Ever Wondered Who Figured Out All Those Colorado Ski Areas? And 10 Things To Know — Part 8: Climbing Skins

This post by WildSnow.com blogger  
Paul Hauk.
Paul Hauk, probably circa 1950.

I was at the Colorado Ski Museum yesterday doing some errands, and curator Justin Henderson reminded me that a western skiing pioneer passed away September 20. Paul Hauk was an early Colorado skier of the 1930s, and was given the job of making ski area recons and feasibility studies for more than 50 ski areas in the West.

Hauk was inducted into the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame in 1982, in recognition of his pioneer work as one of the first “snow rangers” at Berthoud Pass and A-Basin, and for his contributions to most Colorado ski areas of his time. Newspaper obit here. Justin has Hauk’s touring skis in the museum, and yep, another touring binding I’m missing from the collection. Check it out!

Touring adapter from 1960s.
This is an unusual binding setup. It’s a cable binding circa 1950 with a releasable toe, only in this photo it is configured with a touring adapter “toe iron” that hooked on to the ski behind the release toe. As shown, the adapter is farther back than its intended location, but you get the idea. At first I thought the adapter was a home made job, but it appears to be something that was manufactured.
Click here to enlarge image.
Climbing skins from the 1950s.
And check these out, Hauk’s sealskin climbing skins made out of real seal fur. Look out, PETA is coming! I’ve used real seal skins, and the glide is unbelievable. Someday they’ll make synthetic that’s just as good…. This skin is made with two strips of fur, the forward one still has the animal’s pigment pattern on it.

Which leads us to 10th Things To Know: Part 8; avoid using your climbing skins to give your scalp a Brazilian.

This one is basic, but it’s amazing how many people struggle with their climbing skins in the wind — luckily they’re wearing a hat (and pants) as the depilatory effect of skin glue is quite effective. (Paul Hauk didn’t have to worry about this, as his skins buckled on the skis rather than using glue.) The trick is basic. Start stripping your skin from tip or tail, doesn’t matter. When you’ve removed the skin about half way along the ski, fold it sticky-to-sticky, then finish stripping and fold again. I’ve done this in 80 mph. wind with no problem whatsoever. If you’re removing the skins from the ski tail first (as most do), stick your ski tails in the snow after you’ve got the skin half stripped. Do this in one motion as you pull the skin off from the tail. With the ski tail planted, you can then fold the skin without a moving ski to deal with.

Anyone have more skin tips? Please leave some comments so we have a good knowledge base for this tip.


The list:
10. Jump start a car without blinding yourself.

9. First-aid a serious laceration.

8. Rip skins in the wind without giving your scalp a bikini wax.

7. Fix a broken ski pole with duct tape and pocket knife.

6. Do a jump turn in the face of danger.

5. Start a fire in the snow while you’re shivering.

4. Read a topo map quickly.

3. Quickly dig a person out of an avalanche.

2. Keep your feet warm.

1. Practice a humble mindset so caution rules the day.
PSA: Colorado Ski Hall of Fame Induction Banquet, October 27 at Denver Marriott City Center, call Ski Museum for details: 970-476-1876


10 Responses to “Ever Wondered Who Figured Out All Those Colorado Ski Areas? And 10 Things To Know — Part 8: Climbing Skins”

  1. Chris B October 4th, 2007 7:51 am

    Sometimes I let my skins get too cold (like when you have a long gentle downhill and then suddenly need to skin up again) and the glue doesn’t stick so well. What I do is I stick the ski in the snow and then rub the glued part of the skin really fast back and forth over the edge, using it to heat up the glue through friction.

  2. Stefan October 4th, 2007 8:19 am

    Lou, that is a cool binding. I’ve seen a bunch of Simplex but not one with a touring “adapter” like this one. I assume to switch into ski mode you have to take the brackets off. How does it works with the cable length if you have the boot in the bracket? I assume the toe piece of the boot is not in the Marker front piece any more, or is it?


  3. Lou October 4th, 2007 9:34 am

    Thanks Chris, that’s a great tip, we do the same thing and it works great.

  4. Rick October 4th, 2007 11:24 am

    Is sticking the skins to themselves bad? I always have, but every pair of skins Ive bought comes with non-stick backing tape. I use it for the summer but should you use it in the winter as well?

  5. David George October 4th, 2007 2:15 pm


    Hi Lou,

    I used those type of touring plates when I first started ski touring in about 1965. I think the plates were made by Marker because we used them with Marker toepieces, just like the photo. They worked great with cables. By unhooking the rear cable guide the cable length worked out OK but it was fairly easy to come out of them on the uphill. As I recall the plates came with the tabs unbent and we had to custom fit them to the particular ski and boot widths. I recall using Head skis with these…HEAVY but we got up a lot of Wasatch peaks using these. Dynafits are soooo much better!


  6. Lou October 4th, 2007 9:12 pm

    Stefan, yes, to switch to downhill mode you take the adapter off. It hooks on some studs that are on the sides of the ski. In the photo it’s placed farther back than normal.

    David, thanks for filling us in! If you ever see any of those we need some for the WildSnow binding collection!

  7. Lou October 4th, 2007 9:13 pm

    Rick, For summer it is indeed good to use the release liner on the skins instead of sticking them to themselves. In winter sticking them together is fine.

  8. Matus October 5th, 2007 12:26 am

    Usually I remove the skins while being locked in the binding (touring mode, TLT). When it is too windy and cold I just put it quickly under my jacket any way possible – so far, this has not made any harm to my skins.

  9. Alan Watson October 5th, 2007 11:59 am

    Hi Lou

    Your wildsnow.com photo of the 1950-era cable binding with toe stabilizer looks exactly like my ski gear when I was a kid growing up in Seattle and touring in the Cascades. My father had been in the 10th Mt Division and still loved to tour, and he got me set up with state-of-the-art touring gear back then: long wood skis, army surplus seal skins ($6 a pair), cable bindings, and a touring hitch like the one you show, which I think was made by Marker.

    The system worked quite well, better in fact than much of the fancier gear that has been produced since. The two weaknesses were the flex in the cable binding that didn’t hold the heel down firmly while descending (not such a big deal considering the skis), and the need to shorten or lengthen the cable when changing modes.

    In touring mode the hitch fit right into the toepiece, and kept the toe from releasing to the side. It was simple and worked great. To free the heel it was also necessary to unclip the cable from the guides on the side of the ski, which also required shortening the cable by rotating the nuts where the cables enter the springs up by the binding lever. Before descending we reversed the process, putting the touring hitch in our pack and twisting the nuts the other way to lengthen the cables before hooking them into the side guides. It took quite a few turns of those nuts to adjust the cable length, and I never figured out how to get just the right length without trying the binding on several times and then fine tuning. My fingers were always numb, and I was usually miserably frustrated, before I got my skis ready to descend.

    Those were the good old days!

    Best, Alan Watson
    Salt Lake City

  10. Blair Mitten November 1st, 2007 10:56 pm

    Walter, of Walter’s Ski Shack, sold me a nifty plate, was it Kandahar?, that mounted behind the toe-piece of a standard cable binding in 1970 . The plate had two wings that would flip up to hold the boot in place for the climb. I just had to undo the heel clips for the binding. Maybe the release was questionable, but if I fell hard I think that my feet would have popped out of the mushy leather lace-up boots. Kick turn, traverse. Kick turn, traverse. Walter was very Swiss and lived to be very old. Repairing wood and canvas canoes, tuning our fancy skiis, riding his bicycle, glasses glinting and long white beard flowing.

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information opinion website and e magazine. Lou's passion for the past 45 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about backcountry skiing and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free back country news and information here, and tons of Randonnee rando telemark info.

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