By Rob Mullins
Dynafit Speed skins complete my rig, and they are probably the best skin that I have ever used. (My Dynafit kit includes Seven Summits 178cm ski, TLT Speed binding, Zzero3C TF boot, harscheisen, and now the Speed skins.)
The Speed skin is shaped to fit the Dynafit ski model, a very convenient feature; fit is perfect. They’re thin and very light, 25% lighter according to the Dynafit catalog. (I did not weigh them.)
The glue works fine so far — we shall see. I have not yet made it through a season on a European skin before replacing the glue with Ascension Gold Label glue.
The Speed skin attachment system is excellent. The front fix has a rubber cord with a molded ball that hooks in special Dynafit ski tip slot. The rear attachment is a metal hook that fits another corresponding slot. The Speed skin front rubber attachment is easy to use with gloves both on and off, and is also a snap to remove while the ski remains attached to your boot. Not that I am a rando racer or fast, but especially in deep snow I just find it more efficient to remove skins without removing the ski.
In the words of the World Champion from the PDG video, “boot, binding, skin.” I find this order to be useful and efficient — change the boot to downhill adjustment, rotate the heel, pull the skin, step the boot heel into the binding. In my case, because I’m large I leave the front binding lever locked to ski downhill. (As a matter of fact, I’m large enough to have a fond memory from the Cabane Bertol near Arolla on our Haute Route – some High School local girls looked in wonder at me and my two buddies, all over 200 lbs each, and said with their cute-to-me accent, “did you walk here?”)
The Speed climbing skin is 100% mohair. Published studies that I found online state that mohair is superior in seasonal snow and nylon is superior in wet or corn snow. I agree with that and I’ll eventually test by comparing to Speed skins to my nylon Coll Tex skins in spring and summer. For now, the Speed skins on my Seven Summits feel very slick.
I’ve always enjoyed mohair skins, I have some in the garage that I acquired in the 1970s and then obtained other sets, progressively wider, over the ensuing decades. Mohair is said to wear more readily. Perhaps, but even though my older mohair skins have a few small bare spots they continue to work well. I do have nylon skins for spring, and it does seem that my 1998 Ascension nylon skins have the best all around traction of all of my skins.
This is my second season on the Seven Summits ski. Last year I used it only beginning in March since before that we had quite a lot of good powder skiing that called for wider skis. This season in Washington has had few deep snow days and a lot of in-between weirdness. For these reasons, I have skied most days this season on my Seven Summits — they work well for snow conditions that this year seem to change from slope to slope and sometimes hour to hour.
I’ve found the front skin slot on the Seven Summits to be useful for more than anchoring skins. The tip of my ski pole fits against that framing trim when I want to push down the ski tip while ascending in order to facilitate a sidestep and that sort of thing.
I am especially fond of the Zzero3C TF boot. I actually prefer it to my Zzero4C TF boot, which I use on my wider skis. Perhaps this preference has to do with the size of my leg, because I find the higher 4 buckle boot to be noticeably less comfortable while walking. When cranked down and skiing the Zzero3C offers great performance.
Hard refrozen snow conditions recently has caused me to pull out my harscheisen. Normally I find such conditions later in the season, but “normally” is a hard to use term to frame the Cascade snowpack. These days it seems no two years are alike, and wide temperature changes may occur with precipitation anytime.
As I write this we have had just a few light snowfalls since the record-setting rain storm of early January. As a result, there is some very hard snow to be found — in fact very hard and clear-looking refrozen and tree-dripped snow. In the trees, the crust would be dangerous right now even if walking in boots without crampons. The open faces where I ski tour frequently have a few inches of new snow drifted in over a crust that still holds and edge. However, getting to and from those slopes involves the heinous snow in the trees.
A week ago, I took my first ever uncontrolled slide on a 30+ degree slope after losing my edges while ascending. I fell so fast it was like falling off of a roof, and thankfully I wrapped trees within 15 feet, stunned but unharmed. My harscheisen were in my pack (doh!) when I fell, and I had left my Whippet self-arrest poles at home. Let that be a lesson to me!
With this rig, I am completely Dynafitted — with no complaints. All around, my Seven Summits skis, Zzero3C boot, Speed binding, harscheisen, and Speedskin has maximum versatility and incredible performance.
(Guest blogger Rob Mullins lives in the Washington Cascades with his wife and daughter.)