What’s New at Contour Skins?


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | January 29, 2016      
Werner showing Louie how the Contour 'Hybrid Free' split skin works.

Werner showing Louie how the Contour ‘Hybrid Free’ split skin works.

One of my favorite “industry visits” here in the old country is when we sit down (and stand up and ski) with Werner Koch of Koch Alpin. These Austrian “goat hair dealers” (I jest) make what in my opinion is the Tesla of ski climbing skins, Contour Hybrid, along with a few other products they’re involved in manufacturing or distributing. We’ve covered these guys quite a bit, see previous Contour blog posts.

Louie chats up Werner and his employee Doris, they're looking at Contour's excellent ski tip loop attachment.

Louie chats up Werner and his employee Doris, they’re looking at Contour’s excellent ski tip loop attachment.

In skins, this year at Koch is one of consolidation and improvement of existing products. Werner related that they’ve been able to outsource the manufacturing of their Hybrid skin fabric, allowing them to concentrate on cutting pre-cut skins and doing a good job with their tip-tail fix systems. For those of you who didn’t see our blog posts of yore, quickly summarized: the Contour Hybrid glue system uses a special bonding layer that allows the use of more user-friendly skin glue on the exposed adhesive side of the skin. The Hybrid adhesive sticks to itself quite gently so getting your skins apart after storage isn’t a shoulder ripping struggle, and it can be easily cleaned with wax remover. Contour Hybrid glue is not “super sticky” like you’d want for 30 below zero interior Canada, but for 90% of touring conditions it’s perfect. We’re big fans of the stuff.

Vario skin tip clip, can be used over and over again as it attaches as a clamshell with two tiny catches.

Vario skin tip clip, can be used over and over again as it attaches as a clamshell with two tiny catches.

We in particular like how Contour Hybrid adhesive works for split skins. Contour will continue making their Hybrid Free split using their 70% mohair mix plush. This pre-cut split skin works for a variety of ski widths down to about 95 mm, perfect if you have a quiver of fatties and don’t want to run a set of skins for each and every plank.

In other news at Contour: They’re using a stiffer and stronger plastic in their excellent Vario Clip ski tip skin anchor. Apparently some folks were so aggressively ripping skins that the clip would flex and come apart. Werner keeps increasing the number of ski makers he cuts skins for, and this year he added a branded skin with stunning graphics for one well known company we can’t name until ISPO in a few days. For those of you who like the traditional hotmelt glue, the Contour 70% mohair and 100% mohair fur will continue with various tip and tail anchors.

Trad hotmelt glue is still ALIVE and well.  It walks, or at least crawls or so I'm told.

Trad hotmelt glue is still ALIVE and well. It walks, or at least crawls or so I’m told.

We had our usual fun and informative convo with Werner. Of note, he said the challenging thing about mohair is that every year this natural hair product varies in performance due to the climate, food and animal health. What is more, depending on which part of the animal the fur was shorne from, you get various differences. Some years the skins will have more glide, some years more durability, and so on. In other words, natural wool climbing skins have “vintages” just like wine. Takeaway: If you buy mohair skins off a roll at your favorite ski shop, and they perform well, it’s advisable to get a second set off that same roll. “Check out my 2012 vintage mohairs, some of the best glide ever!”

We also discussed the cost of climbing skins vs wear. Americans, he said, are known in the industry for expecting their ski gear to virtually last forever — even though it clearly does not. Europeans heavy users who ski tour around 100 days a season, however, know they’ll be replacing their skins every one or two seasons and don’t balk at the expense any more than they balk at keeping good tires on their bicycles. It’s too bad climbing skins (especially mohair) are not more bullet proof, but weight and glide are important. At this juncture we have to accept reality.

The Contour Hybrid skin material comes in rolls, then gets shaped on a computer controlled cutting table.

The Contour Hybrid skin material comes in rolls, then gets shaped on a computer controlled cutting table.

Contour supplies retailers with the best skin trimmer I think I've seen.

Contour supplies retailers with the best skin trimmer I think I’ve seen.

Contour climbing skins will continue to be distrubted by CAMP USA in North America, available at specialty retailers and etailers such as Cripple Creek Backcountry and Skimo.com

During our meetings with Contour we usually do an evening uphill then dinner. This view of Innsbruck was delightful.

During our meetings with Contour we usually do an evening uphill ski, then dinner. This delightful view of Innsbruck illustrated the walk, topped by an excellent Tyrolean schnitzel, (which is what I call wiener schnitzel made in the Tirol, apologies to Vienna).



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Comments

23 Responses to “What’s New at Contour Skins?”

  1. b. fredlund January 29th, 2016 4:42 pm

    I like the wine vintage analogy for mohair. I think it apples to glue recipes used by certain companies over the years also.

    The idea of split skins for multiple pairs of skis is great too.!

  2. Paul January 29th, 2016 5:56 pm

    Any thoughts about the logistics of getting the split skins on and off quickly and cleanly, having to line up more edges? Did you get to try transitioning in high wind? I tried them one time indoors and the experience left me just a little skeptical.

  3. Charlie Hagedorn January 30th, 2016 12:23 am

    Yep. American here. Can confirm that I expect gear to last, because it can when it’s built right.

    I have a pair of CSD skins from 2008 that I use more than any other. I’d guess that they’re 50-66% of the way through their useful service life. Only visible wear was from skinning down a gravel road at high speed in 2011.

    That same pair of skis is mounted with 05/06 Dynafit Comforts, skied hard every year between then and now. After a decade of hard use, they’re beginning to show their age, and will be put out to pasture in a year or two.

  4. Lou Dawson 2 January 30th, 2016 7:19 am

    Charlie, I’d agree gear should “last,” but only according to its material characteristics. What I was alluding to in the blog post is how people sometimes expect their backcountry gear to have substantially more life than is practical or even logical. We all know that nothing lasts forever, but we sometimes have pretty weird takes on that, for example we’ll keep good tires on a car but run a 12-year-old worn out set of ski touring bindings that cost substantially less than the set of tires — and are just as important for personal safety. Lou

  5. Lou Dawson 2 January 30th, 2016 7:22 am

    Paul, sure, there are definitely mitigating factors to how well the split skins work. But I’ve used some quite a bit myself (I love them for ski testing) and due to the Hybrid glue not sticking to itself too harshly they’re surprisingly easy to handle. They can lack grip compared to a wall-to-wall skin, and the glide can feel weird if you’re going downhill on them. Lou

  6. swissiphic January 30th, 2016 7:46 am

    @Paul; I custom split a pair of regular old skins and for the first few outings found them almost impossible to handle without frustration both applying and removing/folding in high winds. Solution was to attach a center strip of tuck tape to produce a ‘normal’ feeling/handling skin. Use a length of shiny red tuck tape, folded in half lengthwise so you end up with both sides being the shiny and not sticky. Lay it down centered on the ski base, and install the skins with even overlap on both sides of skin glue. Skins handle perfectly ‘normal’ now, haven’t had any problems at all…durability is surprising; was expecting tape failure/rips/tears, snow buildup under contact areas and adhesion to ski failure but i’m about 70 days in and they’re still intact and no dramatic liabilities have surfaced.

    Adjusting width takes a bit of care and patience and is not easy in the field but at home with ski held rigid, pretty straightforward to readjust the system.

    Dunno if you can expect the same results with the contours.

  7. Werner Koch January 30th, 2016 2:24 pm

    hi, hanks for the nice report. Regarding your questions about handling the free splitskins, this is quite a bit different compared to tradional split skins since we do not use a buckle and the skins can be folded lengthwise. Thanks to the hybrid glue technology, the skins are easy to separate for putting them back on, which takes only a little bit longer ….
    Check out this clip to see how they are removed and folded http://youtu.be/yBIHQvsvddE
    Regards, Werner Koch

  8. Werner Koch January 30th, 2016 2:26 pm

    …this should have started with “Hi, thanks….” Please correct, thanks, Werner.

  9. Patrick January 30th, 2016 2:45 pm

    Skin length.
    I own 2 pairs of skins: 1 set Blk Diamond mohair and 1 set BD nylon. Both with low milage.
    Recently, I replaced my 174cm skis with 183cm.
    Because of the VERY SHORT skin-tails on both my BD skin sets (just 8cm of adjustment), I need to buy yet another set of mohair skins. Or mod the existing hook, or mod by ordering/purchasing out-of-stock, new, longer tails. BD, with me, you’ve generated customer bad will.
    I understand G3 got smart, and attached skin-tail attachments, with much greater adjustment potential. G3 seems to understand that many skiers require skins that can attach to skis of different lengths. Not only does that help customers, it helps the biz, because it reduces costly inventories (and space) at the G3 warehouse. Ditto, saves money for G3 wholesalers and retailers. That means financial wins all around. With longer tails, as per their needs, customers can trim any excess skin tail.
    In summary — with the longer skin tails, G3 generates good-will among their skin customers.

  10. Dave C. January 30th, 2016 5:15 pm

    Split skins remind me of a setup an orthopedic surgeon friend used at Battle Abbey hut in 1993 on one of the first fat tele skis I’d seen. It consisted of two narrow “Pomoca” style skins on each ski. So ingenious, it earned him the nickname of “Dr. Four-Skin.

  11. Paul January 31st, 2016 12:43 pm

    Werner – thanks, that is really helpful. I was a little more concerned about putting them on – when I tried it once, getting the skins unfolded and both pieces on, located close to but not lapping over the edges, was harder than it should have been, and that was without wind. Do you have a video of the skins – on transition?
    I tried doing something like this with some old Ascension skins and it never worked very well, just too many flapping parts, so I’m curious to see how someone who has put a lot more work into it has figured this out.

  12. hairymountainbeast January 31st, 2016 5:35 pm

    so, contour provides retailers with a sweet trim tool. what if you don’t have access to a retailer that sells contour skins and order directly from camp usa? is the same tool available?

  13. Werner Koch February 1st, 2016 12:23 am

    @Paul – Putting them on is OK. Thanks to the hybrid glue, the straps are easy to separate. Just take them apart, clip in one end attach one strap along the edge, clip in other end and attach second strap. Work even when windy, but not as easy a putting on a traditional skin. Werner

    @hairymountainbeast: Should be available through CAMP USA, too. But the trim tool needs a little practice and is meant for retailers doing more than one skin per year: https://youtu.be/7U-BirJKBmI. Werner

  14. Wookie February 1st, 2016 2:36 am

    Live Werner’s skins. The split works – and I wish I’d discovered them sooner. I could have saved a bundle on my quiver.
    Add an absorbant, clean cloth to your kit though. The glue is good, but you really need to make sure the base is dry before putting them on. This will not make a difference if you typically go one-up, one-down – but if you go back for a second lap – it can.
    I’ve heard others say they don’t stick well – but this is due to kinda sloppy application in my opinion. In any case, the reduced effort associated with the easy to use glue more than makes up for a quick wipe with a cloth.
    Another advantage: since I can fold the skins over side-to-side on themselves, they pack down REALLY REALLY small. Much smaller than any other skins I have. Combined with the less-sticky sticky – it makes packing them into my jacket for the down WAAAY better. Most of my jackets have skin pockets, but only my lightest gear fits in them…..until now.
    This is probably the best part about those splits.

  15. swissiphic February 4th, 2016 1:30 pm

    Hello Lou and all: Got some old 500 days+ skins that seem to have lost their glide over the past few seasons. Like, no glide at all, feels like skins are on backwards. Just curious if there’s any way to enhance what’s left? Have tried waxing skins, washing gunk/goo off with warm water (sink was yellow water apres) but nothing really dramatic in improvement. Guessing either the hairs at a microscopic level have a bunch of abrasion causing stiction/friction or there’s long term buildup of sticky gunk… thinking next step wipe with ski wax remover or white gas but don’t wanna contaminate the glue with absorbtion…anyone know what the true issue is and if it’s solvable? obviously plan b is new skins…but i’m cheap…

  16. Bar Barrique February 4th, 2016 7:25 pm

    Hi Swissiphic; I guess the first question would be: what brand\type of skins are they. I have skins with similar use that I am still using, however “skin maintenance” is getting very expensive. I have a pair of BD skins that need regluing, and, new tail pieces. It looks like $50+ to fix them (not the first rebuild), so I am looking for a spring sale on some new skins.

  17. swissiphic February 4th, 2016 7:45 pm

    Hi Bar Barrique; they’re a pair of G3 Alpinists and have served me well over their lifespan; they don’t owe me a thing. Thing is, they’re a test pair of custom split skins and need ’em for a few pairs in the quiver, plus i’m using them to test new custom mods to address different regular ski skin issues..so far, gaining some good headway..don’t really wanna buy new splits or split a new pair of ‘normals’ and start butchering them in the name of science just yet..if I don’t have to. 😉

  18. See February 4th, 2016 8:25 pm

    Wild guess: they’re bald. Have you inspected them under magnification?

  19. Bar Barrique February 4th, 2016 8:40 pm

    Hmmm, I have a pair of G3’s that are around 10-12 years old, and, they were not the most durable skins. In fact they kind of turned to a fuzzy snow collecting mess. You could still use them for your research, factoring in their poor performance, but if they look like mine, I can’t think of anything that will resurrect them.

  20. swissiphic February 4th, 2016 9:30 pm

    indeed, they do look a bit ‘fuzzy’…well, sounds like they’re just ready to be put out to pasture…or ready to go under the blade of experimental surgery…coupla passes with the hot air gun? waxing iron on high? sharp metal scraper tip to tail passes? I’ll report back if I have any positive results…things can’t get too more negative really. 😉

  21. XXX_rr February 4th, 2016 9:42 pm

    Send them into g3, if you get warranty … You get warranty

    Ime saying things like. “Don’t you know who I am?” Will facilitate the process

  22. Bar Barrique February 4th, 2016 11:23 pm

    Well if you can get some kind of warranty on them, that would be sweet. If you have no luck with warranty, then your experiments for straightening out the fibers of the skins might be your best bet.
    BTW since this is a Contour skin thread; I have a set of these skins that I have received lately, and, on the box, they state the skins should be good for 50-100 “trips”. I have expected more from my past purchases of skins, but, I am hoping that this “skin glue” will be more user friendly than other skins that I have used.

    Cheers;

    Bar

  23. Werner Koch February 9th, 2016 7:57 am

    @Bar Barrique: The number of tours you can make with your skins largely depends on length and snow conditions. On piste especially on artificial snow, abrasion is much higher than on dry powder, so “lifespan” can be as low as 50 tours if used mostly on hard, icy slopes and will exceed 200 in powder.
    Werner





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