New article in this seriesski touring"We're going to take a look at an essential and exciting element, skins for ski touring.
Skins for ski touring are made of bristles that prevent the ski from moving backwards on the slope when ascending. When you are in the direction of the hair, you slide. When the hair is caught in the wrong direction, it blocks you. It sounds simple, but there are many subtleties to be aware of to avoid problems.
A little history ...
Originally, around the 1930s, (seal) skins were made from real seal hair. I can assure you that this has not been the case for several decades now. In fact, to be perfectly correct, we should be talking about self-adhesive anti-backwards lint or self-adhesive skin. The materials used today can be natural or synthetic, so the choice will depend on what you're aiming for.
The materials of modern skins
As we have already mentioned, today's skins are no longer made from seal hair. There are two main materials used to make skins: mohair and synthetics.
- Mohair : These are skins made from the hair of Angora goats. They have the advantage of good gliding properties, but wear more quickly. 100 % Mohair skins are for competition use only.
- Synthetic (nylon) : These skins are more durable and more affordable. The grip is good, but the glide is not as good as with mohair skins.
- Combination skin : Made from a blend of mohair (~70%) and nylon (~30%), they offer the best compromise between glide, durability and price. They're the choice of most riders.
Innovation in the world of sealskins
For the past few seasons, Fisher has been offering a brand new technology: "scaly" skins. Profoil ". This invention was inspired by their experience in cross-country skiing, where the principle is similar. What looks like a scaly sole is glued on, even covering the edges. According to the manufacturer, and tests carried out by other skiers, this type of skin offers optimum glide and an effort saving of around 20 %.
With the ski touring market booming, we can look forward to discovering new innovations in the years to come.
How do sealskins stay on skis?
Skin that sticks ...
Traditionally, skins are held in place under skis with glue and fasteners in the tip and tail (optional).
The fasteners ensure that the skins are correctly positioned and tensioned when fitted. The skins are then glued to the length of the ski, making sure there is no snow on the base.
A well-cut skin should cover the sole of the ski but not the edges. Skins are generally cut 10/15 cm from the heel and the ends should be cut in rounded shapes. Note that some brands sell skins specifically cut for their skis, for greater simplicity. Although skins are usually sold with a cutting tool, you can contact a specialist sports shop to make sure the cut is perfectly adapted to your skis!
For competition, racers use much shorter skins with no attachments to the ski heels. This gives them better glide and less weight. The use of a turnbuckle on the tip also makes it possible to remove the skins without leaving the skis, saving precious time. The disadvantage is that you need glue that's in perfect condition to avoid problems on the way up.
... And glue-free skins!
Over the last few years, a new generation of silicone skins has emerged, known as 'glue-free' skins. These products have a number of advantages: they don't re-glue, they are not sensitive to changes in temperature or humidity, and they don't pick up all the crumbs and dust. A simple wash in warm water is all that's needed to clean them. Now that this technology has matured, I would recommend it if you need to buy a new one.
Examples of glue-free hide manufacturers: Gecko, Kohla, Colltex ...
Common problems using skins for touring skis
Whatever type of skin you use, you need to be careful when fitting and maintaining your skins to avoid these problems:
- Take-off : Poorly maintained glue, an incorrectly positioned skin or a layer of snow left between the ski and the skin during fitting will cause the skin to come unstuck during your ascent. You can sometimes get away with removing the skin and warming it against you before putting it back on. You can also apply spray glue or use a makeshift fastening with a strap or double-sided tape, but if that doesn't work, you'll be forced to abandon your ascent!
- Bottage : Sometimes snow can stick to the underside of skins and form hooves. To avoid this, you can use a piece of wax to rub into the skin or dedicated products.
- Tears : This sometimes happens if you run over a rock or sharp object. Try to avoid them as much as possible!
- Glue deposits on soles: This may be a little inconvenient when you're descending, but above all it means that your glue has reached the end of its life and you need to re-glue it. To do this, I advise you to go to a specialist shop, where for a few dozen euros you can get your skins as good as new!
Care and use of ski touring skins
It's important to take good care of your skin, as this will make your life easier the next time you go out. Here are a few tips for use and care:
- Don't glue your skins one on top of the other, as you risk damaging the glue more quickly than expected. The skins are generally delivered with a protective plastic or grid to which you should glue them before folding/rolling them. For skins without glue, simply roll them up on themselves.
- To dry them, whether at home or at the refuge in the evening, avoid sources of excessive heat: open fires, radiators, direct sunlight, etc.
- To improve glide and reduce the risk of shuffling, you can rub your skins with a block of wax.
- When temperatures are very cold, I advise you to put your skins close to your body to prevent them from freezing. Then clean your soles thoroughly before gluing them on - there should be no snow or ice crystals left.
- Never leave your skins stuck to your skis. You'll damage your soles and the glue on the skins. When you put your skis away after an outing, store the skins once they're dry in the little bag provided!
- During the off-season, store them in a plastic bag to prevent the glue from drying out too much in the open air.
- To do a complete re-gluing, first remove the old glue. Then use a hot roll of new glue. Leave to dry for at least 24 hours before using it. I advise you to use a professional for best results.
Now you know everything there is to know about ski touring skins! Now all you have to do is keep an eye on the snow conditions and enjoy some great touring around your favourite resort 🙂