With climbing skins, there’s always a tradeoff. There are so many competing features to consider when you’re purchasing a pair of climbing skins for backcountry skiing or snowboarding. Grip vs. glide? Mohair or nylon? Durable or packable? To help you sift through the sea of gear specs, we decided to take 6 different skins sold at Tahoe Mountain Sports to the skintrack and find out what makes each stand out. Keep reading to find out which skins are our favorites, and the compromises they all make to keep us moving fluidly towards our different backcountry objectives.
If you get frustrated with glue sticking to the base of your skis and want a low maintenance skin, this the skin for you. They use a hybrid adhesive which is made up of two layers of glue – an outer layer to provide just enough tack to stick to your skis and an inner layer that attaches the outer adhesive to the skins themselves. This type of skin construction is the first of it’s kind and with it, CAMP has created the climbing skins that are incredibly easy to use. You can forget about the tedious process of re-gluing skins with the Contour Hybrid Mix. Maintenance is as easy as washing the outer adhesive layer with soap and water. The obvious benefit of these skins is the ease of use but they also pack a punch on the skintrack. They use a mohair blend which provides a good balance of grip and glide.
I have now used these skins in a variety of conditions and have had some mixed experiences. In general, on the first lap, they are perfect, no issues whatsoever. They glide superbly and grip well. One weak spot is their tail clips which are a bit loose and on one epically perfect powder day, a tail clip got knocked off, and many switchbacks later, the tails started to separate from my skis and cause epic failure. 4 ski straps and some careful skinning later and I was able to squeeze in 2 more laps, but it was a battle. On all other days, when everything was working how it should, these skins did stick to my bases fine. I think these would be perfect for warmer, spring days and probably won’t be in my pack for a week in the Canadian cold.Dave
Bottom line: Great option for experienced skinners, they compact down impressively (see pic), glide effortlessly but, you need to be conscious of their condition, keep them clean and failure could be brutal.
The Alpinist+ Universal is an all around performer striking a middle ground balance on grip, glide, weight, and durability. The unique tip clip has two auto-adjusting claws to provide a secure connection to your skis. G3 is using a new non toxic adhesive in these skins and the Minimist Glide below so if you’re concerned about what you leave on the skintrack and the various contaminates from glues and wax which ultimately ends up in our waterways, check G3 out.
Tried and true is what I like to say about these. A nice combination of grip and glide, somewhere in between the BD Ascension and BD Ultralight. I don’t notice much of a difference on the Scala tip construction other than that its a little more bulky and prevents me from rolling these up in my chest pockets comfortably. Glue is good and has been improved from many of the previous iterations. We have not had a single warranty case on G3 skins this season which cannot be said for some of their previous version.Dave
Bottom line: Great option for those looking for a nice mix of grip and glide, super easy to trim to your skis and G3 does make the best skin trimming tool on the market.
Keep reading: Click here for an in-depth review of G3’s Splitboard+ Grip skins.
These are brand new this season from G3 and like the name implies, they focus on lightweight and packable construction for the minimalists among us who think in terms of grams. The skins are a 70% mohair, 30% nylon blend, a high performing blend that glides extremely well. These skins are crazy light, the medium size (for skis 172 – 178 cm) weighs only 217 g. One thing we especially love about G3 skins is that they use non-toxic adhesives.
Solid performance in a wide variety of conditions. Important to take care of them in the cold as their lightweight backing does take a little more precision when kick turning so snow does not build up in the tips or tails. Glide is great, better than BD’s ultralight in my opinion, but not as awesome as some Pomoca options. But, these are significantly less expensive than the Pomoca’s so they win that contest. Also, easy to trim and great tip hook options that will fit a huge variety of tip shapes.Dave
Bottom line: Best for experienced skinners looking for maximum glide, excellent price and versatile performance in a wide variety of conditions.
This is the climbing skin for professionals. We can’t say enough about the great grip and glide these skins manage to achieve with a 70% mohair and 30% nylon blend. New updates for the 19/20 season include an improved tip attachment and more versatile glide treatment which allows the skin to perform well over a wider variety of temperatures and conditions, handling everything from frigid, squeaky snow to warm, sunbaked glop. We love how well the Pomoca S-Glide performs on the skin track, plus they’re light and packable when it comes time to stuff them into a pocket or pack. Pomoca is slowly getting market share in North America after being a top choice in Europe for many years.
Probably the best blend of overall performance, weight and compactness. Grippy enough that they work well for a beginner skinner but glidy and compact enough for somebody with years of backcountry experience. The straight edge tip connector fits over most skis well, but does have limitations. Easy to trim and the glue stays where it should, on the skins. Works well in all conditions and in all temperatures.Dave
Bottom line: Buy these, they rock!
These skins are a classic, and in this case, you just can’t beat the classics. The Ascension built a name for itself for excellent grip and uphill traction. They are a go-to at Tahoe Mountain Sports because they strike a balance between grip and glide that the majority of backcountry users love. This winter brings an update to the skin material, making them lighter and more packable than ever. These are the winners in the durability category, making them a good choice for folks who are hard on gear. In fact, we’re willing to wager that they will outlast your skis.
I love the bomber grip these skins provide no matter what snow conditions are like. These give me confidence when making kick turns in steep terrain and provide the right amount of glide so that I feel like I’m covering ground efficiently on flatter terrain. The tradeoff for maximum traction on the uphill is that these skins are on the bulkier side and take up more space than others on this list.Siobhan
Bottom Line: Best for those prioritizing uphill traction, however, they are bulkier than most.
Here are the skins designed for “fast and light” enthusiasts. I’m looking at you, skimo and racing fanatics but that’s not to say that they exist exclusively for that crowd. They are also a good choice for anyone looking to cut down on a bit of weight and save space in a ski tour pack. A 65% mohair, 35% nylon blend gives them a good balance of grip and glide similar to others on this list. If you’re coming from the Black Diamond Ascension above, you’ll notice a significant improvement in glide and packability.
Not a huge fan of this tip attachment system as its a bit squirrelly and doesn’t feel totally secure. Skins glide well but not as well as some others in this category but these do have better grip than similar ultra glide skins probably due to the higher percentage of nylon. Longer process to trim since you have to cut to length but that’s a minor inconvenience that you only have to go through once.Dave
Bottom line: Best for experienced skinners looking for maximum glide along with Black Diamond quality and performance.
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Keep reading – The Ultimate Guide to Backcountry Skiing: everything you need to know from what gear to carry to the best places to ski.
Former park ranger turned writer/marketer. Always down for a sufferfest, as long as it ends with ice cream. Favorite activities include backcountry skiing, trail running, and backpacking.