower than 133mm), but the single option makes purchasing a breeze. For beginners, you simply won’t find a better combination of durability, user-friendliness, and price.
See the Black Diamond Ascension Skins
Best Skimo Race Skins
4. Pomoca Race Pro 2.0 ($160-$170)
Weight: 6.9 oz. (59mm)
Material: 100% mohair
Widths: 59, 62, 65mm
What we like: Simple ultralight design with excellent glide.
What we don’t: Purpose-built for ski racers and therefore comes with limitations.
Half a pound for a pair of skins? No, that’s not a misprint. Purpose-built for skimo racers, the 100% mohair Pomoca Race Pro 2.0 skins glide faster and farther than the nylon and mixed-nylon competition, and you’ll barely notice they’re on your skis—or in your pack, since they're compact enough to stuff into a skimo race suit (or a fanny pack). Pomoca’s glue is easy to work with and comes apart with minimal effort, and the simple attachment system at the tip (there is no tail attachment) is easy to grip and rip during a race transition. In short, these skins will save you energy and critical seconds in a skimo race setting.
The Race Pro’s ultralight and supple 100% mohair design sacrifices some of the grip that a nylon blend can provide. Additionally, the skins’ tip attachments are somewhat delicate (made with elastic, along with some metal and plastic parts)—during a race, one of our tester’s elastic bands completely ripped off the skin. That said, the Race Pro 2.0 is still one of the best-performing and most popular racing skins available. If you’re serious about skimo, we recommend investing in a set of Pomoca’s spare parts, which are easy to replace if you damage the tip attachment like we did. Additionally, purchasing a pair of backup skins could save your race in a pinch.
See the Pomoca Race Pro 2.0 Skins
Best of the Rest
5. Black Diamond GlideLite Mix FL ($210-$220)
Weight: 1 lb. 8 oz. (135mm x 180cm)
Materials: 65% mohair, 35% nylon
Widths: 110, 135mm
What we like: Great mix of performance, convenience, and price.
What we don’t: Not our favorite glue.
Black Diamond is one of the biggest names in climbing and skiing, and their skins live up to that reputation. Using a mix of mohair and nylon, the GlideLite balances smooth and fast forward glide with secure uphill travel, and with a recent update the materials are lighter, softer, and more flexible than before. A 20-centimeter length adjustment on the FL ("fixed length") means less DIY out of the box, and the durable metal tail clip allows easy in-the-field adjustments. In terms of purchasing options, the GlideLite Mohair Mix FL here is available in two widths with pre-installed hardware for five fixed lengths, and a trim-to-length version (no "FL") comes in 110- and 140-millimeter widths (you’ll have to install the hardware yourself).
All that said, the GlideLite is not without its downsides. For starters, Black Diamond's glue is quite aggressive—it can take a lot of effort to transition when you’re ready to start climbing. On the bright side, you don’t have to deal with loose skins, and the adhesive can last for years if properly maintained. Second, the GlideLite isn’t the lightest option available—G3’s comparable nylon/mohair Minimist Glide below weighs about 6 ounces less (depending on the size). These gripes aside, we think the GlideLite balances performance, price, and durability well enough to make it a top contender in the climbing skins market.
See the Black Diamond GlideLite Mix FL
6. G3 Escapist Universal ($155-$183)
Weight: 1 lb. 7.6 oz. (120mm x 175cm)
Material: 100% nylon
Widths: 70, 100, 120, 140mm
What we like: A well-made, affordable option.
What we don’t: Not a huge savings for large skis; you’ll have to install the tip hardware yourself.
High-quality skins can run you upwards of $200 (or more), but G3’s Escapist Universal is a nice way to save without making big compromises in performance. For $155 to $183 (depending on your ski length and width), you get a 100% nylon skin, including well-designed tip and tail attachments. An all-nylon skin delivers long-lasting grip for traversing steep slopes and icy terrain, making the Escapist a secure and durable choice for those still gaining experience on the skin track (G3 also offers the Escapist Glide, an entry-level mohair/nylon skin).
What do you sacrifice with a budget design like the Escapist? Most notably, you’ll have to install the tip hardware yourself. Just a few years ago, this was routine when purchasing a new set of skins, but with more and more custom lengths on the market, it’s now an extra step you certainly don’t want to mess up. Thankfully, G3 makes it rather straightforward, and the rest of the process is quite simple (including using their excellent trim tool for the edges). Take note: if your skis are on the larger end—over 175cm long and 120mm wide—the savings you get with G3 is negligible compared to the Ascension above. But for shorter skiers and narrow- to average-width skis, the Escapist Universal will be easier on your wallet, and the durable nylon build is sure to stand the test of time.
See the G3 Escapist Universal Skins
7. Pomoca Free Pro 2.0 ($230-$240)
Weight: 1 lb. 1.6 oz. (123mm x 180cm)
Materials: 70% mohair, 30% nylon
Widths: 123, 140mm
What we like: Purpose-built for wide powder skis.
What we don’t: Some freeriders might want a beefier and more durable skin.
While Pomoca’s Climb Pro S-Glide above earns our top overall pick, hard-charging freeriders will want to check out their Free Pro 2.0. Offered in 123- and 140-millimeter widths, it’s pretty obvious right off the bat that this skin is purpose-built for fat planks headed for fresh powder. Rounding out the design is a 70-30 momix blend, which provides a great combination of grip and glide while feeling surprisingly lightweight underfoot and packing down nicely—a great balance for intermediate to expert powder hounds.
Despite its width, the Free Pro 2.0 still manages to clock in at a very reasonable weight (for comparison, the 123mm version is over 6 oz. lighter than the 133mm GlideLite above). What’s more, it’s worth noting that Pomoca is the only brand we know of that makes a 140-millimeter-wide skin, making it one of the best options for touring in powder (the slightly heavier Climb Pro S-Glide above also comes in a 140-mm width, and its particular blend offers a bit more grip, too). For freeride aficionados who want to keep it light, the Free Pro 2.0 is a very well-rounded offering from the Swiss brand.
See the Pomoca Free Pro 2.0 Skins
8. G3 Minimist Glide ($215-$233)
Weight: 1 lb. 1.8 oz. (115mm x 177cm)
Materials: 70% mohair, 30% nylon
Widths: 100, 115, 130mm
What we like: Slightly lighter than the Pomoca Climb Pro S-Glide above.
What we don’t: Tail attachments aren’t very secure and we prefer Pomoca’s glue.
For ounce-counters and ski mountaineers, the fairly heavy weight and bulky nylon build of G3’s Escapist above is decidedly overkill. Enter the G3 Minimist Glide, the brand’s lightest and most packable momix design that offers an exceptional combination of traction and speed. G3’s versatile tip and tail hardware fits a variety of ski widths, and they’ve also added a carbon fiber insert at the tip to prevent snow from getting between skin and ski (a nice feature for gloppy conditions). Finally, like the options above, the Minimist comes in a range of lengths with the hardware preinstalled, cutting out a step in your setup process.
Compared to our top-ranked Pomoca Climb Pro S-Glide, the Minimist Glide features a similar mohair-nylon blend, uses more durable metal hardware, and is lighter by a few ounces per skin. That said, we prefer Pomoca’s glue over G3’s (we’ve had a pair of G3 skins that quite simply failed to stick), and the Minimist’s tail clip has a tendency to slip out of the tail strap, which can result in skin failure (a ski strap offers a quick fix) and requires purchasing a replacement part. Given these concerns, the Climb Pro S-Glide strikes us as the more reliable and premium design. But the G3 nevertheless is another great option for weight-conscious skiers, and you can go even lighter with the all-mohair Minimist Speed.
See the G3 Minimist Glide Skins
9. Pomoca Climb Pro Mohair ($210-$225)
Weight: 15.8 oz. (110mm x 170cm)
Materials: 100% mohair
What we like: Great glide and grip in cold snow conditions.
What we don’t: Not as durable as nylon or nylon blends.
If you live in a cold climate such as Colorado or have a hut trip planned in the Canadian Rockies, the Pomoca Climb Pro Mohair is a great addition to your touring kit. Mohair shines in cold-snow conditions, and the Climb Pro uses additional weaving techniques to ensure a confident grip without any negative impact on weight or glide. Further, you get Pomoca’s sticky-but-not-too-sticky glue that backcountry skiers have come to know and love, and the plush is treated to resist water absorption (and therefore gloppiness) in warmer temps. If you're in the market for a 100% mohair daily driver, the Climb Pro is well worth a closer look.
Of course, the all-mohair Climb Pro makes compromises that a synthetic blend does not. For one, despite Pomoca’s weaving techniques and treatments, mohair will wear faster than a blend or all-nylon design. Additionally, in warmer climates where an icy skin track is par for the course, you’ll find superior grip with a momix blend, such as the 70/30 mix found in our top two picks. Similarly, beginners will want to err on the side of grip and choose either a blend or a full nylon option like the budget-friendly G3 Escapist. That said, more experienced backcountry skiers and those covering a lot of ground in a day will find a lot to love in this light and supple climbing skin.
See the Pomoca Climb Pro Mohair Skins
10. Colltex Mohair Mix ($230-$240)
Weight: 1 lb. 3.9 oz. (including protective backing)
Materials: 65% mohair, 35% nylon
Widths: 110, 120, 130mm
What we like: Lightweight and packable.
What we don’t: Not as grippy as our top picks; glue is very sticky.
For a momix blend that’s on par with a pure mohair skin in terms weight and packability yet performs as well as top all-rounders, look no further than the Colltex Mohair Mix. Another Swiss-made option from a company with decades of experience, the Mohair Mix (named the “Tödi” in Europe for the Swiss Alps massif) glides as well as any on our list. And while a few other momix skins provide better grip (such as Pomoca’s Climb Pro S-Glide and Contour’s Hybrid Mix), we have no real complaint with the Colltex’s performance when the skin track gets steeper. The true selling point is the Mohair Mix's compact form, which will take up noticeably less room in your pack than most nylon-mohair skins. As a result, we’d recommend the Mohair Mix to just about anyone.
Another selling point of the Colltex is its supremely sticky glue, which is admittedly a double-edged sword. On the one hand, a super lightweight skin will need a bit more adhesion to keep it attached to the ski (especially in cold temps), and the Mohair Mix does this well. The flip side, of course, is that overly sticky skins can slow down transitions, stick to themselves in frustrating or sloppy ways, or attract and hold all manner of debris. This is where it comes down to personal preference and specific needs. If you like your skins to need a little oomph to release from your skis, you’ll be happy with the Mohair Mix. If you want your skins to rip off a bit easier, opt for one of the other choices above.
See the Coltex Mohair Mix Skins
Climbing Skin Comparison Table
|Pomoca Climb Pro S-Glide||$210-$240||70% mohair, 30% nylon||1 lb. 6.2 oz.||100, 110, 120, 130, 140mm|
|Contour Hybrid Mix||$190-$210||70% mohair, 30% nylon||1 lb. 6 oz.||115, 135mm|
|Black Diamond Ascension||$190||100% nylon||1 lb. 10 oz.||133mm|
|Pomoca Race Pro 2.0||$160-$170||100% mohair||6.9 oz.||59, 62, 65mm|
|Black Diamond GlideLite Mix FL||$210-$220||65% mohair, 35% nylon||1 lb. 8 oz.||110, 135mm|
|G3 Escapist Universal||$155-$183||100% nylon||1 lb. 7.6 oz.||70, 100, 120, 140mm|
|Pomoca Free Pro 2.0||$230-$240||70% mohair, 30% nylon||1 lb. 1.6 oz.||123, 140mm|
|G3 Minimist Glide||$215-$233||70% mohair, 30% nylon||1 lb. 1.8 oz.||100, 115, 130mm|
|Pomoca Climb Pro Mohair||$210-$225||100% mohair||15.8 oz.||120mm|
|Colltex Mohair Mix||$230-$240||65% mohair, 35% nylon||1 lb. 3.9 oz.||110, 120, 130mm|
Climbing Skin Buying Advice
- What are Climbing Skins?
- Nylon vs. Mohair
- Skin Components
- Skin Sizing and Fit
- Standard vs. Custom-Cut Skins
- Skin Maintenance
- Common Issues with Skins
- Splitboard Skins
- Completing Your Backcountry Ski Kit
What are Climbing Skins?
For traveling in the backcountry, skins are an essential piece of equipment. In short, they are strips of fabric—most often nylon or mohair (or a blend of the two)—that attach to the bottom of touring skis and allow you to climb uphill. The opposite side is an adhesive that sticks to the base of your ski, with attachment points at the tip and tail. To best illustrate how skins work, imagine petting a dog. When you move your hand in one direction, the fur feels soft and smooth. When you go against the grain, you likely feel some resistance. This resistance is what allows skiers to walk uphill without sliding backward. Alternatively, when you’re on flatter ground, the skins allow you to glide forward easily.
Nylon vs. Mohair
Another key consideration in purchasing climbing skins is the plush material: skins are made using nylon, mohair, or a combination of the two. Nylon and mohair skins work the same way, but the materials differ considerably in overall performance. An all-nylon skin like the Black Diamond Ascension will typically have excellent climbing abilities and provide grip in a variety of conditions. However, nylon is heavier, bulkier, and doesn’t glide as well as mohair. An all-mohair skin (made from the hair of Angora goats), on the other hand, is generally lightweight, packable, and able to maintain speed on flat sections. On the other hand, mohair doesn’t have the same sticking power as nylon—especially on steep skin tracks—suffers in wet snow, and tends to be pricier and less durable in the long run. In the end, our favorite skins use a blend—the Pomoca Climb Pro S-Glide, for example, uses 70% mohair and 30% nylon to harness the performance benefits of both.
A final decision on skin material should come down to your skiing goals. Skimo and randonnée racers, as well as serious ski mountaineers aimed at traveling fast and light, should consider all-mohair skins. For skiers new to touring, we recommend choosing an all-nylon or mostly nylon skin for the lower price, better durability, and more secure feeling on the skin track. For seasoned backcountry-goers with good technique, mixed-material skins provide great overall performance both in straightaways and while traveling uphill.
Skins have four important components worth breaking down: tip clip, tail clip, adhesive, and plush (fur). The tip and tail clips function just as their names imply: The tip clip keeps the front of the skin attached to the front of the ski, while the tail clip does the same at the back. The adhesive is what firmly sticks the skins to ski bases. And the plush—usually nylon or mohair—is what allows skis to travel both uphill and downhill on snow.
Tip and Tail Clips
Tip and tail clips vary in design depending on the manufacturer and model, and certain clips work best for certain ski shapes. Black Diamond and G3’s tail clips, for example, are most effective on skis with flat tails, although G3 sells twin-tip connectors for $20. The Pomoca Race Pro 2.0 skins forego tail clips entirely to shave weight for skimo racing (we don’t recommend this style for everyday backcountry skiing). We prefer G3 tip clips for skis with wider shovels (tips), while Black Diamond tip clips typically work better for skis with narrower shovels. Although certain skins are preferable for certain skis, all of the picks above—with the exception of the Race Pro 2.0—are universal and will work well with most backcountry skis.
The adhesive on skins is what helps them stick to your ski bases. It’s typically made with a tacky glue, but the downside is that this glue can stick to other objects as well—such as dog fur, down feathers, or pine needles. Additionally, although it releases from ski bases relatively easily, when skins are stuck together (the appropriate storage method), it can often take a great deal of effort to pull them apart. In the end, dealing with stickiness is unavoidable (it’s certainly better than not enough adhesion), although some companies have invented small workarounds. G3’s skins have a non-sticky “Rip Strip” that runs down the center of each skin, and Contour’s Hybrid Mix features a combination of standard glue and a glueless technology.
Finally, and arguably most importantly, is the plush side of your skins (also referred to as “fur”). Typically made of nylon, mohair, or a blend of the two materials (often referred to as “momix”), the plush is what gives your skis the ability to climb up the skin track yet still glide on flat areas and slide down any downhill sections. Given the notable differences between the two materials, we've broken them down in-depth above.
Skin Sizing and Fit
Some skins come in varying widths (often in 10 to 15mm increments), while others are available in just one size (like the 133mm Black Diamond Ascension). When selecting your skin, the goal is to cover as much of the base as possible (just shy of the edges) for maximum grip. You’ll want to take into account the width of the widest part of your ski that touches the ground, not the underfoot width. For example, if your ski’s dimensions are 133/105/119mm, you should purchase a skin that’s at least 133mm wide. Some weight-conscious skiers prefer to use skinnier skins, but you’ll always want to cover the entire width underfoot (in the example above, this would mean going with a skin no smaller than 105mm). The biggest downside here is less traction (and it can be a fair amount), and whether that’s worth the tradeoff in weight is up to you.
After determining skin width, it’s also important to nail the length. Most climbing skins are sold in different length ranges (with tip and tail attachments already installed), and you customize the fit via the varying adjustments on the tail clip. In this case, select the range that includes your skis’ length (e.g. if your skis are 165cm long, purchase the 162-172cm version of the skins). On the other hand, some models (like the G3 Escapist Universal) have limited length offerings (175 and 200cm for the G3), which means they’ll need to be cut to fit your skis. The process of cutting and attaching the tip clip is fairly straightforward, but if you’re uncomfortable with DIY, most ski shops will do it for a small fee.
Fitting Skins to Your Skis
Once you purchase the right length and width of skin, a few steps remain before you’re ready to hit the skin track. The most time-consuming portion is trimming the width, which must be done for all skins except for those custom-cut to specific skis. Included with your skin will be a trim tool and instructions for cutting your skins—keep in mind that you can’t un-cut a skin, so we recommend reading the manufacturer’s instructions and watching their videos online before trimming. In terms of the length, most modern skins come with preinstalled hardware, meaning no trimming is involved—just use the adjustable tail clip to fit the skin snuggly on your ski.
Standard vs. Custom-Cut Skins
The climbing skins above can be adapted to fit almost any skis, but it’s also possible to buy skins pre-cut for some popular backcountry models. For example, the Black Crows Pilus Navis Freebird skin comes in four lengths that are cut specifically for the four different sizes of their Navis Freebird ski. Because of their custom nature, these skins tend to run on the pricey side, but the convenience is well worth it for many.
On a similar note, the vast majority of precut skins are co-branded. Most skins are made by one of just a few manufactures, including Black Diamond, Pomoca, G3, Contour, and Kohla (Pomoca is responsible for DPS and Dynafit skins, while Contour makes Black Crows’ and Elan's offerings). Because of this, the information provided above can still be very helpful for those who decide to opt for custom-cut skins. For example, the Dynafit Speedskin series utilizes similar technology as Pomoca’s Climb Pro S-Glide, including the use of Pomoca’s beloved glue.
Caring for Your Skins While Touring
Your skins will have a better chance at lasting through a full day of touring if you take good care of them while you’re out there. The key is to keep your skins warm, dry (and free of snow), and to take the time to address any issues right away, before they become a day-ender. Before putting your skins on your skis, take a moment to brush your ski bases with a gloved hand to remove snow, ice, and other debris, and dry the bases as much as possible. Take your time to line up your skins and press them onto your bases each time you put them on—this will help keep them snow free.
There are several techniques for taking your skins off your skis, and some are better than others depending on the conditions. The simplest way is to remove one ski and one skin at a time. Start from one end (usually the tail) and peel the skin off, folding it against itself in thirds (with the sticky sides together) as you move up the ski. By folding it as you go, you limit the chance for the glue to collect snow, debris, or to stick to itself (or you) while blowing around in the wind. Once it’s folded up, put the skin either into your ski pack or ski jacket before removing the other one. Keeping your skins in your jacket close to your core is a good way to keep them dry, warm, and properly sticky, especially when you’re doing multiple laps (and especially on cold, stormy days). As you get faster at transitioning, it’s also convenient to stuff your skins into your jacket and save yourself the time of taking your pack off at all.
How to Store Skins
In order to maximize lifespan, you’ll want to store your skins properly between tours and seasons. During the winter, it’s important to dry them out after each use—it may be easy to forget about your skins sitting in your ski pack or in the car, but if they’re left in a cold or wet location, they won’t perform well the next time you venture into the backcountry. We like to hang our skins indoors in a room that gets some airflow, ensuring that the glue is not touching anything that might dirty it. Additionally, don’t hang your skins near a heat source, like a fireplace or wall heater.
In the off-season or during any extended break from skiing, it’s a good idea to store the skins with the included skin savers. These are strips of mesh-like plastic that stick to the adhesive sides of your skins and are designed to protect and preserve the glue and keep off debris. To apply, smooth the mesh strips onto the skin adhesives and keep them either loosely folded in a bag or hanging in a dry space.
Common Issues with Skins
Adhesive Won’t Stick
There are two main reasons that the adhesive isn’t sticking to your touring skis: either it’s too cold, or your skins have a buildup of snow or ice. The best solution is to remove the skins from your skis and firmly rub the adhesive on your thigh or hip. You can also prop one of your skis vertically in the snow and use the edges to scrape snow off the skins. This friction should warm up the glue and knock off any lingering ice chunks. Before putting the skin back on, make sure your ski is also clear of snow and ice, and try drying it off with your ski glove or jacket sleeve. If the skins are still having trouble sticking, you can attach a ski strap around your ski and skin to give them a little more security (we keep a few ski straps in our pack for this purpose). To prevent this from happening in the future, make sure to store your skins in your jacket while you’re skiing and dry them out overnight.
Skins Won't Glide
Skins can often feel extremely sticky on snow and won’t glide the way they should. This usually happens during warm spring days. In short, warm and wet snow can melt and re-freeze onto the skin plush, making it nearly impossible to glide and even harder to climb uphill. The best way to solve this problem is to shave off all snow and ice using the edge of your ski, then apply a special skin wax (like Black Diamond Glob Stopper) to the plush to help prevent further buildup. You can also apply this wax to your skins before heading out if you know temperatures will be near or above freezing.
Tail or Tip Clip Breaks
Some tail and tip hardware seems to last forever while others are a bit more susceptible to breaking. In particular, Pomoca tail clips are made of plastic, which isn’t as robust as the metal clips on G3 and Black Diamond skins. That said, no parts are invincible to snapping or tearing. Should one break, the easiest backcountry fix is to use a ski strap (like G3's Tension Strap) to keep your tips and tails joined to your ski bases until you’re done climbing for the day. Additionally, most brands sell replacement parts for their skins that are relatively inexpensive. Keeping a small repair kit in your ski pack with spare parts, a ski multi-tool, wire and hose clamp (for fixing a broken pole), and even some duct tape can make the difference in continuing your day or cutting it short.
If you’ve come here looking for splitboard skins, you might be disappointed not to see any specific options in the picks above (most of our staff are skiers, after all). But there’s still a lot to glean from our breakdown, including details on the pros and cons of nylon and mohair, how to properly size your skins, and the various glue types available. And while many of the brands mentioned above also make splitboard-specific skins (the Black Diamond Ascension Splitboard, for example), it’s a good idea to look at offerings from splitboarding companies in particular, including Jones (made by Pomoca), Nitro and Karakorum (both made by Kohla), and Spark R&D (made by G3). Like ski skins, splitboard skins are offered in both custom-cut and batch varieties, and most also come with pre-installed hardware.
Completing Your Backcountry Ski Kit
Finding a good pair of climbing skins to pair with your backcountry skis is a great start to venturing past the ski lifts. In addition, you'll want to be sure to have a complete avalanche rescue toolkit, which includes an avalanche beacon, shovel, and probe (and proper training on how to use them—we recommend a Level 1 course from AIARE or the American Avalanche Institute). A ski backpack will also be essential for carrying your supplies. In terms of other clothing and equipment, we’ve compiled in-depth lists—many of which include backcountry-specific picks—for everything from ski helmets, goggles, and gloves to ski jackets and pants. Our backcountry skiing checklist is a great place to start, or you can check out all of our ski gear reviews here.
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