Bikini Cut or Straight — Climbing Skin Shape

Post by blogger | March 14, 2016      

Consider bikinis. For something that’s just a few square centimeters of textile the variety is nearly infinite. I’m not sure ski climbing skin shaping reaches that same level of “artistic” eventuality, but you can get creative if you want (and utilize more fabric than a bikini in most cases). Depending on your goals and style, climbing skin shapes go from racing straight and skinny “gliders” all the way to wall-to-wall carpet that grips like bear claws.

Top skin has straight cut tip, sidecut shaped waist and tail.

Top skin has straight cut tip, sidecut shaped waist and tail. Skin on lower ski is “bikini cut” with heavy taper at both tip and tail, used on ski with quite a bit of rocker.

A few things we’ve seen in skin shaping over past few seasons. Commenters, got any tricks?

1. Classic cut, follows ski sidecut without much ptex showing at tip or tail. Best climb performance but extra weight and glide resistance for ski touring, especially in the case of heavily rockered skis that don’t get much tip or tail traction anyway.

2. Straight at tip, tapered and shortened at tail. My favorite climbing skin shape. I feel that the straight cut tip has best combo of glide and climb, though it still might be more than needed under a rockered tip. Photo above shows straight trim at the tip.

3. Bikini cut, heavy taper at tip and tail, short at tail. Best reduction in weight, but I feel the heavily tapered tip might have more slide resistance than a straight cut tip due to the taper working against the snow. See photo above.

4. Skinny skin, straight cut. Super skinny (as in just a few centimeters) can be useful for long flat slogs, semi-skinny for skimo racing. When you get into reduced sizes, cutting the carpet quite short and not using a tail fix is common, especially in skimo racing. Bear in mind that racers sometimes carry two or more sets of skins and that having a tail fix compensates somewhat for glue failure.

Another style.

Classic skin trim matches ski shape, with a slightly shortened tail section.

5. Split skins can be cut with a somewhat generic sidecut radius and adjusted to fit different backcountry skis. They save significant weight with wider planks, though climbing grip is sometimes compromised and you’ll feel a lack of glide in some conditions due to the slot created by the two strips of skin.

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

Werner Koch of Contour Skins showing us how the Contour ‘Hybrid Free’ split skin works.

6. Climbing skins such as the Atomic Ultimate Rocker and G3 Scala have tip sections made of materials other than fabric. Atomic has a section of lighter weight material that’s glide proficient. Scala has a section of fish scaled plastic that’s said to help the skin climb but has about the same mass. Jury is out on both but it’s nice to see innovation. Yes, we’re talking more about skin material than shape, but I figured I’d throw that in since these tips can probably be cut in innovative ways the future will bring.

Atomic rocker skin has glide tip, is made by Contour.

Atomic rocker skin has glide tip that might allow creative shaping, is made by Contour. I’d like to see a version of this with the slick surface running to about 20 centimeters from the boot position, to create a “kicker” skin with super glide.

7. Then there is the outlier. Profoil and other skins cut to the full ski width. Fisher’s plastic climbing skin is proving to be useful, but storage challenges are problematic (it sticks to itself too well). I include here as in illustration of “full cut edge to edge” skin shaping. In other words, you don’t leave any offset exposing your ski edge. If you mostly skin powder you can do this with regular carpet skins as well — you’ll be surprised at how well they work. But be ready for some startling behavior if you try to edge on hard snow, especially in situations when you leave your skins on for downhill on hard snow.

Check out all our climbing skin coverage.


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25 Responses to “Bikini Cut or Straight — Climbing Skin Shape”

  1. Jasper March 14th, 2016 9:27 am

    I put BD split skins on my Carbon Megawatts this year. I really appreciate the split for lightness and better glide. I also tried to shed some weight by not only going bikini cut but also building my own tip loops. The loops use the BD attachment to the skin but have a larger lasso then comes stock. I did this in order to have a shorter skin that would better match the running surface of the ski. It works great on an established track but if I break trail snow gets forced under the skin and I loose any benefits in weight and also risk loosing glue function. I have maybe 2 cm of clearance from the top of the skin to the snow surface below. Next time around I will maintain decency and keep full coverage on my tips, but go g string on the tail. This mod cost me about $5 at the hardware store and uses the same material as the stock lasso.

  2. Pablo March 14th, 2016 9:42 am

    About Split skins.
    Yes, a exposed strip of sole in the middle can reduce friction and improve glide but if using nice gliding mohair, maybe the gain in gliding is not real:
    Split Skins go from 2 skin edges to 4 skin edges and I think the increased friction of this 2 extra skin edges is bigger than the reduction of having sole instead plus in this stripe.

    Benefits on less weight are clear with Split skins. but in gliding…i’m not sure.

    What do you think about it?

  3. Jasper March 14th, 2016 1:41 pm

    I used BD glidelites, 65% mohair and 35% nylon, for the last few years. I think the 100% nylon split skins glide is equivalent to the full glidelite. The main perk being the nylon split skins stay dryer. Weight is comprable. Glidelite is more packable. I was tempted to go full mohair this year but decided to give the splits a try. I don’t regret it. I hope to get on some of the Contour splits in the future!

  4. Lou Dawson 2 March 14th, 2016 3:07 pm

    Pablo, I’d agree, I don’t think the glide of a split is always improved, sometimes it’s worse, but the weight difference is significant. Plus, splits can be used on multiple pairs of skis. Lou

  5. biggb March 14th, 2016 5:14 pm

    I went bikini style on some new skins this year and am feeling the regret. Pervasive snow packing under the front. I’m be going back to the classic / straight tip next time around.

  6. Lou Dawson 2 March 14th, 2016 5:21 pm

    Yeah, I think straight tip is probably best, preferably with the Atomic style glide section, IMHO. Lou

  7. XXX_er March 14th, 2016 6:48 pm

    I use mostly dynafit & Alpinist skins so the ends are all done for me but here’s a cheap n easy tip to easily replace a broken dynafit tip stretcher for almost nothing

    In a short length of 3mm bungy, tie a small loop(size of your finger) with a knot big enough to be held by the slot in the Dynafit ski tip

    Cut the head off a 3″ aluminum roofing nail, put the nail thru the hole in the bungy and snap the nail into the tip plate

    The knot will jam in the dynafit ski tip slot … works great !

  8. Lou Dawson 2 March 14th, 2016 7:13 pm

    I love the slot tip skin holder, my favorite of all, am surprised it has not caught on more.

  9. Dave March 14th, 2016 7:23 pm

    I’m testing the Scalas right now. The 130-width creates a bit of a long taper on the shovel which seems to compliment the low-resistance TPU area. The rest of the skin is cut in a traditional fashion. Just the Alpinist plush, but on their first outing, without any break-in, they rocked it on traction, glide, and even side-hilling on bulletproof snow.

    If Ullr brings the forecasted snow, we’ll see how they plow through the pow this weekend.

  10. Paul March 14th, 2016 7:48 pm

    I’ve been experimenting with the bikini cut and have found that applying that at the tip seems to cause more snow to pack under the edges. I’ve also trying re-creating my ski mo race set up by slotting the tips of my (much) wider touring skis and making my own knotted bungy tip and, while they are much easier to strip off, the bungy tips on wider skis seem to also allow more snow to build up under the tip. The piece I can’t understand is that the “kick” area of my ski mo skins is worn to the point of very little plush remaining in the center of the skin – yet they seem to climb just as well as those on everyone around me in races. And they seem to glide better. Confusing but effective.

  11. Andy M. March 14th, 2016 10:26 pm

    I do a “classic” cut on my skins (BD MoMix), and notice that even with that very moderate taper at the tip I get a fair amount of snow buildup. Tails are fine. So this is somewhat interesting, although I wonder how much of it is the type of snow (Sierra Cement) vs. the cut of the skin. All my skis are pretty heavily rockered, so I could see there being less drawback of the straight cut… except that even my narrowest skis are 130mm at the front, so the delta between the width of the tip loop and the ski is somewhat significant, and I wonder if it would still collect a lot of snow.

    Part of the problem may be that the BD tip loop doesn’t sit very flush with the ski base, slightly pulling the skin away.

  12. Paul March 15th, 2016 7:24 am

    I think Andy M is onto something – I think the thick plastic portion of the BD tip loop that holds the skin away from the ski base is a step in the wrong direction.

  13. Wookie March 15th, 2016 8:50 am

    strong taper at the front also gives me build-up under the skins, but I can’t say I’ve ever been negatively impacted – it just stays over near the edges and doesn’t work down.
    I like splits – but not because of glide so much, or even weight – I love them because they can pack down so super-small. They fit in all my skin pockets – which are really really tiny. (why?)
    I’ve also gone with super skinny, and just put a straight-cut strip down the middle to see how it would go……it didn’t. I liked the glide, sure, but as soon as I started sidehilling, I was on a ride to the bottom. I was surprized how little grip I had. I went on only one tour with those. Since I couldn’t go sideways at all, I ended up setting a Wasatch masochistic straight-up skinner. It was one of the worst days skiing ever.
    Oh – and Lou – I even tried the purple klister. Worked great! No skins!

  14. Lou Dawson 2 March 15th, 2016 9:50 am

    Good stuff Wookie, thanks for chiming in! I use my super skinny skins on snow covered roads, no side hilling. Even then the conditions have to be right, too soft and you slip on the edges. A specialized tool. Back when I used to do a lot more long distance slogging in spring I’d put a strip of duct tape down the ski and put klister on the duct tape. Seriously. Worked really well, kick and glide heaven compared to skins. Remove tape and it was fresh ptex ready for the downhill or skins. Lou

  15. Aaron March 15th, 2016 10:16 am

    Lou, what about using your same klister hack for skins: duct tape tip to in front of boot to create temporary kicker skins? I’ve been experimenting with duct tape on the front 30cm of skin this winter. Does not seem to peel off.Not sure how a rear strip would hold.

  16. Lou Dawson 2 March 15th, 2016 10:17 am

    Aaron, that’s a cool idea, I’m going to try it right now. Heading out for a skin in a little while…

  17. Aaron March 15th, 2016 10:27 am

    Or one long strip down the whole middle to create split like skins…We just need to be careful to not leave wads of duct tape lying around the trails!

  18. swissiphic March 15th, 2016 10:44 am

    I recommend the red shiny 3M glossy looking tape. Rub some wax on it and buff it smooth.

  19. Czaja January 16th, 2017 1:21 pm

    How do you think 120mm skins will work on the 130-95-116 skis? I would normally go classic/full coverage but I am considering trying a straight tip with my new skins. Do you think I will get a lot of snow packing under the front? Or does the excessive snow packing only happen with the bikini cut skins? Cheers.

  20. Greg January 16th, 2017 1:32 pm

    I would say Yes. On that ski with 120 mm wide skins you will have full coverage except on the very tip, and almost full coverage there. You do not get a lot of traction out of the very tip of the ski anyway; especially if it is rockered.

  21. Czaja January 16th, 2017 1:49 pm

    Thanks for reassurance. I had a feeling I should be fine with that size but I thought I’d double check just in case. (smile)

  22. Christian March 28th, 2017 5:14 pm

    Any experiences on straight skin all the way down on wider skis? eg a 110mm skin on a 114mm-waisted ski (2mm either side for edges). Common for skimo skis, but curious how they do on wider skis. The other thought I had was something slightly wider than waist-minus-4mm, like a 120 skin on a 114mm-waist ski. You’d get a full-width along the length of the boot (more or less) where it’s more critical, along with more glide with the straigther skin, and none of the snow packing with a tip-taper. Thoughts?

  23. Christian March 28th, 2017 5:18 pm

    Doh! Never mind, wasn’t reading the descriptions of the different cuts clearly. Apologies 😳

  24. Mike December 4th, 2018 8:00 pm

    Bikini cut will leave lots of glue exposed when folding the tips to center then that in half. Then when stuffed in my jacket there would be too much junk building up on my glue. I will stick to full coverage and problem free skins.

  25. swissiphic December 5th, 2018 8:10 am

    I’ve experimented with full wall to wall coverage, split skins and bikini cut. I ski tour in mostly technical terrain with minimal approaches so I don’t place a high priority on glide…grip is the game.

    Split skins are a personal fav. You can macro adjust to varying ski widths within reason and micro adjust to move skin to the ‘just right’ point along the base edge.

    Also, uphill traction is enhanced while both steep skinning up the fall line and for weird variable supportive/breakable crust when traversing/sidehill uphilling.

    For my full wall to wall coverage skins, i’ve added added hot glue gun ‘grip strips’ which act as skin crampons. I added six of em; two each at outside base edges of tip rocker contact point, underfoot around the heel and at tail splay contact point. They’ve been a game changer for uphill traction on firm surfaces both for straight up the fall line routes or for steeper sidehilling on very fat skis. As an unintended benefit, they allow for amazing straight line tracking of fat skis…tips don’t wander. Also, for skinning uphill in coastal rainforest windfall strewn forest, they give great traction for walking over fallen tree trucks, branches, rocks, blueberry bushes, moss and frozen mud. Surprisingly, although they did add a bit of expected drag to glide, the difference wasn’t as dramatic as expected…the increase in straight line tracking psychologically kindof offset the increase in kick and glide drag and felt more efficient cause you don’t have to think about microadjusting your skis orientation with every step.

    Haven’t tried on true white or blue ice but for spring refreeze, they allow you to skin uphill like a spider on a wall. Did some limit testing and basically if the crust was firm with full skin contact, there was non-slip up the fall line traction of slopes up to 40 degrees. I had to add heel lift blocks because lack of heel lift was the limiting factor. At 40 degrees, the pole tips couldn’t reliably grip the overnight refreeze and I couldn’t go any steeper for safety reasons. Next mod, dual pole tips for extreme skinning conditions. It felt so efficient; like walking up a set of stairs.

    After about 30 days of use the hot glue material started to break down so had to reheat and melt it back into original form.

    Not a huge fan of bikini cut. The lack of grip at tips and tail edges is noticeable in a few technical scenario skinning conditions and I still got the dreaded snow buildup under the tip/shovel portion of skin edges.

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