Contour Hybrid Climbing Skins — Testing Review


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | September 18, 2015      

We’ve done quite a bit of Contour skin coverage over the past two years, but I figured a “reminder review” would be appropriate, as we really like these things. Yes, Contour ski touring climbing skins are pricey and not as well distributed as some other brands, but keep them in mind. We think they’re particularly appropriate if you find climbing skins difficult to handle, or you’re lazy about skin “hygiene,” meaning you let your dog sleep on the glue side or you’ve dropped them in a pile of pine needles.

Two layers of glue make up the Contour Hybrid skin glue system.

Two layers of glue make up the Contour Hybrid skin glue system.

While the Contour adhesive is not the “silicone non-glue” that we’ve been having ups and downs with over the years, it is what Contour claims to be a much better glue: more stable, doesn’t get gooey when warm or as compromised for stickiness when cold. More, they claim their adhesive is easily washable and can even be renewed by cleaning with wax remover if myriad applications to waxed skis have left you with gutless stickum. I’ve seen this demonstrated and it works. Quite impressive.

Contour says the problem with “normal” skins is the glue has to be heat sensitive so during manufacturing it can be bonded to the fabric substrate. Result is glue that changes performance according to temperature. Perhaps too gooey for some people, or in cold temperatures loosing its adhesion to the ski base. The difference with Contour is they use a two-layer adhesive. An inner heat-sensitive bonding layer that sticks to the skin, laminated with a more stable outer layer that sticks to your ski base.

In my experience, as claimed the Contour Hybrid adhesive makes the skins easy to remove from the ski, and stays stuck when I want it stuck. Contour says just store the skins glue-to-glue during winter (and with release liners in summer). I’ve been doing just that; they come apart easily and don’t seem to be getting the pilling and balling damage that sometimes happens with other brands when they’re stored glue-to-glue.

Downsides? Contour has had a few problems with the two-part glue coming apart. This has usually happened with some small “bubbling” of the adhesive that didn’t really change the way skin worked. Nonetheless they warrantied any occurrence. Also, the Hybrid glue is perhaps not as overall tacky at super low temperatures as some North American brands optimized for Rocky Mountain type climate. It’s been working well for me in Colorado, but I’m not as demanding on my skins as some of you sub zero multi-lappers out there.

The contour 70/30 plush yields reasonable glide combined with good traction, though I’d prefer the available all-mohair version for my fatter skis. The tip connector system is a puzzle, but once you get the hang of it they’re smart. It’s like an industrial designer went mad with engineering software and 3D printer; you need three hands as you hold the end of the skin inside a white plastic clamshell, along with the wire tip-loop. You then close the clamshell and move two tiny red catches to hold it closed. Easily the most sophisticated tip fix I’ve ever seen on a skin, but I’ve installed a few now and they work well for backcountry skiing.

There you go. If you’re shopping climbing skins for this winter’s ski touring, consider Contour. They’re available from selected retailers and etailers, more so in Europe but they’re imported to North America as well. CAMP is the importer for NA and sells the skins on their website.



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Comments

37 Responses to “Contour Hybrid Climbing Skins — Testing Review”

  1. Seth September 18th, 2015 11:34 am

    Lou- Perfect timing with this post as I am looking to get some new skins for some new skis. New skis are 106 underfoot (rossignol soul 7), moving up from old 82 underfoot skis and previously used BD ascension skins on the old skis. Being this is my first experience with 100mm+ underfoot skis, would you recommend 100% mohair or some mohair mix skins given the larger surface area?

    Also do you prefer these contour skins over BD’s latest offerings?

    Skiing out of Flagstaff, AZ and trips to southwest CO for reference.

    Thanks for the great content.

  2. Lou Dawson 2 September 18th, 2015 1:47 pm

    Hi Seth, that’s excellent the review was timely! I was wondering if it was too redundant, also, I needed to keep my bias to a certain brand and this stuff about Contour seems to break the bias I get accused of. Perhaps I should delete all the Contour posts just so the bias accusers can feel right (grin).

    In all seriousness, the use of 100% mohair depends on your style. If you’re on your high lifters quite a bit, especially in other people’s death-wall skin tracks that have glazed over, Ascension 100% nylon or G3 High Traction are still the buldozer tracks of choice that come to my mind in the moment. If you’re into a more elegant style of skinning, then go with 100% mohair on those 106 wide skis.

    Mohair is not for sissies. It wears out if you use it too much on hard frozen corn, and it requires technique. In the end, if you have a pair of skis that are your “quiver of one” it could be wise with skins to have a “quiver of two.”

    Another trick with mohair is to simply haul a set of ski crampons and slap them on when the skin track reeks of testosterone.

    Lou

  3. Tom F September 18th, 2015 4:19 pm

    I wasn’t sure if/when Camp would get the skins I wanted in stock, so ordered some Hybrid Split Skins from overseas. Sport 65 in Germany was easy to deal with and super responsive with email.

  4. Lou Dawson 2 September 18th, 2015 5:54 pm

    Ok Tom, thanks for letting us know. Please chime in again after you’ve used them. Lou

  5. Bar Barrique September 18th, 2015 9:20 pm

    “Speak your mind”
    I’m not sure that I would recommend mohair skins for most BC skiers. Yes they have advantages; such as better glide, and, less tendency to have snow stick to them, however, their durability (at least in my experience) is significantly less than mohair/ synthetic blends.
    The mohair/synthetic blends can have amazing durability, lasting for many years, and, being reglued to last even longer. Pure mohair is probably good for two seasons at best, and, does not have the best “hold” for occasional steep sections that you might encounter on a normal skin up (though of course you can use your poles to keep from slipping back).
    I do agree that they are a nice product, but for most folks the contour “split” skins might be a more pragmatic solution.

    Cheers;

    Bar

  6. aemono September 19th, 2015 9:13 am

    I got about 20 days on the Contour split-skins last Winter-Spring, mainly in Springish conditions..everything from hard frozen thru sweet corn to manky glop + the odd day of heavy powder. General management of the skins was pretty good: the Contour tip&tail straps look a bit fiddly at first, different certainly, but they work well; I liked the tactile sensation of the glue (on my hands – I’ve never liked the traditional stickiness of classic skin-glue), and the fact that they don’t pick up much gunk is great; climbing wise I would say they are comparable to other mohair-synthetic mixes I’ve tried, certainly inferior to nylon climbers in steeper or frozen snow.
    In general I’m happy enough with them..but I would point out that you have to keep the hybrid glue DRY – to be fair Contour does emphasise that you should use the provided skin bag to wipe off any snow/water before sticking – because once they get even a little wet the skins’ stickiness is really compromised. Probably not a big issue on Winter/below freezing/cold pow days, but in Spring/humid conditions you need to be very attentive.
    I obviously can’t say much about durability, but one other small gripe is the supposedly “sealed” edges of the skins..just as well they are pre-sealed because I’ve had constant dethreading – long threads coming off the edges – a bit annoying to say the least..I’ll probably reseal them (traditional lighter method) before using them next season.

  7. Matt Kinney September 19th, 2015 10:54 am

    Can you get them on and off with your skis on? Are the attachments easy enough for that move. I like being able to do that.

  8. aemono September 19th, 2015 11:42 am

    Matt, if you’re talking about the white strap attachments (no tip loop) on the split-skins, practically the same attachment at tip and tail, then I would say – for getting them off – almost certainly yes, as they slide off laterally quite easily (even too easily sometimes, nothing like a tip loop) and the adhesive comes away with a gentle tug..though personally I haven’t tried it. Getting them on – again specifically the split-skins – is a rather more complicated matter; separating the skins (not difficult) and keeping them that way, and then applying them to the ski base accurately, more or less aligned close to the edge..I couldn’t imagine doing it with skis on feet. But maybe others have found a way?

  9. mountain biking comment spammer September 19th, 2015 3:47 pm

    Thanks for sharing this very interesting and informative article! I really enjoyed reading it! keep up the great work!

  10. TomR September 19th, 2015 4:16 pm

    Hi Lou,
    I need your wise words on ski equipment.This winter I can either get in shape so I can keep up, or buy really light equipment instead to keep up. So, Im getting lighter gear.
    To replace a Coomback, and Fritschi setup what do you recommend?
    No ski area use for this setup, just dry fluffy powder. I use brakes and a ski that likes to turn.
    Thanks!

  11. Lou Dawson 2 September 19th, 2015 4:57 pm

    If you like K2 you could stick with K2 only a lighter version such as Wayback.

    http://www.backcountry.com/Store/catalog/search.jsp?q=k2+wayback&s=u

    If you’re early adopting perhaps a Dynafit Radical 2, or if you’re a bit more conservative perhaps a G3 ION?

    Be sure to check out the Pure DPS Wailers, they’ll float your boat in that dry fluffy pow and they’re fairly light.

    Lou

  12. Wookie September 21st, 2015 2:15 am

    Werner makes really great skins – I’ve had great success with several pairs and I ffind they tend to be cheaper in Tirol – but then, thats where they are made.
    I’ve still got lots of other skins – but I’m slowly swapping over to the Contours everywhere. Good skins, at a good price, with variants for just about any taste.

  13. Werner Koch September 21st, 2015 3:00 am

    Thanks for the kudos, Wookie!

    Werner
    http://www.contourskins.com

  14. Jim Milstein September 24th, 2015 11:04 pm

    Thanks to TomF for the ref to Sport 65 in Germany. I just ordered a pair of Contour Hybrid Mix 70/30, cut to fit the Mythics and delivered to my door for $204. They were very responsive and pleasant to deal with.

  15. Lou Dawson 2 September 25th, 2015 5:52 am

    Nice! Jim, I’m eager to find out what you think of the Contours, but wait till there is snow to try them out, testing on sand can compromise the Hybrid glue system (grin).

  16. Jim Milstein September 25th, 2015 8:20 am

    Thanks for the warning, Lou. I am planning a big ski trip to Great Sand Dunes Nat’l Monument as soon as I get the new skis mounted up. Maybe I should leave the skins behind. This trip will be Mythic, for sure!

  17. Wookie September 27th, 2015 9:58 am

    If theres a reasonable way to apply your skins without taking your skis off…..well….i wanna see that. Super jedi move.

  18. Jim Milstein September 27th, 2015 1:04 pm

    Wookie, skiing in the Selkirks in the nineties I saw the Canadians doing just that routinely. No tail clips on the skins. One ski is lifted and crossed over the standing leg and held up while the hand on the other side attaches the skin at the ski tip and smoothes the skin toward the tail. Repeat for the other ski. Having no tail clips can be troublesome in very low temperatures or if the glue is not glutinous enough.

    I saw no Americans try this. I didn’t. One Canadian didn’t even use skins. He used purple climbing wax in sub-zero degrees F conditions and kept up on the skin track without trouble. Next life, I want to be a Canadian.

  19. XXX_er September 27th, 2015 6:19 pm

    you gotta know the secret handshake

  20. Lou Dawson 2 September 27th, 2015 6:42 pm

    I used to do the purple wax thang’ requires one to be somewhat of a mutant, or a Canadian? Lou

  21. Jim Milstein September 27th, 2015 7:13 pm

    Come clean, Lou. Canadian or mutant? Both?

  22. Wookie September 28th, 2015 12:56 am

    Challenge accepted Gentlemen.

    Watch this spot for updates and outages.

  23. afox November 23rd, 2015 1:16 pm

    So I purchased a pair of the contour hybrid split skins this year from a european retailer. Took them out for the first tour of the year this past weekend. Ill start with the bad: they were generally a pain to put on. Not terrible but there is no way you’ll be putting these on as fast as your friends with regular skins. They require a bit of “untangling” when you get them out of the bag. I could not put them on with my gloves on. I suspect this will get better with practice.

    The good: the glue feels nice and stuck to my skis fine in sub freezing temps. The glide and grip were excellent, I agree with another reviewer that the grip of the split skins seems to be better than with a “one piece” skins. They are really light and I can use them with multiple pairs of skis so if I can get better at putting them on they’ll be quite awesome!

    I looked for videos with tips for putting them on, not much info out there, id love to hear some tips from others that are using these….

  24. Jim Milstein November 23rd, 2015 7:23 pm

    Been using the Contours (Hybrid) about ten days. Wonderful handling! The main caution is not to let the glue get wet–but, it can be dried pretty easily if needed. Traction is plenty good for me. Glide is good. Skins go glue to glue without problem and can be separated without the major display of strength (or skin destruction) which G3 and Black Diamond glue requires. Actually, the Contours separate easily.

    These skins are readily stripped from the skis on the hoof. As revealed above, I am not Canadian, so I cannot reapply them without getting off the skis. I like these skins so much that I don’t use my other skis because their skins are not wonderful. I didn’t realize how annoying those other skins were–well, really I did know–that’s why I got the Contours.

  25. Arnaud December 2nd, 2015 10:18 pm

    Hi Lou et all,
    Have you been able to get your hand on some colltex whizz? I am looking at some of those new type of skin and have heard good things about both, but can’t quite make up my mind…. I am mostly skiing the wasatch front with a yearly trip to europe.
    Thanks!!

  26. Chez-Ray March 9th, 2016 7:46 am

    Got the contour split skins ( I made a pair about 7 years ago so pleased there is now a commercial version ) Easy to take off once I saw the YouTube vid but still awkward to fit — can’t find a vid for this — overall pleased , light , less bulky than normal skins , stick well and grip so far no problem , like the way they come apart easily .

  27. Lou Dawson 2 March 9th, 2016 8:12 am

    Chez, let us know how the Contour glue works for you in your type of conditions. I’m sure Werner would like to hear about your experience as well. Lou

  28. dave October 16th, 2016 8:23 pm

    Lou-
    I am opening this box back up… I still have not heard how the Contour’s climb and glide compared to say a BD Glidelight mix? I know you prefer the 100% mohair bu from your limited use how do the mix Contours stack up? Also please comment on weight and packability vs the Glidelight as well? Thanks in advance

  29. Lou Dawson 2 October 17th, 2016 7:11 am

    Hi Dave, all the Black Diamond skins are now quite excellent in their mix of climb and glide. I have more experience with the full nylon Ascension series, as that’s what Voile is using and I was out on the Voile skis-skins quite a bit last winter. I’m not sure what they did with these but they glide like crazy for a nylon.

    (Bear in mind that climbing skins come from “batches” of textile material, and the same brand-model of skin can vary in climb-glide from batch to batch, season to season. This is especially true of skins using mohair fibers. This little factoid makes reviewing skins difficult, and sometimes a bit of a joke.)

    As for the nylon-mohair mix GlideLite, I recall being on those a few times on demos and they worked great, but I did not do a side-x-side glide test along with the Contours. Nonetheless, I can honestly say that both are pretty similar in terms of climb-glide, where they differ greatly is in the glue. The Contours have the glue that’s easy to clean and less sticky, which makes the skins easier to handle but not quite as reliable in wet or super cold. I’ve used the Contour skins for literally hundreds of days, they’re my preference, but I keep in mind that the glue requires more attention. I like Contour’s tip and tail attachments better as the tail lacks rivets and metal plate of BD, which can get caught on stuff while doing rough work in rocks and brush, but I don’t mind the BD ones so long as limitations are kept in mind, and they’re repaired when necessary. I like the Contour tip loop system better, but again, I can work with the BD when I need to.

  30. David October 17th, 2016 3:05 pm

    Thanks Lou, I just spoke to CAMP and their customer service and warranty seem great, only time will tell the truth though…

  31. Nick October 23rd, 2016 2:08 pm

    Need to pick up a pair of climbing skins for my 184cm Cham 107 (122/107/137). Toying with trying the Contour hybrid – not sure about the actual model yet – but wondering about the glue utility in the PNW where due to the warmer winter temperatures and moisture everywhere, it is more likely for the glue to get wet. How much a disadvantage using this type of glue in the PNW climate? Are there better choices? Model recommendation in either Contours or other?

    Whatever brand/model, I was thinking of getting the skins in ~120 mm width for the widest part of the tail (122 mm) and cutting the middle according to the sidecut. I realize that will leave much of the top part of the ski with more base exposed and less climbing traction, but I would think that the overall length of skins for 184 cm ski would make up for that particularly in the tail. Am I thinking about it appropriately? Thanks

  32. Aaron December 12th, 2016 11:12 am

    Hi Lou et all;

    I’ll chime in with my experience.

    Based on glowing reviews, I purchased some hybrid split skins at the beginning of the season to replace some aging pomoca skins that I’d been using for the past few seasons. I really liked the split idea being able to do double duty between the daily drivers and the powder boards. It’s a great concept that works really well on both pairs, pretty cool!

    Unfortunately, I’m not having as good of luck with the glue as you are. I’ve only used these on three tours so far this year, but on each one they have completely lost all stickum and have fallen off of my skis mid-stride after one lap. I take care not to get the glue full of snow and keep them in my jacket during descents to warm them up, but without fail, they have failed me on every tour. Once the stickum is gone, no manner of warming or scraping against an edge would revive them. Only complete drying indoors will set them right again. I’ve gone back to using my old skins for the time being, as they don’t leave me stranded. Unfortunately a one lap skin is useless to me.

    I’m somewhat at a loss and am not sure what to do. I’m in Washington where the temperatures aren’t that cold, so the glue isn’t failing due to some serious interior freeze. I even tried babying them to a ridiculous degree, making sure not a drop of water or snow would be on my base when re-applied but to no avail. Any suggestions? Thanks!

  33. Nick December 13th, 2016 1:24 pm

    Thanks for the update on the glue, Aaron. That was one of my concerns as I am similarly in Washington. It does not seem to be driver error on your part because you seem to have a good handle on how to handle them. We can hope that others might chime in too – could it be a bad batch?

  34. Bar Barrique December 13th, 2016 8:18 pm

    I bought a set of the Contour hybrid “mix” skins last season, and, have put 30 days or so on them. They are comparable to other euro “mix” skins in glide, and, hold while climbing. I have not personally had them fail, however, I have seen them fail in heavy snowfall for another skier (after several laps).
    I would buy them again, but, I don’t think that they are for everybody, especially folks who are new to BC skiing. This is due to the fact that they do require extra care to keep them free of snow compared to conventional skins. I can see how the split skins could be more problematic. Any skin can fail, and, carrying duct tape is always an essential part of your gear.
    Nick: as far as skin width, I would go for 130mm width for any skins that you decide on. The 120’s will work but the 130’s would be better in some situations.

  35. Lou Dawson 2 December 14th, 2016 4:07 am

    Hi Aaron, sorry to hear that. I’ve got several sets of Contour Hybrid skins and some do have pretty minimal glue, others are more sticky. I’d suggest that perhaps your split skins have the minimal type and should be returned for ones that work better. Overall, the Hybrid glue is not super sticky, it’s intended to be easy to remove and store. But if your skin is basically falling off after being cared for correctly, I’d call that unacceptable. Lou

  36. Aaron December 12th, 2017 1:16 pm

    Since I commented before, I figured I would update with what’s been going on with my skins.

    Shortly after posting this, I contacted CAMP USA (the Contour NA distributor) about the problems I’d been having. The person I spoke to said that Contour had tweaked the hybrid glue a bit for the NA market and they happily swapped my pair out for ones with the “newer” glue. By the time this was all done the season was over, so I haven’t been able to put any days on them.

    Fast forward to this year and I can report that they’re better. Not great, but definitely better than before. After my last tour, they were starting to lose their stick on the 4th lap even with good care, but haven’t outright failed off of the ski. It’s been pretty warm here in WA, so “too cold” isn’t a factor. Being a noob isn’t a factor; I know how to treat skins.

    So my final verdict: I’m not sold on their hybrid glue for any sort of lapped touring or longer tours. While this newer formula seems to be working out better than the previous version I had last year, I’m still weary of their hold continuing to be adequate throughout the season as I put more miles on them. So much so, that I’ve just sucked it up and spent the money on some good ol’ momix Ascensions for longer tours so I know my skins won’t torpedo a longer trip. Touring close to the TH, sure; an 8 day self supported interior Canada, nope.
    Pomoca is still the best euro type I’ve used that balances easy of application/removal and stickum-ness resilliance. Whatever they’ve got going on is great. Too bad they’re skins are $$$.

    Just my $0.02

  37. Jim Milstein February 22nd, 2018 1:54 pm

    I’ve put more than 150 days on my Contour Hybrid Mix skins, and their glue was getting a little tired, especially at the tips and tails, despite regular cleaning. Wrote to Werner Koch, and he said that I’ve exceeded the expected life of the product. I believed that skins last forever, so was disappointed to hear this. But I pulled myself together and bought new ones, the ones with the improved glue, I’m told.

    Wow! Despite the fur on my old skins looking good and performing well, The new skins are clearly newer. More fur! Way more tack! I typically apply skins two or three times per outing, sometimes more. With the old skins, snow begins to insinuate itself where it should not after the first application. I doubt that will happen with the new skins for a long time.

    I was recently skiing in zero degree F weather, and the old skins were almost okay. No doubt the new ones will be more than okay in cold weather. Water is the problem for Contour Hybrid glue. Keep ’em dry, and the ski soles, too.





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