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, these skins were made with seal hides, and they provided those on skis with the ability to glide uphill, without sliding backward. Modern skins are now made of materials such as mohair or nylon. Join us today and check our list of top ten products!
In a Hurry? The test winner after 12 hrs of research
Great glide overall
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 skins that are a great choice for nearly all backcountry ski environments, and that allows for a wide range of movement while you’re heading up the slope, this is a great option. 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.Read more
These 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 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 are remarkably lightweight, almost 20% less weight than previous iterations. Also, the total length is ideally suited for several different ski types and can be easily adjusted to fit your own.
Not surprisingly, however, given the nature of its composition, these don’t fare very well when it comes to grip. There have been several reports of difficulty when climbing up slopes, especially in icy conditions. If you’re looking for a pair that feature the ability to glide and glide well, these are worth a look. In some ways, they are second only to competition level when it comes to moving effortlessly from one grip point to the next.
2. G3 Scala
Trim tool included
Great tip and tail attachments
Easy to transport
Clips are bulky
A unique addition to our list, the G3 Scala features a TPU scale-like tip with G3's Alpinist Plush Nylon fabric. They are great for trail-breaking and side to side movement. If you are looking for the best of both worlds, grip, and glide, this is definitely a skin to look into.Read more
This unique skin features a scaley plastic tip made from TPU and the rest of the skin is made from G3’s well known Alpinist Plush Nylon. They provide great grip and glide and are easy to fit your skis.
These skins are available in short, medium, or long. The tail clip fits securely, and the hybrid tip connector is made from plastic. There is no glue behind the TPU tip, making these easy to remove and transport.
These skins are easy to fit your skis, and even the most extended skin weighs less than one pound. When you are ready to pack them up, you can easily peel them away from the ski and fold the tip down- glue to TPU to glue to TPU. They roll up flat and fit slide easily into your ski bag or backpack.
Up or downhill, the Scala skins are great. The scale pattern at the tip of the skin maximizes grip, allowing you to venture vertically and side to side. The plush fabric also provides excellent glide and is ideal for trail-breaking.
3. Kohla Vacuum Base Zero
Easy to use
Easy to clean
No glue to deal with
Have a tendency to come off skis while touring
Similar to the ProFoil skins on our list, the Kohla also uses a vacuum seal system. They are best used for backcountry skiing and have equal grip and glide. The C-Tech layer is a great addition that helps shed excess water and snow from the skins.Read more
The Kohla Vacuum Base Zero skins are made from 65% mohair and 35% nylon and do not use glue as an adhesive. There is also a C-tech foil in-between the two-layers that sheds water for increased performance.
As mentioned, these skins do not use the adhesion method. They use a vacuum seal system that is quite simple to use. This is especially great for traveling or packing up the skins because they stick to your skis but not to each other. They feature a Cobra 90 universal tip attachment and an adjustable K-Clip tail attachment.
These are available in many different lengths, ranging from 149cm to 190cm. They are also pleasantly lightweight, weighing around 1.8-pounds for the pair.
Ideal for backcountry skiing, these skins have equal grip and glide. However, it has been said that the vacuum seal has a tendency to slide off while skiing more often than glued on skins.
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 skins offer the ability to safely traverse easily. However, keep in mind that the weight and longer fibers can make gliding from point to point somewhat problematic.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 relatively stable, but nothing out of the ordinary when it comes to quality. The tip and tail hardware features riveted metal clips and hooks with nylon attachments so that it may wear out faster with more frequent use.
These 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 here. 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 ability to glide, especially on gentle slopes or flat areas leaves quite a bit to be desired. These will definitely make long-distance movement over gentle terrain somewhat problematic.
5. Pomoca Climb 2.0
One year warranty
Many lengths and widths available
Not as durable as some other options
The Pomoca Climb 2.0 has a higher percentage of mohair, giving it a great glide. The Safer Skin technology helps them to shed water easily and also makes them more lightweight than many skins on the market today.Read more
The Pomoca Climb 2.0 skins are made from 70% mohair and 30% nylon. They are finished with an Ever Dry and Skin Light technology treatments. These treatments make them lighter and less hydrophobic.
Overall, the gluing and attachment of these skins is quite simple. The tail clip is highly adjustable and takes just two clicks until you’re ready to go. It is easy enough to achieve with gloves on and no tools. After that, the back fixed tail strap is comfortable to put into place.
These are available in a wide range of sizes from 155cm to 200cm and widths of 100mm, 120mm, and 140mm. They are about 75-grams lighter than other skins and have a universal fit. They fold down and pack up very easily.
With a higher percentage of Mohair than some of our other blends, these provide excellent grip and decent grip. They are great for just about any terrain; however, you may want to go with caution as the high percentage of Mohair makes them less durable than pure Nylon.
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 skin that is well suited for a number of different skis and ski environments. While the ability to fully customize these skins to your ski may be a great asset, having to essentially trim and adjust your 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.Read more
These are created using nylon material that features several fibers for a plush, more robust feel at a fraction of the weight previously seen.
These skins feature a relatively 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, the Black Diamond is 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 reasonably easy with practice.
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 silicone instead of the traditional glue often seen in most skins. While they use pressure and a vacuum seal to attach to your skis, they also offer fairly good performance overall.Read more
These are made from synthetic materials and are relatively durable. Both the silicone adhesive and the skins themselves easily last through quite a few seasons.
As stated in the introduction, they 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, and the vacuum seal if correctly done, is beneficial.
Overall the size and weight are relatively average and don’t 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 is adequate at best. They are certainly nothing to write home about but provide what is needed in most situations.
8. Fischer ProFoil Hannibal
Excellent gliding ability
Fairly good adhesion
Grip performance overall could be improved during colder conditions
This entry on our list also features fairly unique construction, but this time the focus is on how the surface meets the snow and ice, rather than the ski itself. While most options 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 skins are made from a synthetic material that was found to be reasonably 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 while in use. The tackiness and adhesive strength in most conditions, however, was more than adequate.
Overall these 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 was outstanding. However, colder temperatures or more icy conditions caused the scales to become somewhat ineffective overall. Generally speaking, the ability to glide was outstanding, 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.
9. Black Diamond GlideLite
Easy to transport
Stick to skis well
Great balance of grip and glide
Toe clip installation is difficult
The included trimmer is semi-useless
As you can expect from Black Diamond, these skins are not only good looking, but they have impressive traction as well. While attaching them to your skis can cause a bit of a headache, you'll be smooth sailing (or skiing) after that.Read more
Like many of the skins on our list, the GlideLite is made from a blend of mohair and nylon. This specific blend features 65% mohair and 35% nylon. They are universal skins and can be fitted to just about any ski.
While fitting and attaching these to your skis can be quite a hassle, they do have a universal fit. The tail can be adjusted up to ten centimeters in length, and the tip fits many shapes and sizes. However, there have been many complaints about the attachment screws and materials being weak and challenging to use.
While still slightly more substantial than we would like, the GlideLite skins are about 60g lighter than the similar Ascension models. If you are looking to shed some grams, you can remove the tail clips without sacrificing performance. Reviewers have raved that these skins are very easy to pack and fold down quite thin.
These skins are best for backcountry skiing. The glue sticks best to regularly waxed skis. They offer a great balance of glide and grip but tend to slide out of place during rides. However, they have so many other redeeming factors that they are still a favorite to many.
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 skins are split between two pieces to allow for better weight distribution and a lighter overall feel. If you’re interested in fast movement while on the slopes or moving through the backcountry, this lightweight and durable split board 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 skins for more advanced users was certainly an asset.Read more
These are fashioned out of synthetic and mohair mix that is reasonably durable and lightweight, which is an uncommon combination at times.
The adhesive used to connect to the skis or snowboard is relatively stable, but the tail attachment is non-existent, forcing the user to provide one 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 skins are incredibly lightweight for their size, and their weight distribution over the length and breadth of the skis is quite comfortable indeed. Most people forget that they are in place.
When it comes to gripping power, there is room for improvement, but for the most part, it is adequate for the average user. We wouldn’t suggest using it on any extremely steep inclines or cliffs. When it comes to the glide ability, few can match it. If used by an experienced user, the glide can undoubtedly allow for a more extensive array of moves and performance overall, but it can be a bit hard to handle for the beginner.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
At one time, 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 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.
Skins fabricated from nylon material are often much more affordable and durable. They also offer superior grip, but don’t provide the ability to glide as well as mohair. Mixed, or hybrid skins give 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 highlights explicitly the ability to grip the snow or glide through it, the hybrid model may not be suitable for your needs.
Of course, the best 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 two different ways to attach a skin to a pair of skis in most cases.
The first one is to use some 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 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 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 standard method of attachment used 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 several advantages. First, you don’t have to worry about the temperamental nature of glue. If the hardware is functioning correctly and the 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 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.
For these skins to work correctly, they need to fit the skis that you use. As such, the overall size is significant. One option is to use skins that are specifically precut to fit the skis that you are using.
Some manufacturers, such as Dynafit have even developed skins specific to their brand of skis. The other option is to cut the skins to fit your skis on an individual basis. While pre-cut skins may be more convenient for most, many veterans choose to cut their skins for a truly customized feel.
The grip of the skin refers to the ability of the 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. 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 they move upwards on the hill.
The skin's “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. 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 skin allows you to move between those points with relative ease.
While many 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 skins, both for protection and added smoothness when needed.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
How long a pair 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 skins are much more durable than mohair skins, and the mixed examples fall somewhere in between. However, with general use and proper upkeep, they should last you between four and seven years.
Like most, if not all, of your skiing equipment, your skins also need to be cared for. Remove them from your skis and hang them up to dry. They should be dried out in an area free of dirt, dust, sunlight, or any other irritants to prolong the lifespan of the glue. If you are short or time or have no other option, you can dry them in the sun or near heat, but you should be cautious about taking them down as soon as they are dry.
Other Factors to Consider
Another factor to consider when purchasing a pair of 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, they 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.
They 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 skin.
q: Should you get pre-cut skins or is it a good idea to do it yourself?
Whether you chose to trim the 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 these skins work for best?
While most 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 skin that allows you to grip and glide in an equal measure is probably the best way to go.
q: What are some benefits of using these?
Well, as explained earlier, the traction and glide factor on the bottom of the skins allow you to move uphill without sliding backward, 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 skins.
q: What is the best way to care for my skins?
In order for these 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 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 yours 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.
- Big Sky Mountain Products Nylon Climbing Skins, Winter Sports Blog ,
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