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Ski Skins – A Guide to Climbing Skins for Off Piste Skiing

  • Filip 
Skier applying skins to off piste skis

A common question that confuses many skiers, especially the ones who aren’t familiar with backcountry skiing skins. 

Climbing skins or ski skins are fabric strips that are attached to the bottom of the skis. That way, it makes it easy for you to climb up hills without removing the skis from your feet. So, when the ski is moving forward, you tend to slide easily uphill. And the fibers on the skins grip the snow, so it prevents your skis from sliding backward. 

Moreover, most of the skins that you find around are attached to the skis with sticky glue, tail clips, or tip loops. Let’s learn more about climbing skins in this post. 

What are ski skins?

You may have seen skiers walking uphill on their skis and might have wondered how it is possible. In reality, they have the skin attached to their skis. So, what are ski skins? Popularly known as climbing skins, these skins are produced from fiber that resembles animal fur. These are handy attachments that are placed at the bottom of skis.

So, what’s the benefit? When you take a step while climbing, the fiber opens up. As a result, you get the necessary resistance needed to carry you uphill. And, all this gets done without the need to remove your skis. Hence, with skins around your skis, you can walk uphill hassle-free.

Contrary to the popular belief, ski skins have been around for some time. It is even predicted that skins were available from the beginning when skis became popular. Skis were popular in the early days because people used them as modes of transport. 

The surface area of the ski allows users to stay on top of snow and allows them to travel great distances. To increase its effectiveness, people used animal skin on the bottom of the skis. Back then, the skins were crafted out of sealskin.

That’s because they have a tight grain of fur that made sliding a lot easier. Also, the skin offers better traction because it was short and stiff. 

How do ski skins work?

Ski skins or climbing skis work with the help of in-built fibers. These fibers allow the ski to slide forward with less effort and not backward. However, the intensity of the climbing skins depends on the material used in the making and how well it is constructed.

As a result, climbing skins might provide you with more grip or more glide. Also, depending on the general properties, a skin might work differently. Many things have changed over the years. But the most common material to be used is mohair and nylon fibers. 

When a ski is attached to the skin and you tend to push off and move against the snow, the fibers engage with the snow and create traction. As said, this technology is ancient like the ski itself. And, it works almost the same way as it was earlier. It appears that there are a few factors that play an important role here.

  • The kind of material used in the skin
  • The length of individual fibers
  • The orientation of the material concerning the base of the ski

In general, the ski skins made of nylon are shorter and provide more grip compared to the mohair fibers that are relatively longer. In general, the skins that provide the best grip have difficulties in gliding. It means that they don’t glide quite well.

However, many skiers prefer to choose grippy skins because maneuver on tracks where they need to have more grip. Moreover, grippy skin is helpful for beginners because it keeps them from sliding backward. Also, it allows the user to work on the technique. 

When sliding, certain materials can create less resistance compared to the others. In general, when a skin offers a better grip, the worse it will glide. This is why mohair skins will glide better compared to nylon skin. 

Why are ski skins important?

Most skiers tend to look for that untracked line and the pristine run that comes along with those turns. However, finding those turns is all about luck and how your stars and Mother Nature favor you. But if you have ski skins, you can walk into the wilderness with complete silence.

And, take as many untracked turns until your legs get exhausted. In today’s world, nothing else is compared to walking through the woods in silence along with a few friends. So, get to the top, take your skins out, and ski downhill toward the untracked line to have the best turns of your life.

Ski skins are an integral part when it comes to earning your turns. However, before getting your skins, gear, the sheer excitement of buying new things, it is wise to take a course about playing safe in the backcountry. 

What about the ski skin pricing?

When it comes to buying a ski skin, you can have a variety of choices. And, each of them has a price tag that differs from one another. In general, you can get a ski skin anywhere between $130 and $300 and above. However, it is worthy to note that the price of ski skin depends on a few factors. So, you have to be cautious while buying one. 

The most important thing to the lookout for is that you would want to match the material and design with your local snow and terrain conditions. That way, you can optimize its overall performance. Certain models make good use of nylon to help them provide better grip while climbing. Whereas, others are more focused on gliding fast. 

How to trim climbing skins and attach them effectively:

Most of the climbing skins that you will find consist of a long rectangular strip. Also, it contains a tail attachment and tip loop system. And, you have to trim the skin’s width so that it matches the ski’s shape. However, make sure that the metal edges are exposed while attaching the skins.

When you leave the metal edges exposed, it provides grip while you are maneuvering hardpack ice and snow. Different products have a different set of instructions that you have to follow. Some manufacturers produce ski skins that are pre-cut and fit specific skis. 

As such, it takes away the trouble that you need to trim the skins. Pre-cut ski skins are labeled specifically or some brands and they are sold in exact lengths and widths that match with the ski size. 

Other equipment that helps you to climb:

It is not that you need only ski skins to help you climb uphill. Other equipment can help you when you need to climb. Here are some of them for you to try.

Climbing bindings

When it comes to providing a critical connection between your skis and boots, climbing bindings come in handy. Ultralight tech bindings or climbing bindings are intended for uphill-focused skiers. Also, it is helpful in areas where there is no option for a chairlift. However, there are lots of models but each of them comes with uphill capability.

Moreover, climbing bindings can operate in both downhill and uphill modes. In general, they are designed with special attention given to saving weight. And, this is essential when you are traveling uphill. Also, most of them are compatible with specific boots that have tech fittings. 

When choosing the right climbing bindings, you should consider a few factors such as downhill or uphill performance, safety, retention, ease of use, durability, price, and weight. Also, you should find out whether or not it is compatible with your existing ski boots.

Ski boots for climbing 

Most people find it hard to believe that ski boots are built for uphill-centered skiers. In reality, ski boost for climbing is another great choice for many off-piste skiers. With these boots, you can ice climb without trouble. 

In short, ski boots will perform well when it comes to ice climbing, but you should bring the right equipment. Because of their rigid design, ski boots provide you with the support that you need while ice climbing. However, keep in mind that your boots might appear a bit heavier compared to mountaineering boots.

Adjustable poles

These kinds of poles are specifically designed to ensure much safety and comfort when it comes to an uphill climb. The best part of adjustable poles is that you can adjust the length according to your needs. 

When you are going uphill you need short poles. And when you are going downhill you need the poles to be longer.

The adjustable poles consist of a diverse range of length adjustment that securely locks into the length you have chosen. The locking mechanism is amazing and doesn’t create problems while you are approaching an uphill track. Also, adjustable poles give you the freedom unlike choosing a specific length of ski poles.


Finding a nice pair of ski skins is a great way to start venturing ski lifts. However, there are a few factors that you should consider when buying skins such as quality of material, length, and width. Also, it is important to understand how to make the skins trim so that it attaches to the skis with ease and provide you with the right traction needed while climbing.