Best Climbing Skins
While many of us would prefer a cold day of winter spent indoors with some hot cocoa in hand, there are the true adventurous spirits out there who not only thrive in winter sports but find ways to flawlessly adapt to the harsher conditions. If this venturesome description sounds like you, you may embrace the frigid temperatures with perfect grace while combing through the backcountry on skis. So how can you properly adapt your skis to demanding terrain? Along with investing in quality boots, bindings, and skis, you will want to equip your setup with some climbing skins.
Originally, climbing skins were made with seal hides, and they provided those on skis with the ability to glide uphill, without sliding backward. Modern climbing skins are now made of materials such as mohair or nylon.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 15 hrs of research
Great glide overall
- Black Diamond Ultra Lite STS
- Contour Hybrid Mix
- Salomon 88
- G3 Alpinist High Traction
- La Sportiva LS Tour
- Black Diamond Ascension
- Volkl V-Werks BMT 94 Vacuum
- Fischer ProFoil Hannibal
- G3 Expedition
- Jones Nomad Pro Quick Tension
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Expert Interviews & Opinions
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Top 10 Picks
1. Black Diamond Ultra Lite STS
Great glide overall
Needs more gripping power, especially in icy conditions
If you’re looking for a pair of climbing skins that are a great choice for nearly all backcountry ski environments, and that allow for a wide range of movement while you’re heading up the slope, our second choice may be just what you need.Read more
These climbing skins are made from a combination of 65% mohair and 35% nylon, which help to keep their overall weight to a minimum, and their ability to glide close to one of the best we’ve seen.
The Black Diamond Ultralite Mix STS climbing skins are attached with a combination of a powerful adhesive and field replaceable Dynex and aluminum tip and tail hardware that is adjustable just to 10 centimeters. So even if the glue wears out while you’re battling with the snowy slope, you can use the tip and tail hardware to make spot adjustments without having to trim.
Because of the increase in mohair content and the basic overall construction, these climbing skins are remarkably lightweight, almost 20% less weight than previous iterations. In addition, the overall length is perfectly suited for a number of different ski types and can be easily adjusted to fit your own.
Not surprisingly, however, given the nature of its composition, these climbing skins don’t fair very well when it comes to grip. There have been a number of reports of difficulty when climbing up slopes, especially in icy conditions.
If you’re looking for a pair of climbing skins that feature the ability to glide and glide well, these are definitely worth a look. In some ways, they are second only to competition level climbing skins when it comes to moving effortlessly from one grip point to the next.
The Black Diamond Ultralite Mix STS skins provide superior performance for most ski conditions at a fraction of the weight and cost. While we certainly would have liked to see a better grip, especially in icy conditions, for most backcountry skiers, this is definitely one to consider.
2. Contour Hybrid Mix
Hybrid glue system
Great tip and tail attachments
The hybrid glue is UV sensitive and should be stored out of the sunlight
Made and manufactured in Austria, these skins are ready for the snow. What stands out about this pair is the hybrid glue mix that is becoming the icon of Contour. The five sizes available are will fit perfectly with nearly any ski.Read more
These climbing skins are made from 70% Mohair and 30% Synthetic materials. They boast their use of hybrid glue, which claims to be one of the easiest methods of attaching and un-attaching the skins. One of the layers provides a secure hold and effortless removal and the other attaches the adhesive to the back of the skin.
In addition to having easy to use and adjustable tail clip, the front clip provides many different toe hooks. As mentioned before, the tip and tail hardware, the strong and durable hybrid glue brings you even more ease of use and works well in cold and warm temperatures. They stick easily to your skis but pull apart easily from each other when they come out of storage. The skins do not have a center section, which makes them very versatile and easy to fit many different skis.
Size and Weight
Depending on the size bought, namely extra-small to extra-large, these climbing skins can range from 145 centimeters to 184 centimeters in length. Unfortunately, the weight has not been listed online. However, from reviews, we can deduce that they are fairly lightweight and feature lengths that can easily accommodate nearly any ski size.
Overall the grip of these climbing skins is fairly strong, and offer great security when it comes to moving up steeper slopes and cliffs.
While the grip of these skins is strong, the glide is not as easy to achieve as we would like. It does take some effort to push off and travel from one point to the next. Also, the skier’s balance does play a significant role in helping to keep things moving.
These innovative skins from Contour are they extremely well suited for long term use and also provide one of the best adhesives we have seen. If you are ready to branch out and are tired of dealing with a hotmelt system, these may be perfect for you.
3. Salomon 88
Easy to use
Great choice for beginners or those wanting versatility in use
Pre-cut for only Salomon skis
In recent years, Salomon has been trying to become a brand that serious backcountry skiers can rely on for their needs when it comes to performance and durability. With this particular entry into the market place, they’ve made a solid attempt at doing just that.Read more
These skins are created using synthetic plush nylon material and featured sewn in nylon tip and tail hardware for added durability and strength.
While the glue used in these climbing skins is fairly strong, and the tip and tail hardware is extremely easy to use, it should be noted that these climbing skins are pre-cut and suited only for the Salomon 88 line our touring skis.
Overall these climbing skins are fairly lightweight, and their pre-cut lengths are a great fit for Salomon skis.
For most backcountry and ski situations, these climbing skins fare very well in the grip department, and their overall balance is commendable. While it doesn’t provide as much grip as some of the others on this list, for the average or beginner backcountry skier, they work very well.
Much like the grip on these climbing skins, the ability to glide is fairly well balanced and is easily achieved in a wide range of ski conditions. These climbing skins are a great choice for a beginner or those who like to move around in a wide range of environments.
We certainly liked the dependability of these climbing skins as well as the balance between the grip and glide. We were however disappointed in the fact that they were designed only for Salomon skis, and that the adhesive was only average strength at best.
4. G3 Alpinist High Traction
Extremely good gripping power
Ability to glide somewhat hampered by the grip and increased weight
If you need to grip the slope with extreme ferocity, you may want to consider using the G3 Alpinist High Traction Skins. Designed for use on more extreme slopes and conditions, these climbing skins offer the ability to safely traverse easily.Read more
These skins are made using 100% nylon material, which makes them extremely durable even in the coldest conditions.
The adhesive used to attach to the skis is fairly strong, but nothing out of the ordinary when it comes to quality climbing skins. The tip and tail hardware features riveted metal clips and hooks with nylon attachments, so it may wear out faster with more frequent use.
These climbing skins are definitely a bit heavier than some of the others on this list, and the added weight does help increase the grip, but also makes gliding a bit more problematic, especially on flatter surfaces.
There is no denying the increased gripping power of these climbing skins. In some cases, customers have reported an increase in gripping power of nearly 25% compared to other brands.
While the grip strength is remarkable, the climbing skins ability to glide, especially on gentle slopes or flat areas leaves quite a bit to be desired. These climbing skins will definitely make long distance movement over gentle terrain somewhat problematic.
If you need a pair of climbing skins that can grip extremely well, then this example from G3 is certainly worth consideration. However, keep in mind that the weight and longer fibers can make gliding from point to point somewhat problematic.
5. La Sportiva LS Tour
Great balance between grip and glide
Specialized for the La Sportiva Skis
La Sportiva is a heavy hitter when it comes to a company that consistently produces high quality sporting equipment. And the La Sportiva LS Tour Skins are no different. With these on your skis, you have signed up for a well balanced skin that can be used for all-around use in back country.Read more
The La Sportiva LS Tour Skins are made from 70 percent mohair and 30 percent nylon. They are equipped with water resistant fluoro carbon.
These particular skins are not necessarily universally adaptable; however, they have been custom made to go with La Sportiva's newer Vapor Skis.
Weighing in at one pound, these grips are fairly lightweight and unlikely to be noticed.
When it comes to performance, these skins are well-balanced to ensure optimal grip and glide to be used in almost any back country setting. They have been specifically designed to provide high performance in all terrain and settings.
If you are looking for quality skins that can be used almost anywhere, and you use La Sportiva Vapor Nano Skis, then these are the skins for you.
6. Black Diamond Ascension
Superior gripping power
Extremely strong glue and less than durable hardware
Requires advanced trimming and adjusting techniques for a truly customized fit
The Black Diamond brand makes a second appearance on our list with this lightweight and adjustable climbing skin that is well suited for a number of different skis and ski environments.Read more
These climbing skins are created using nylon material that features a number of fibers for a plush, more powerful feel at a fraction of the weight previously seen.
These skins feature a fairly strong glue and adjustable tip and tail hardware that are easy to adjust and customize to your specific length and width. While this ability to customize can be somewhat daunting to accomplish at first, with a little practice, it can be easily done. The only other complaints we found were the tip and tail hardware was not as durable as we would expect from a major brand, and that the glue was insanely strong, which made separation from the skis or the other climbing skin after improper storage somewhat problematic.
In regards to size and weight, these skins are slightly on the heftier size but don’t hinder much when out in the field. And since they are fully customizable and adjustable when it comes to length, there shouldn’t be too much of problem there as well.
When it comes to grip, these climbing skins from Black Diamond are some of the most versatile that we’ve seen. They easily provide the grip you need in powder, icy, and every condition in between.
Overall we found the balance between the grip and the glide to favor the grip side of things a bit much, but the movement was still fairly easy with practice.
While the ability to fully customize these climbing skins to your ski may be a great asset, having to essentially trim and adjust your climbing skins to fit your needs may be a bit for some people who tend to focus on ease and convenience. However, once they are customized to your needs, they are very durable and offer one of the best grips we’ve seen in a long time.
7. Volkl V-Werks BMT 94 Vacuum
Fairly easy to use
Both grip and glide performance could be improved
This entry on our list offers a fairly unique product in that they offer a “glueless adhesive” that uses an adhesive that is based on the use of silicon instead of the traditional glue often seen in most climbing skins. While they use pressure and a vacuum seal to attach to your skis, they also offer fairly good performance overall.Read more
These climbing skins are made from synthetic materials, and are fairly durable. Both the silicone adhesive and the skins themselves easily last through quite a few seasons.
As stated in the introduction, these climbing skins use a type of silicone adhesive and vacuum seal to keep our air and moisture to adhere easily to just about any ski you can imagine. We certainly don’t miss the tackiness that you can expect with other climbing skins, and the vacuum seal if properly done is extremely effective.
Overall the size and weight of these climbing skins are fairly average and don’t really add too much of a hindrance to most backcountry skis. While they are not the lightest we’ve seen by any stretch, for most skiers they won’t become too much of a hassle.
With their focus being on the attachment to the skis themselves, Volkl’s attention to both the grip and glide is somewhat lacking. That is not to say that they do not grip effectively; only that we would have liked to see better performance than just average.
Much like their gripping power, the glide ability of these climbing skins is adequate at best. They are certainly nothing to write home about but provide what is needed in most situations.
If you’re done dealing with a sticky mess when it comes to your adhesive, and you like to use wider touring skis, you may want to consider these vacuum sealing climbing skins. While their performance overall is just average, the ability to attach them to your skis without the hassle of temperamental glue may just be what you need.
8. Fischer ProFoil Hannibal
Excellent gliding ability
Fairly good adhesion
Grip performance overall could be improved during colder conditions
This eighth entry on our list also features a fairly unique construction, but this time the focus is on the surface meeting the snow and ice, rather than the ski itself. While most climbing skins feature a directional fiber or hair system that prevents backsliding, the Fischer Profoil line features a base of plastic scales, designed much like the scales of a fish. They are designed to provide superior movement and glide, and are touted as being able to be used on the skis for both uphill and downhill movement.Read more
The climbing skins are made from a synthetic material that was found to be fairly durable overall but did have a few performance issues over time and in more icy conditions.
Most customers found the glue to be adequate, provided the temperature didn’t drop below the teens for extended periods of time while in use. The tackiness and adhesive strength in most conditions, however, was more than adequate.
Overall these climbing skins were surprisingly lightweight given their overall size and design to cover the majority of the ski. Very few people noticed them in regards to added weight.
In conditions where ice wasn’t too large of a factor and the temperature was above about16 degrees, the gripping power of these climbing skins were extremely good. However, colder temperatures or more icy conditions caused the scales to become somewhat ineffective overall.
Generally speaking, the ability to glide for these climbing skins was extremely good, almost too good in some cases, allowing for the occasional backslide in more icy conditions. However, as advertised, they can be easily used to glide on nearly any incline, or even on a flat surface with minimal effort.
While the decrease of performance during icy conditions or colder temperatures was disappointing, overall the Fischer Profoil climbing skins delivered quite well. If you’re looking for a pair of skins that can let you glide almost like a downhill skier, these may just fit the bill.
9. G3 Expedition
Easy to use
Great glide ability
Gripping power could be better
A bit on the heavier side
If you enjoy longer treks into the backcountry, and you need a pair of climbing skins that can withstand the added length of time, these Expedition Skins from G3 are certainly worth a closer look. Designed for long-term use and performance, they are a great choice when extended wear is what you’re looking for.Read more
These climbing skins are made from a synthetic nylon material that is extremely durable, and the tip and tail attachments are made from strong metal. While the hardware may scuff up some skis, overall they are quite easy to use and functional. While the climbing skins aren’t anything pretty, they are workhorses and get the job done.
The tip and tail hardware of these climbing skins are very easy to use and will fit most skis when properly adjusted. The adhesive is fairly good, but nothing spectacular. Overall, the attachment of these climbing skins is straightforward and effective.
These climbing skins come in a length of 205 centimeters and range in width between 50 and 140 centimeters. They pretty much require that the user trim them to fit using the included trim tool, or a sharp, straight edge razor. Overall the weight is fairly hefty, ranging between 13.6 ounces and 33.4 ounces depending on the size.
Overall the gripping power of these climbing skins is good, but not that great. They work well on gentle slopes and flatter areas, but can become somewhat overwhelmed on steeper inclines or icier conditions.
The glide performance of these climbing skins is fairly good, and offer a good bit of easy movement, even on flatter incline.
If you’re looking for a long-term workhorse that can easily handle the elements during a longer expedition, these climbing skins are worth considering. While we would have liked to see better gripping power, overall they aren’t bad at all.
10. Jones Nomad Pro Quick Tension
Fantastic glide ability
Gripping power could be improved
This last entry on our list is designed for use not only on wider skis, but also on snowboards. It features a split design, where the climbing skins are split between two pieces to allow for better weight distribution and a lighter overall feel.Read more
These climbing skins are fashioned out of synthetic and mohair mix that is fairly durable and lightweight, which is an uncommon combination at times.
The adhesive used to connect to the skis or snowboard is fairly strong, but the tail attachment is non-existent, forcing the user to provide on of their own. While it isn’t that big a deal, it can be a bit of a hassle if it is unexpected.
Overall these climbing skins are extremely lightweight for their size, and their weight distribution over the length and breadth of the skis is quite comfortable indeed. Most people actually forget that they are in place.
When it comes to gripping power, there is definitely room for improvement with this particular climbing skin, but for the most part it is adequate for the average user. We simply wouldn’t suggest using it on any extremely steep inclines or cliffs.
When it comes to the glide ability of this climbing skin, there are few that can match it. If used by an experienced user, the glide can certainly allow for a wider array of moves and performance overall, but it can be a bit hard to handle for the beginner.
If you’re interested in fast movement while on the slopes or moving through the backcountry, this lightweight and durable split board climbing skin should certainly be on your radar. While we were a bit disappointed in the gripping power, the overall freedom of movement offered by these climbing skins for more advanced users was certainly an asset.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
At one time, climbing skins were made out of the skin of a seal to provide extra traction and grip, and that’s where they get their names. Today, however, most skins are made out of either nylon, mohair, or a combination of the two materials. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. For example, a climbing skin made out of mohair will often glide much more smoothly than nylon or mixed skins, but they also wear out much quicker. These skins are often only used for competition, where speed is of the essence. Climbing skins fabricated from nylon material are often much more affordable and durable. They also offer superior grip, but really don’t provide the ability to glide as well as mohair.
Mixed, or hybrid climbing skins offer the combination of synthetic and natural materials and offer a fairly good compromise between grip, glide, and affordability. However, if you’re looking for something that specifically highlights the ability to grip the snow or glide through it, the hybrid model may not be suitable for your needs.
Of course, the best climbing skins are only as good as the ability for them to stay on your skis when you need them, and to be easily removed when you don’t. This is where the method of attachment plays a significant role. There are basically two different ways to attach a climbing skin to a pair of skis in most cases. The first one is to use some sort of adhesive. The second is to use hardware of some type to anchor the skin to the ski itself. Glue is messy and can be temperamental when it comes to weather or temperature. Also, the stickiness of the glue will wear out over time, leading to climbing skins that don’t always stay where they should. And finally, keeping the glue side clean can be a bit of a hassle.
All that being said there are some advantages to using glue or an adhesive for your climbing skins. First, if you find a glue recipe that works well, there is little chance of the skin coming off until you want it to. Also, it is relatively inexpensive. Another common method of attachment used in climbing skins is referred to as tip and tail hardware. As the name implies, this method uses a set of grips or hooks that attach the skin to the ski at the tip, or front of the ski, and also at the back, or tail of the ski. With proper measurement and fit, using hardware to attach the skins does have a number of advantages. First, you don’t have to worry about the temperamental nature of glue. If the hardware is functioning properly and the climbing skins are well-fitted, attaching them and removing them are extremely easy. Also, tip and tail kits are remarkably more consistent in their performance, regardless of the size, or weight of the skins themselves.
When it comes to tip and tail kits, there are primarily two different types. The first is often called the European system and features a riveted metal tail hook with an elastic tail loop. This system is best suited for those who have difficulty twisting their leg around while wearing skis to remove the climbing skins once the summit is reached. The second type often referred to as the American style features a non-elastic tip and a tensioning tailpiece are the name of the game. This style requires that you kick your heels back behind you and grab the tail of your skis to remove the climbing skins, which can be somewhat awkward for those who aren’t that flexible.
In order for climbing skins to work properly, they need to fit the skis that you use. As such, the overall size is very important. One option is to use climbing skins that are specifically pre-cut to fit the skis that you are using. Some manufacturers, such as Dynafit have even developed climbing skins specific to their brand of skis. The other option is to cut the climbing skins to fit your skis on an individual basis. While the pre-cut climbing skins may be more convenient for most, many veterans choose to cut their own skins for a truly customized feel.
The grip of the skin refers to the ability of the climbing skins to have traction or dig in against the snow and ice as you move up the inclined surface. In most cases, a better grip is achieved by a tighter or denser material weave. Climbing skins with a good grip are best suited for areas where there is a lot of ski traffic, steeper inclines, and for those who like to build steps as the move upwards on the hill.
The climbing skins “glide” as you may expect, reflects the skins ability to glide or slide on the snowy surface. While grip might be thought of as more important, especially as you’re climbing a hill, glide also plays a significant role in the control of your skis during an uphill journey. Simply put, while the grip allows you to hold onto a point in the snow and ice and rest for a few seconds, the glide of the climbing skin allows you to move between those points with relative ease. While many climbing skins have an inherent “glide factor” based on the materials used and the quality of them, many people chose to help the glide along, since the fibers can wear down after a while. Most of the time, this is done through the process of waxing both your skis and the climbing skins, both for protection and added smoothness when needed.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
How long a pair of climbing skins last depends on what material was used to make them, as well as the care you take in keeping them in good shape. As a general rule, nylon climbing skins are much more durable than mohair skins, and the mixed examples fall somewhere in between. However, with general use and proper upkeep a climbing skin should last you between four and seven years.
Backcountry skiing is not only great exercise and a fantastic challenge, it can also be a lot of fun. Making sure that you have the proper equipment, though is mandatory. One of the things you’ll definitely need is a great pair of climbing skins to help you make it to the summit. We’ve gathered together what we consider the top ten best climbing skins in the market today, so feel free to consider any of these examples for your next adventure. Now you can look forward to enjoying your next skiing adventure.
Other Factors to Consider
Another factor to consider when purchasing a pair of climbing skins is the overall weight. In most cases, the weight is fairly light, but it can still add a noticeable amount to the skis, especially if you’re traveling through heavy snow or ice. In addition to the added weight when carrying your gear through the snow, the weight can also affect how well the material grips or glides against the surface of the snow.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: What exactly are climbing skins?
Simply put, climbing skins are long pieces of fabric that are attached to the bottom of your skis to give you enough traction to climb upslope during backcountry or cross-country ski adventures. They get their name from the fact that in the beginning some were made using the skin of seals, but for the most part, today’s skins are made from nylon, mohair, or some combination of the two. The climbing skins provide traction through the use of tiny fibers or hairs that allow the ski to glide in only one direction. Think of it like petting a dog. If you go with the direction of the hair, your hand will glide over the surface fairly easily. However, if you go against the way the fur naturally grows, your hand is likely to get hindered. In the case of the climbing skins, the snow would be your hand, and the fur would be the fibers of the climbing skin.
q: Should you get pre-cut skins or is it a good idea to do it yourself?
Whether you chose to trim the climbing skins yourself, or buy pre-cut skins depends more or less on two factors. First, whether or not the pre-cut skins will fit the skis you have, and your overall patience and attention to detail. In truth, not all skis will fit the pre-cut options available today, and trimming, once you get the hang of it, isn’t all that hard. It’s just not something that you can do twenty minutes before you start the adventure. Pre-cuts are nice because they are convenient. However, you are limited in the selection that you have. Trimming takes a bit of time to do correctly, but if you spend the time, you’ll be assured a customized fit every time.
q: Which terrain do climbing skins work for best?
While most climbing skins will work in pretty much all terrains, if you are moving through some steeper or longer hills in the backcountry, you’ll want to make sure that the weight, grip and glide of the skins allow for a wide range of possible movement. Larger hills are traversed through a series of switchbacks, much like an old-time train traveling up the mountain. Therefore, a climbing skin that allows you to grip and glide in a fairly equal measure is probably the best way to go.
q: What are some benefits of using climbing skins?
Well, as explained earlier, the traction and glide factor on the bottom of the skins allow you to move uphill without sliding backwards, but they also mean that you can glide forwards. Along with this benefit, they can also save you time. How so? Well, if you come across a route that can save you time, but runs uphill, it’s not a problem. Rather than needing to cross toward gentler terrain that takes longer, you can take the more direct route that saves time. Furthermore, if you are carrying a pack that is heavy, you will have more control with the use of climbing skins.
q: What is the best way to care for my climbing skins?
In order for your climbing skins to work properly, two major things have to happen. First, they have to stay on your skis, and second, they need to be able to prevent you from sliding backward. The rest is up to you. If you want your climbing skins to function well for at least a few seasons, you’ll need to take proper care of them. This includes taking a number of preventative measures and doing routine maintenance to keep them in top form.
First, consider what you’re going to do with your climbing skins during the off-season. It’s important to keep them dry, and in a place that doesn’t get too warm, so storing them in your bedroom closet is probably not the best idea. In most cases, it’s also a good idea to store them with a mesh lining in between the two glue sides to prevent the glue from wearing out too much.
During the season, you’ll want to keep them clean and test the stickiness factor for the glue on a regular basis. This means removing hair, snow, ice, pine needles or anything else that sticks to the glue side on a routine basis. Also, you’ll need to inspect the side that hits the snow for areas of wear and tear.
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