Touring ski four part part 4: Ski climbing skins
Ski climbing skins are often the poor child. Actually quite strange, because without ski climbing skins no ski touring. Ski climbing skins have the function of giving a grip when walking up and sliding when (briefly) descending during the trip. For the actual descent you remove the climbing skins from the skis.
What are skins?
You attach sticky skins to the bottom of the skis at the bottom and attach them to the tip and tail with mostly clips. The sheets are made in such a way that they all have hairs pointing backwards. The effect of this is that if you walk up a slope, the skis cannot slide backwards (the snow hits the hairs, as it were). With every step you take you have a grip: you do not slide down. At the same time, the skis with sheets underneath can slide forward. The step that you always take is therefore first a sliding movement forward and then that same sheet provides grip so that you do not slide back down.
Skins are made of two materials and – of course – there is a hybrid form. Mohair (the hair of the angora goat) is the natural material used for skins. The properties are that it glides very well, but does not necessarily have very good grip. Moreover, it is not as durable. This is the material that is chosen when efficiency and energy saving is the goal.
The plastic riser skin is on the other side. That is a lot more durable, but does not slide as well. For people with less technology and not the need for pure efficiency (for whom the rise is not the main thing, but only a means to get to nice places) this is a good and economical option. Plastic skins are less light, but also less vulnerable. There are also hybrid models on the market that carry the ingredients and properties of both types.
Under the ski
The skins are therefore stuck to your skis at the bottom. In most cases this is done with glue. That glue does not stay behind on the slope of the skis, luckily. But it is important to prevent the adhesive layer from picking up dirt. Otherwise it just doesn’t stick well anymore. After extensive and intensive use, that adhesive layer must also be updated occasionally. Simply apply new glue on it. That is not very difficult, but it is a job.
To make the sticking properties of risers less maintenance sensitive, a few manufacturers have started looking at techniques to make skins stick without using glue. For example, the Gecko brand has designed a skin that sticks with the help of a kind of rubber. Inspired by the animal for which the company is also named. Fischer also has a few seasons ago recently introduced skins with the “Profoil” technology. Glueless skins too, with scales made entirely of plastic instead of hairs. Very strong skins, but both the grip and sliding qualities do not seem to match the original hair constructions (mohair, plastic or hybrid).
Just as with skis, bindings and boots, you can also choose riser skins. A specialist, costly and light weight design for really long trips or speed and efficiency uphill is an option. A robust, often inexpensive option that will take you up, but really for people for whom downhill skiing is more important than folding up. And there is always that hybrid option in between. Take a good look at your use and choose your material.