High Trails Climbing Skins have ‘Suction’ Adhesive

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | May 13, 2014      

Update, November 2015: After extensive testing I’ve concluded that this type of skin “adhesive” is problematic in colder temperatures such as our routine winter weather in Colorado, or in places such as interior Canada. We feel High Trails has a place, but best used in warmer temps or in situations where skin failure is a non issue, such as resort uphilling or “one lap” ascents with easy exits.

High Trail Evotec  climbing skins cut for one of our DPS quiver arrows.

High Trail Evotec 'glueless' climbing skins cut for one of our DPS quiver arrows. They come in a nice retail box, with decent instructions and good tip/tail attachments. Only thing lacking was a modern skin trimmer. In lieu of a tool, their instructions suggest offsetting the skin to one side, trimming, then offsetting and trimming again. Instead, I used one of the skin trimmers we had laying around. Doing so worked, but I had to be super careful to make a firm cut as the cutter tended to wander due to the skin pulling up from the ski.

Some of you might remember our several year epic with the revolutionary Gecko skins. You know, the ones that were “glueless” and had amazingly civilized behavior around dog hair and dirt — but seemed to always fall short in durability.

The same or similar “molecular adhesion” technology is in use by Swiss company High Trail. Their skins have been out in the wild for some time now, but we’ve been gun shy about testing due to previous experiences with this technology. Now it’s time to put on the ballistic vest and give these guys a good long-term try. Interestingly, the High Trails honor us with a rat tail that harkens to the tail fix method we helped refine many years ago, only this one has a nice little catch thingy so you don’t have to put a screw in the tail of your ski. Very cool.

In testing, Lisa has used the High Trail skins on her DPS Wailers for quite a few days. She’s had no problem with adhesion, and inspection for mechanical damage to the “adhesive” reveals a few small dings but nothing that compromises performance. “I don’t need shoulder surgery after taking them off my wide skis,” she says, “That’s my favorite thing. They’re also much more forgiving of contamination.”

The tip and tail attachments have held up fine. I noticed the plush along the custom-cut edges unraveling more than conventional skins after a few days of use. Cure was a quick hit with the Bic.

The flaming question with these sorts of skins is how they perform in wet or cold conditions. We’ve found the High Trail adhesive to behave about the same as conventional glue in the wet, and perhaps even better as the adhesive is extremely hydrophobic. In situations such as rain or soggy snow, you can shake the moisture off and dry the skin by rubbing against something like a cotton shirt. Care becomes more difficult when the High Trail glue gets coated with dry/cold snow. With conventional skins, you can rasp such snow off the glue by rubbing on your ski edges. Doing so with the High Trails would probably damage the adhesive. Solution, you’ve got to be more careful with getting snow on them when removing and storing.

Overall, we’re giving the High Trails a tentative thumbs up, but since durability seems to be the main challenge with “no glue glue,” we feel an extended use cycle is necessary before we start raving. We’ve got enough skiing left this spring to take care of that, so stay tuned.


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23 Responses to “High Trails Climbing Skins have ‘Suction’ Adhesive”

  1. Smokey May 13th, 2014 10:50 am

    Talk to me after 4-5 years and a million vert on them 😉 In the meantime, I’ll stick with my nylon BD’s which have killed it now for 5 years. Hard to match the highly set bar..

  2. Brian May 13th, 2014 11:23 am

    No comment about the weight of these? Man, I thought I was reading wildsnow.com! 😉

  3. Lou Dawson May 13th, 2014 11:31 am

    Man, I messed up! I’ll comparo to the “other brand” right now!

  4. Lou Dawson May 13th, 2014 11:41 am

    In truth, I’ve been weighing skins quite a bit since I’ve got multiple pairs cut for the same skis. I’m just not seeing much difference other than if using full-on skimo race skins, sadly, and that’s the reason I tend to not fool around with weighing skins for reviews. Also, to be realistic I’d have to soak the skins in water, drain for a standard time, then weigh. It’s definitely the next frontier in weight savings, but before going to the trouble of a big weight comparo (that would be out of date in 18 months) I’d like to see some skins that were noticeably lighter than other brands.

    In this case, here are the weights, skins cut for Lisa’s 168cm Wailer and Yvette

    High Trail is 11.8 ounces, 336 grams.
    G3 High Traction is 11.6 ounces, 328 grams.

    Those differences are nothing more than one skin being trimmed a slightly different shape than the other.


  5. Wookie May 13th, 2014 1:13 pm

    several brands here in Europe offered these this winter. The anecdotal response has been very positive. My understanding is that it is NOT the same as the old Gecko skins – these new versions are similar but the formulation of the material is different.
    Incidentally – Gecko is still at it – they reportedly have a new formulation as well.

    Atomic is also supposed to be coming out with a skin with reduced fur up front – on the logic that this part of the ski does not get loaded anyway. The goal is weight savings.

    Would love to see real work done here – light skins could make a real difference, and as you take them off for the down, none of the usual trade-offs in performance apply.

  6. Alin May 13th, 2014 2:16 pm

    Probably they are similar with what Kastle introduced at SIA 2013: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNFvRle9HaA
    The engineering behind looks promising. I couldn’t find them selling online yet.

  7. Christian May 13th, 2014 3:23 pm

    Is there the ability to strip old/damaged glue and reapply (currently or in foreseeable future)? I guess that eventually if the original adhesive got so damaged, even if there wasn’t the ability to reapply a “glueless” adhesive, one would hopefully be able to strip the original and apply a coat of traditional glue.

  8. Lou Dawson May 13th, 2014 5:05 pm

    Christian, I think by that time the plush would be worn out. Not a big issue, and no, I don’t think stripping the factory applied “chemical layer” would work in any way. It is silicon, a re-glue with conventional glue would most probably not bond.

    With a bit of care similar to other skins, Lisa’s are holding up fine. But this spring we’ll try to do more torture testing. Important.


  9. Pieter May 14th, 2014 5:55 am

    Nice product! If I remember correctly… isn’t Volkl also using / going to use this technology in their BMT range?

  10. Mike May 14th, 2014 7:09 am

    How was the packability compared to other skins? Weight is one thing, but being easily foldable so they fit in a jacket or pack is even more important IMHO. Love my BD Glidelite Mixes for that reason.

  11. Lou Dawson May 14th, 2014 7:10 am

    Pieter, my recollection is that a handful of ski makers are going to re-brand this stuff. I suppose we could make a list, but it would probably change… In my opinion the jury is still out on whether this technology is adequate. After what happened with Gecko I am very skeptical, but willing to be happy as the concept is awesome. Lou

  12. Lou Dawson May 14th, 2014 7:12 am

    Mike, these skins are indeed supple, though I’d say they’re average in terms of bulk. Much of bulk depends on width of skis, and length…


  13. josh May 14th, 2014 8:41 am

    I skied with a couple of folks using the Kastle skins this winter (which I was told was the new formulation of the Gecko product). We were skiing during a major storm cycle, and I will confirm that those skins are not a functional product in snowy conditions. With significant blowing snow, it was impossible to keep the sticky surface totally snow free, and that caused total skin failure very rapidly. I’d love to see these products work, since they obviously have some very real advantages, but they definitely need to work in cold, warm, snowy and sunny conditions — since I like to ski in all those, and many other, conditions!

  14. Lou Dawson May 14th, 2014 9:00 am

    Josh, thanks for chiming in. One main take I have on these skins is they’re better for situations where they’re on/off one time. They’re ideal, for example, for fitness uphilling when you’re making one lap and just want a skin that’s easy to handle. I’m not sure they’ll ever be the right product for extreme conditions with multiple on/off in the same day. Tip/tail fix system is essential, and the High Trail tip/tail system does work well. Lou

  15. Stewart May 16th, 2014 7:31 am

    One of 17 people on a recent hut trip showed up with brand new glueless Geckos. The dinky tail attachment system wouldn’t stay attached, and the non-glue would soon become contaminated with snow and rendered useless. Pretty inconvenient in deep powder conditions. Despite our best efforts to address the issues, these things were a complete fail, and this poor guy was effectively hut-bound for the week. Real skins have evolved to the point where they work reliably in all situations, whereas glueless skins don’t.

  16. Rob December 18th, 2014 5:29 am

    I am about to make a choice between Colltex Whizzz adhesive wich sticks to ski’ s through acrylate(??) and classic BD glued skins. Any update from your spring torture testing program on glueless skins, Lou?
    Thanks for your thought!

  17. Lou Dawson 2 December 18th, 2014 5:49 am

    Rob, we didn’t find any new issues with the High Trails, and we now have other “glueless” skins in play (Gecko and Contour). The all seem to behave about the same, main issue being when they’re wet or snowy you get mixed results in terms of adhesion, more so than conventional glue, especially with a dusting of snow which is easy to scrape off the glue skin by running the skin over your ski edges, while doing so can damage the glueless skin. One procedure is when the glueless skin gets snowy, you carry next to your body and melt the snow so you’re dealing with a water film, which you can squeeze squeegie out as you apply the skin.

    Perhaps where the glueless are most problematic is when it’s quite cold and they get snow on them in a sort of “full conditions” situation like high wind. They’re not as forgiving, that’s for sure. We quite like the glueless skins, but we’re careful about what we use them for.

  18. Lou Dawson 2 November 26th, 2015 10:00 am

    Update, I’ve concluded that this type of skin “adhesive” is problematic in colder temperatures such as our routine winter weather in Colorado, or in places such as interior Canada. We feel High Trails has a place, but best used in warmer temps or in situations where skin failure is a non issue, such as resort uphilling or “one lap” ascents with easy exits. Lou

  19. Lenka K. November 26th, 2015 2:09 pm

    Hi Lou,

    very interesting. For me, the main advantage of “glueless” skins would be precisely the cold-temperature, multiple-lap use, as this is the only situation where I’ve experienced skin failure so far. Do your conclusions apply to all “glueless” skins you have in use, or would you qualify this as a specifically High Trail problem?


    Lenka K.

  20. Lou Dawson 2 November 26th, 2015 4:00 pm

    Lenka, I should stay specific to what I tested, which is the Volkl ones. They simply don’t stick well at cold temperatures. I’ll probably get Lisa to take out the green ones pictured above, when we get some cold temps again, and verify what I’m experiencing. No skin is perfect, that’s for sure… Lou

  21. Doug Webb January 1st, 2016 11:36 pm

    Any update on Clip Skins?

  22. Derek Osborne April 12th, 2016 3:43 am

    Hi Lou,

    Just to add to the general discussion on “glueless” skins, I have Kastle skins which I got as a package with there TX87 skis. Really liked them for a whole host of reasons – easy to use, glide and grip well, etc – but, and it’s a really big but – when they fail they fail catastrophically and without warning across the whole ski. I ended up with skins taped to the ski for a couple of hours on a up-down/up-down wet snow day in New Zealand last September. Had no option but to head to nearest ski shop and buy traditional BD skins for the rest of the trip which included hut to hut touring. And before anyone comments, I was meticulous at drying base (microfibre towel) before applying skin. I’ve since used them a couple of times through this winter in Europe, and again they were great even in wet (very wet once), so they still work, but …..

    Net of my experience, great for the once on/once off trip, or maybe in nice dry conditions, but for anything else stick to traditional glue based skins.

    The old adage of waiting till you see the majority of guides using them holds true.

  23. Lou Dawson 2 April 12th, 2016 6:26 am

    Thanks Derek, good to get your confirmation. We agree.

    Our conclusion is that the “glueless” type skins are indeed best for one-lap days, they’re not dependable enough for re-application is backcountry settings.

    BTW, what a guide uses might not be the best indication of what someone else should use. Always good to observe, but some analytical thought should be involved as well. For example, just because a guide uses non-release race bindings, should you?


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