Five Days of Black Diamond – Day 3 – Climbing Skins

Post by blogger | March 18, 2009      
BD Mohair climbing skins.

Black Diamond skins.

Mohair climbing skins give me the love. They glide, they climb, they’re light. Yeah, they wear out faster than nylons, don’t grip well on 55 degree skin tracks, and some brands have backing material that’s not so durable. But even with those permutations, goat hair still gives me the warm and fuzzies. Black Diamond didn’t want to be left out of the love in, so by next winter they’ll be distributing their own version of mohair ski rugs for backcountry skiing.


March 24 update: As written below, out of the box these mohair skins climbed well but lacked glide. Mohair responds to a “breakin” so along with more test laps at a local ski resort, I also skied DOWN the whole resort with the skins on. They do glide better after this, but in my opinion could still have a bit more of that silky mohair glide feeling. Black Diamond says I might have the nylon/mohair mix rather than pure mohair, we’re working on getting that cleared up and I’ll report back here once we know for sure. Whatever the case, I’ve made these my go-to skins for my k2 Mount Bakers, and plan on using them during my coming Europe trip.

Said to be made to BD’s specifications, the new furs come with the STS tail attachment and standard tip loop. They’re black, too, which is the best color for skins (fast drying in the sun).

Backcountry Skiing

Black Diamond's new mohair climbing skins at WildSnow HQ.

Out of the box, you can tell right away these goat hair climbing skins are on a medium weight backing. They still pack light and tight, but it looks like they’ll be adequately resistant to tearing. They also feel nicely loaded with DWR treatment, or perhaps that’s just the oily feel of natural hair. Either way, while a friend’s skins were icing during a test run yesterday, the new BD mohairs stayed clean. They climbed well but seem to be doing that typical mohair thing of needing breakin before achieving the silky glide that only hair of goat provides (glide out of the box was roughly equal to a moderately used BD orange Ascension skin). How much of of the “glide improvement” effect I’ll get is still an open question. After a few more days of use I’ll report back on this post, but for now I’m pretty certain these are a thumbs up.

Black Diamond split climbing skins.

BD's split skin will weigh significantly less than wall-to-wall fur.

It’s also worth remembering that BD will sell an innovative split skin next year. Idea behind these is you cover a really wide ski, but don’t have to haul the weight of wall-to-wall fur. Instead, two outside strips are connected with lightweight webbing down the middle. More, for those who want love both ways, BD will also provide a Glidelite that’s part mohair and part nylon. Keep your eyes open for all this stuff, it looks great!

A tip for using mohair skins: Sometimes (especially with wear) they don’t climb as well as nylon. Glide is not an issue on steep skin tracks. So just carry and use ski crampons to compensate for any grip issues when the angle kicks up.

Shop for Black Diamond skins here.


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30 Responses to “Five Days of Black Diamond – Day 3 – Climbing Skins”

  1. El Jefe March 18th, 2009 3:27 pm

    any glop stopping difference between nylon and mohair?…..

  2. Lou March 18th, 2009 4:15 pm

    Jefe, depends on the backing material and the DWR treatment. I’ve got nylon skins that glop like crazy, and mohair that doesn’t, and some are just the opposite.

  3. Tyler B March 19th, 2009 7:47 am

    Hey Lou,

    Thanks for another great review. You do a fine job of doing the work so the rest of the community can just enjoy the goods. Thanks!

    You have mentioned in the past that you put ski wax on your skins. Would you mind giving a basic tutorial. Do you rub against the “grain” when the wax is at room temp?

  4. Lou March 19th, 2009 7:53 am

    Tyler, thanks, really working hard here these days, even giving up some ski time to edit and write, imagine that!

    I do the wax application two ways. If I’m just doing a light application on the morning before a tour, I rub with the grain. If I think icing is likely, I scrub both ways to really coat the fibers, then do a last pass with the grain to lean the fibers down. I do it at home and in the field, temperature is not a big deal though warmer ambient makes the process go faster no doubt. I’ve seen people heat gun the wax in once it’s rubbed on, go easy if you try that!

    Regarding wax, I’ve never seen the dedicated skin wax to work any differently than a good quality universal alpine or snowboard wax…

  5. Sam Reese March 19th, 2009 10:29 am

    >Regarding wax, I’ve never seen the dedicated skin wax to work any differently than a good quality universal alpine or snowboard wax…

    I found in a limited set (4 outings with glomping so far this season, 2 with red universal wax, 2 with bd glop stopper wax), that at ‘room’ temps, the waxes are pretty even, but sub freezing, the red wax was pretty hard and needed to be ground in, while the skin wax seemed much softer at cold temperatures and went on much easier.

    Do you carry your skin wax inside your jacket to mitigate this, or have you not found this to be the case?

  6. Lou March 19th, 2009 10:48 am

    Sam, the universal wax I use is kinda soft, it’s white and sold at Sports Authority, can’t remember if it was Swix or not, and what with global warming and all, I’ve not had a problem. If one tours in cold temps and gets glopping during such temps, perhaps the glop stopper is the way to go. If someone could prove to me that Glop Stopper is more than just re-badged alpine wax, I’m all ears.

  7. justin March 19th, 2009 5:32 pm

    I like the inclusion of the webbing down the middle of the split skin. I always pictured DIY and other split skins to be a b*tch to fold, this would eliminate that issue and make it no worse than any other skins.

  8. Mark Worley March 20th, 2009 5:32 am

    Haven’t used mohair near as much as nylon, but I’d be happy to give mohair a much more thorough testing as anything that is lighter and glides better is worth a look. Lou, as to Glopstopper being re-badged alpine wax, it could be, but the texture and softness makes me think it has been physically changed or altered to make it easier to apply so it might be somewhat different.

  9. Mark Worley March 20th, 2009 5:35 am

    BD has a skin coming out that is massive, perhaps 150 mm, and has what looks like a silicone nylon strip in the middle to reduce mass and make peeling easier.

  10. Mark Worley March 20th, 2009 5:37 am

    Oops, I see now Lou has the very skin I mentioned above.

  11. Randonnee March 20th, 2009 8:07 am

    The F4 rub on bar wax seems to work well on my skins now for a few years. My sense from using it is that it is better than Glopstopper. It rubs on more easily, works better to prevent snow from sticking and has better glide. Also, if I have it in my pack it is also useful to wax my ski bases as needed. Lately I have not been carrying the F4 in my pack since it seems to work reliably for several tours once applied.

  12. Tom Gos March 20th, 2009 12:31 pm

    On a hut trip a couple weeks ago I was able to use a buddy’s BD skin wax and Yellow Toko alpine wax on my skins. The Toko Yellow was hands down better than the skin wax. Yellow is Toko’s warm temp race wax so it’s pretty soft and I found it easier to apply than the BD skin wax. It also glided noticably better than the skin wax. In the past I have used flourinated alpine race wax on skins and found it to work extremely well with fantastic glide and anti-icing, although it’s quite expensive.

  13. bart spedden March 21st, 2009 7:50 pm

    I’ve been playing with waxing skins the past couple of weeks on both nylon and mohair and here’s what I’ve found. After a sticky snow day on my mohairs I rubbed in glopstopper and set my iron BELOW it’s lowest temp, it was just warm enough to help the wax seep into the hairs – you don’t really need to do this, but I’m obsessive – you could also just cork it in too. The next day my wife and I go out and ski them. It was awful. Gone was the silkiness of our lovely mohair skins. Panic set in. We skinned on them for another 4-5 hours and slowly by surely the wax worked it’s way out and our glide returned! We no longer had any glopping issues, but man, when my mohairs felt like nylons I was scared!

    For fun this week I wanted to compare, side by side, waxed nylon kickers to unwaxed mohair full length skins. I took a pair of BD glidelite kickers and waxed them with 1 layer of yellow toko, 1 layer of red toko, and 1 layer of blue toko (all hydrocarbon) – why all 3? I read the toko wax tips for last week and basically they are glide waxing with cold waxes now because they are more durable then the warmer waxes and pressing a lot of structure into the bases reduces enough cohesive forces. Apparently the early morning crusty ice of the spring is quite abrassive to warm waxes.

    So on with the test. We did a 3000′ tour today and the results are in. Mohair ROCKS! The kickers had nice glide on the sunny snow, but had almost no glide on the shady snow. So we switched over to the mohair full length skins and got our glide back! The mohair seemed to do much better dealing with the varying snow between sunny and shady. I did have a 15 second session of glopping on the mohairs just around tree line though. Not sure how it fixed itself, but it did.

    I’ve basically searched all over the internet trying to find information on waxing skins because to me it makes sense However, my little experiments tell a different story. Clearly nylon skins do glide better when waxed when compared to themselves. But when I compare my best gliding nylon skins to my mohairs they just seem slow. I have heard that low flouro pastes my work well on mohairs, but I haven’t tried that yet. I’ll still keep glopstopper in my pack in case my skins start glopping, but I’ll put it on lightly and hope that it skis out by the time the day is over.

    Lou, as for the glopstopper being anything more then alpine wax… I basically think you are correct. But here’s some oberservations. My guess is that it really is nothing more then glide wax, but it’s a warmer glide wax then MOST glide waxes sold today. Think about it. The wax is made for those days when the snow is basically melting and sticking to your skins… hence it’s name “glopstopper”. All waxes have a temperature range that they work best in. BD just selected a wax with a temperature range for exceptionally warm days. Nothing fancy. Is it worth the few extra bucks? Probably not since any warm wax will repell the water that’s creating the situation where the snow sticks to the skin.



  14. Bjørnar Bjørhusdal March 22nd, 2009 10:41 am

    I find that “glider in a can” like toko or swix type is the best, dryes out immediately, stops glob and gives better glide. Also treating skins indoor 1. with silicon spray and dry overnight works well, but is not durable, maybe only 15000 feet of climbing before it’s gone.
    Also experienced terrible glide after rubbing too much red glide wax into nylon skins..had to wear it off before the glide returned. Glide is very important in ski touring, even if the track is steep Lou! That’s my view, anyway.

    What do the rando racing pros do?

  15. Lou March 23rd, 2009 8:52 am

    Bart, nice comment post, thanks! Yeah, if the wax makes the skin fibers stand up rather than laying back, glide will be reduced.

    The thing to remember is that ski wax doesn’t work like grease or oil. with ski wax, what actually lubricates your ski so it glides is a thin film of water created by friction of the wax with the snow. Applied to skins, you don’t get much if any of that effect, and thus conventional ski wax doesn’t help much with skin glide. I’ve had more glide increase from silicon spray, but it wears off really fast. Best trick for increased skin glide is probably just to do what the rando racers do, which is to start with a glidy skin such as mohair, and use a shorter skin that stops some distance from the tail of the ski. And use wax of course, but more to prevent glopping than anything else.

  16. David P March 25th, 2009 8:25 pm

    I wish I had seen this blog post earlier today- had the BD mohair/nylon skins for $88 this morning (less than half price- and any size, too!)! And I am going to need a set for the Coombas that I just won in a raffle. Another missed opportunity…..

    It is probably worth keeping an eye over there in case they get more. Evidently they were otherwise only available in Europe this season.

  17. Justin Wilcox August 9th, 2009 9:02 pm

    Did you ever get you BD mixed mohair/nylon skins (I think there was some confusion initially and you had the wrong ones…)? If so, what was the verdict on them? Also, a year ago or more you wrote a raving review on the G3 Alpinist skins, are still as psyched on them?? Do the grip as well as the ascensions? In the sprin I bought some yellow Ascensions for my new ridiculously fat skis. They grip great, but don’t glide well at all, and are ridiculously stiff for folding and stuffing in my pack..

  18. Lou August 10th, 2009 7:10 am

    Hi Justin, I think what was going on if I recall from way back last winter was that I was expecting to be testing the 100% mohair, and BD made a mistake and sent me their mohair/nylon mix, and that the mohair/nylon mix I tested did not have as good a glide as final production version.

    BD assured me that the actual true mohair/nylon mix they’ll be selling does have fairly good glide, and I believe them, but of course will have to test in direct comparo. That’ll get done here as soon as we have fresh snow up at our summer/fall ski location. Likewise, what are said to be BD 100% mohair skins are sitting here as well, taunting me.

    As for G3 Alpinist skins, the 100,000 mile test results were thus: Amazing durability, they grip as well as Ascensions, glue lasted well even under abuse, attachment system never broke (though I didn’t abuse it) and the glide diminished as happens with all nylon skins as the hairs shorten and stiffen with lots of use. As before, I highly recommend the G3 Alpinist as a choice in nylon climbing skins.

    Due to the type of touring I seem to be doing most of every winter, I still favor 100% mohair, but I like 100% nylon for the early season rocky stuff that eats mohair for breakfast. I guess skins are like skis, you can never have enough .

  19. Justin Wilcox August 10th, 2009 8:15 am

    Thanks for the info. One more question about the G3 tip attachment. This is kind of nit-picky, but I’ve heard some people say that if you keep your skis on, and pull the skins off while still standing that the tip piece kind of catches, and does really pop off as easily as the standard loop style tip pieces. Did you find this to be the case? As a side note, the best tip pieces I’ve used are the metal bar ones from Climbingskins direct, they hold well and never wear out.

  20. Lou August 10th, 2009 8:22 am

    I never had any trouble with the tip system, but I don’t tend to remove my G3s that frequently with the skis-still-on method, as I find that the good sticky glue makes smoothly pulling them off with my skis on my feet somewhat awkward for me.

  21. Geoff Bodwin November 21st, 2009 2:24 pm


    Are you planning to do a review/comparison of the Black Diamond 100% mohair and mohair/nylon skins soon? (I’d like to hear your opinion before I make a purchase, if possible.)

  22. John December 21st, 2009 10:23 pm

    I tried the BD split skins on some 105mm waist skis. They do glide better but… that included sliding back down any slope greater than 25 degrees, powder or packed. The instructions might be correct in reguard to ski width after all.

  23. Euro Rob December 22nd, 2009 4:17 am

    I’ve been told that black skins aren’t so great actually because quick drying ruins the glue. Anyway that’s just for the sake of discussion.

    Somewhat related I’m wondering why ski(touring) jackets don’t have big chest pockets inside, that would be great for warming up frozen skins / preventing them from freezing on the descend. Might have to try deploying Mommy’s sewing skills or try to do some mesh pockets myself.

  24. Lou December 22nd, 2009 8:54 am

    Euro, it’s really funny and amazing you ask that. We’re you looking in our window yesterday as we designed such pockets for our Denali jackets?

    We have a Patagonia jacket with such a pocket, but very few jackets have them. Amazing how this stuff can always be improved, isn’t it?

  25. Euro Rob December 22nd, 2009 9:09 am

    Heh fun, actually I was more looking at what rando racers do, just sticking them into their suit — obviously doesn’t work as well with jackets 😉 When being out light and fast we’ve also put the skins into our race-ish pants that are tight around the thighs, works well with the narrow skins for race skis. Anyhow for my BD Kilowatt skins I need something better, also lycra isn’t the fabric of choice at -20C.

    For added functionality and style I’m considering doing the skin pockets at the side of my jacket, should be a warm spot just below the pits and doesn’t make you look so chubby in the pics 😀

  26. Kim September 27th, 2010 6:32 pm

    It is late September and in Australia we are just finishing our season – perhaps one or two more backcountry trips if the sun is not too brutal on the snow.

    I have had my skins for 2 seasons (Colorado and Aus) and never done anything to them in the way of end-of-season maintenance other than putting the cheat sheets on and storing in a breathable bag. Is there anything special I should do? For the glue, the hair, the attachments? Do they need to be cleaned? How?

    On another, related, issue. I am purchasing the Dynafit Stoke. Any comments on the Dynafit speedskin versus the G3 Alpinist?

  27. Lou September 27th, 2010 7:32 pm

    Kim, yeah, just store with the cheat sheets in a cool place. No reason to strip and re-glue if they work.

    Speedskin is a mohair/nylon mix optimized for glide. G3 is straight nylon that glides well when new but you’ll notice less glide as they wear. Opposite for Speedskin. If you climb steep and tend to walk over rocks and such, get the G3. If you go for lower angled skin tracks etc., go for Speedskin. Oh, and the G3 glue is quite a bit more sticky, which can be nice but is also a pain sometimes.

  28. Kim September 28th, 2010 1:15 am

    Lou, thanks for that advice.

    I prefer to reduce the number of transitions and like to “glide” down smaller downhill sections rather than removing and replacing skins. That being the case, it sounds like the Speedskin may be better for me if I am careful and avoid those rocks that are all too common in our spring snowpack.

  29. Ben Tibbetts October 22nd, 2010 7:23 pm

    Hi lou,
    I have been searching for a bit of info that maybe you could enlighten me on:
    where I work at the moment (on a research station in the Antarctic) we have lots of sets of black diamond sts skins with the tyre tread black and white pattern. Were these always nylon or did a mix or mohair skin have the same plush pattern? … did the Glidelite Nylon become called the Ascension recently to differentiate the Nylon from Mohair and Mohair mix? is the old (2005) nylon much different from the current plush?
    Also, and i wrote to the BD customer services (via their website form) about this and got zip all response – many of our skins that have been stored with cheat sheets at room temperature have had some of the black plastic compound of the cheat sheet left on the skin. It is as if the glue solvent has dissolved the cheat sheet plastic and now has left a black grill pattern on the base… not ideal eh..! .. have you come across this before?

    many thanks,
    (pictures of crazy white places on my site if that interests you!…however i have just overwintered and all i am dreaming of is Alpine powder!)

  30. Christian N. March 27th, 2013 3:03 am

    I already have BD Ascension skins, would like to acquire a pair of Glidelite Pure (100% mohair) for better glide. I’m not sure if I want tail straps — with skis on and BD tip loops, is it feasible to rip the skins off without the tail hook to grab on to? Guess I should try it on snow myself…

    My skis are 186 Drifts (100 mm underfoot).

    Without tail straps, is it advisable to cut the skins significantly shorter (-30cm) than the ski like I’ve heard rando racers do?

    Thanks in advance,

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