Contour Climbing Skins Factory Visit 2.0

Post by blogger | June 16, 2015      

[Click here for our first Contour climbing skins factory visit report.]

We love being in Austria and visiting our friends the Barthels in the village of Bad Haering — the now hallowed vector of tech binding innovation. Beyond the Tyrolean hospitality (we owe them major thanks for helping us stay sane during three weeks of rain) and typical Austrian network of tourism friendly restaurants and trails, we like the proximity of various ski equipment companies. All due to the industrial artery of the Inn valley motorway combined with a strong regional ski touring tradition (regions of the alps around Innsbruck and Kitzbühel, and so on).

Lou and Werner Koch checking out Contour skins and a few other goodies this spring in Austria.

Lou and Werner Koch checking out Contour skins and a few other goodies this spring in Austria.

One such gear maker of the Tirol is Koch Alpine, producer of Contour climbing skins. While owner Werner Koch didn’t have much new gear to show-and-tell during our visit this spring, we did have a nice discussion about ski touring demographics and the skin business.

Of interest, the German and Austrian armies will be trying a few thousand pair of the Contour Hybrid skins. We like hearing that sort of thing, as we’re certain that with business riding on military sales, a bug-free product will ensue. Speaking of which, it’s known that some of the Hybrid skins last winter had a problem with delamination of the two “hybrid” glue layers. It was nothing drastic, more cosmetic than anything else and of course honored by warranty. Werner said the delam was caused by poor temperature control in the out-of-house manufacturing of the skins. Solution: Contour Hybrid skins will have the high tech bonding adhesive layer and the ski-base glue laminated at Werner’s factory in Austria, where he can keep a closer eye on things.

But the real reason we visited Werner (beyond having an espresso) was to get the word on cleaning the Contour Hybrid skins. According to Werner, any skin with ultra-sticky glue is going to pick up a lot of contamination over a season of use. If nothing else, the skin glue is going to pull wax off the ski base every time you strip fur. This is part of the reason, perhaps the major reason, that skin glue stops working. Advantage of the Contour Hybrid glue is it’s chemically stable — you can simply scrub it with wax remover and end up with like-new performance. No need for messy and fiddly glue re-application.

I like the Contour Hybrid way of renewing skin glue. Just clean it off with wax remover, and  perhaps scrub with soap and water if they're just plain dirty.

I like the Contour Hybrid way of renewing skin glue. Just clean it off with wax remover, and perhaps scrub with soap and water if they’re just plain dirty. Barring a lot of damage to the skins, result will be similar to applying new skin glue, with much less hassle and expense.

So, while visiting Koch we got a good demonstration on just how well some work a can of wax remover can take a Hybrid skin from frustrating contamination to sticking like new. To help, Contour will sell their own branded Hybrid skin glue cleaner in an aerosol can. You can actually use any wax remover on Contour Hybrid skins, but Werner picked out the most effective he could find and bottled it.

In other Contour Hybrid skin news, a good test is a mega-slog in sub zero temperatures. To that end, Contour Hybrid skins were used for a south-to-north crossing of Norway last winter. Did I say mega-slog? Yes. But how about a mega-mega-slog? Contour did that to, on the skis of a guy who trekked to the South Pole in temperatures reaching negative 30 centigrade (-20 F). That seems warm for the pole, but certainly cold enough for a skin glue test. Both trekkers used Werner’s glide prone mohair formulation for obvious reasons.

Also developing at Countour is a complete series of tip and tail fixes that take it to the next level. Check out a few more photos.

Our favorite thing is Contour will now offer tail clips configured for thinner and wider skis.

Our favorite thing is Contour will now offer tail clips configured for thinner and wider skis.

New clip at bottom, notice the smaller gap.

New clip at bottom, notice the smaller gap.

'Nother view.

‘Nother view.

Complete line of fixies, for all widths as well as the type of tip you really want. Recall from our reporting last winter.

Complete line of fixies, for all widths as well as the type of tip you really want. Recall from our reporting last winter that the tip units clamshell open and close without tools, quickly and easily. We tested several configurations last winter, they worked well.

Getting beyond skins, I was curious how Werner’s binding adapter for kid’s touring has sold. He said about 1,000 units went out last winter. Since the adapter is adjustable and can be used for several kids, as well as passed along, 1,000 is a significant number.

Touring adapter for kids.

Touring adapter for kids.

In all, I’ve still got high hopes for what Werner is doing with the Hybrid skins, as well as his other innovations.


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6 Responses to “Contour Climbing Skins Factory Visit 2.0”

  1. Werner Koch June 16th, 2015 1:18 pm

    Hi Lou, thanks again for your visit and the detailled report. Just one small correction: we sold around 1000 prs of startUp touring adapters for kids in the first year (without a finished product for presale). 4000 prs we try to achieve in 2-3 seasons. Take care, Werner

  2. Marcus June 16th, 2015 1:50 pm

    Where can you get a hold of the kids adaptor? looks neat.

  3. Werner Koch June 16th, 2015 2:02 pm

    Hi Marcus, thanks for asking. In North America you can order through In Europe check out and look for dealers. Best regards, Werner Koch

  4. Lou Dawson 2 June 16th, 2015 2:05 pm

    Thanks Werner, 1,000 is still significant, I edited. Lou

  5. Wookie June 17th, 2015 3:14 am

    Hi Werner –

    I’m really excited about your adapters and will be using them with my 8 year-old next season – probably more in the springtime when the snow is firm and the weather is good! I’m in Fügen and I’ve already seen a family of five on them on some of the kid-friendly tours around here. Their reviews were very positive and the kids said they enjoyed using them.

    As much as I like the idea of a dedicated touring binding – the limited lifespan of kids’ equipment probably makes this the better option.

  6. Bill February 13th, 2017 11:43 am

    Hi Lou,
    Been a fan of your site for many years. Posted a review on MEC’s website for the Contour Startups this am but thought you may want to hear as well. Bought 3 pairs from MEC here in Canada and tested yesterday with 3 youths (girl 9, boys, 10 and 12). Their is a serious issue with the heel bail popping out. First one happened on initial mount so attributed to user/adjustment/ snow under sole type of error. However, a different pair failed in an undulation in the uptrack (minor down on steep sidehill) and caused 45 min digging session. Lucky to find it or would of been a serious “daywrekker” as we were 2 hours into a remote climb. Should be recalled and fixed. In the mean time will need to attach leashes or carry spares to avert the losing issue – however still a hazard if they pop out in an inconvenient spot.

    Bill in Vernon. BC

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