Clipskins — The Glue Free Diet

Post by blogger | February 9, 2011      

Climbing skin glue works great most of the time, but has its problems. The stuff doesn’t perform well in extreme cold, and you have to be fanatically careful to keep foreign material from sticking to it. More, no matter what you do and how finicky you are, it is one of the mysteries of the universe how skin glue can still attract all sorts of material and wear out. The stuff is like, well, a dirt magnet.

Before glue, skins used a system of straps for ski attachment. They were funky, came off unexpectedly, and made any sort of side hill steeper than my driveway a death defying endeavor (or so I’m told by people old enough to actually use the things).

Enter Clipskins, which are similar in concept to the old strap skins, but completely different in execution. They have tiny metal clips along the side that snap onto the edges of a ski and a tail cam that holds it onto the tail. The clips are durable, and small enough to not interfere with the edges of the skis.

Ripping the clipskins, notice the bit of snow trapped under the ski. During a long climb this could cause some icing just as happens with glue skins when snow works its way between them and the ski.

Clipskins come with a big bag of stuff to use in the setup. The procedure is more complicated than preparing a pair of traditional glued skins. I’ve setup a few pairs of Clipskins. My first setup took a few hours, and now I can get it done in about an hour. The clips are glued to the skin with rubber-toughened cynoacrylate, while the first beta test pair I got came with off-the-shelf superglue (cynoacrylate). The rubber toughened stuff is incredibly resilient. I got it on my hands when I was trimming the skins and it didn’t come off for weeks. I made the clips so they are fairly tight on the ski, which makes the skins stay on well. It’s important to get the length of the skins just right, but you can rip off the glue used to apply the tip loop and adjust the fit. The guys at Clipskins are still tweaking the design a bit, mostly to make the trimming process easier.

I don't know where they found this stuff, but it's amazing. Rubber-toughened cynoacrylate is used to attach the clips to the skins. I've been using the leftovers for all sorts of repairs as it seems to stick to everything.

Midway through trimming the skins.

The clips that make it all happen

I’ve been using the current version of the Clipskins for more than a month of backcountry skiing, and I’m impressed. It sure is nice to not have to worry about letting your skins get fouled up by dirt or snow. I’ve learned to live with the hassles of glued skins, but it really hit home one unusually cold day touring behind Whistler when the glued skins of almost every person in my party failed at one point or another, while mine stayed on. Of course, the Clipskins have their disadvantages. The biggest is that if the tail clip pops off, you get at most two steps before the skin slides off quicker than Bode down the Streif, something glued skins don’t do. This has only happened to me a few times when I was “mixed” skinning, over rocks and roots. I readjusted the length of the skin slightly and it hasn’t happened since. Since I trimmed the skins so the clips are tight, a few of them have to be manually unclipped, so I can’t rip the skins off in one motion. It doesn’t take much effort, and I can still easily take off the skins with my skis on, perhaps even easier than before since it doesn’t matter if they touch the snow. The one thing I was worried about before using the skins was the edging power.

Over the weekend of the OR Trade Show I got a few turns in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Expecting the greatest snow on earth, I was greeted with a few inches of wind buff on a rock hard rain crust. While I wouldn’t use the term graceful, or even respectable, I felt like I wasn’t struggling to get a grip more than anyone else in the group. I’ve used Clipskins on some slightly less rock hard snow as well, and the metal clips actually helped if I utilized the “scoring” technique to get some purchase as they act almost like little cutters. The Clipskins are almost identical in weight to my G3 Alpinist skins cut for the same skis. One thing to note is that sometimes I’ve noticed a small amount of snow ends up between the skin and the ski while I’m hiking up. It’s never been thicker than a millimeter or two, and it hasn’t been an issue, just thought I’d make a note of it.

I’m satisfied with the Clipskins, and they are most definitely a viable alternative to their traditional glued relatives. They take a bit more time to set up than glued skins, but doing so isn’t really much more difficult for the committed backcountry skier with some hand skills (though those seeking to quickly shop for gear and use it that day will of course still want pre-cut glued skins as the most convenient option.). The reliability of the clips is great, and I don’t think they will wear out anytime soon. It seems everyone is going gluten free, fat free, meat free, or dairy free these days. Well, I’m going glue free!

(Editor’s note: Some readers may wonder why we took so long to get a review of these up (they’ve been available for a while). Answer is that prior design iterations of Clipskins were in our opinion just beta test products. Thus, we didn’t feel like reviewing something that was in development and undergoing rapid improvements that changed things we would have mentioned in the review. The skins we used for this review appear to be a more stable, retail ready product, though we suspect small improvements will continue.)

The Clipskins website


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40 Responses to “Clipskins — The Glue Free Diet”

  1. Chelsey February 9th, 2011 9:22 am

    I wonder if there is any way to buy just the clips and glue them onto another pair of skins.

  2. Dan February 9th, 2011 10:39 am

    I noticed someone touring with clipskins on heavily rockered skis. Any thoughts on whether the clipskins are better or worse for this sort of set up?

  3. Nick February 9th, 2011 11:26 am

    Meh – I have never really had problems with traditional glued skins on a variety of ski types. And I never re-glued and they would be always very dirty. If cut appropriately and with the tail grabber tight, I never experienced many problems (if any) with traditional BD Ascenionists or Glidelites.

    Now I am using the Dynafit integrated system on Stokes and they are even better. With the tail and tip attachment, they won’t go anywhere, even if the glue on the bottom wears out.

    But I guess Clipskins could be a viable alternative, albeit with a ton of work…

  4. sharon bader February 9th, 2011 11:58 am

    interesting idea.

    It would great if the clips were available separately as a backup to glued skins.

    Imagine if it was one piece that clipped on both sides of the ski holding the skin on. Kinda like how you have to do it now with ski straps.

  5. Lou February 9th, 2011 12:54 pm

    When checking out how these things were working for Louie, it occurred to me that a bit of skin glue on the Clipskins could perhaps give the best of both worlds.

  6. Njord February 9th, 2011 1:53 pm

    Way to sneak in a Bode reference!

  7. andrew fox February 9th, 2011 2:17 pm

    Ive got about 25 days on mine and they’ve really been fantastic, some of the main advantages for me are:
    -they make changeovers faster, they are quicker to put on and take off than glued skins.
    -I weighed them and they are lighter than my slightly larger BD mohair/nylon mix skins.
    -They are really thin and supple and roll up into a tiny package, I can put them in my shell pockets and ski around with them at the ski area, something I couldn’t do as easily with glued skins.
    -It is really nice to not have to worry about dropping them in the snow, getting stuff on em, folding them up nicely, etc.
    -I wont have to buy BD gold label anymore

    I was told that they will not work equally well with all skis depending on the ski edge profile and how it meets up with the clips. When I ordered mine I was asked what skis I would be putting them on. They mate great with the edges of my K2 Baker superlights.

  8. andrew fox February 9th, 2011 2:23 pm

    Here’s an idea for comparing the weight of skins for the wildsnow staff:
    Cut an equally sized piece of skin from the leftovers after trimming and measure the weight of different skins of the identical size sample piece. This would give us a good indicator and way to compare skin weights. Only caveat would be that tip and tail hardware would not be included although im guessing 95% of the weight is in the skin material itself.

  9. Lisa February 9th, 2011 7:27 pm

    Good to read your review, Louie. I was wondering how the glueless skins were working. Thanks for the update.

  10. Mark February 9th, 2011 8:13 pm

    What if there were narrow glue strips near the edges to keep the bits of snow out and reduce side slip?

  11. Lou February 9th, 2011 8:19 pm

    Mark, that’s what I was thinking…

  12. claude February 9th, 2011 9:34 pm

    I had been use skinclips more tha 20 years ago and it was not a good system…very similar ot those new ones, it is very unconfortable to have snow between the skin and the ski base and the skin does not stay right in place.
    When glues skins appeared it was an amazing progress and now it is very efficient especially with new glues just like the new Coll tex it is amazing, you can go for more than 100 days without any trouble and also withreally cold temperatures. I had too many bad experiences with skinclips I don t want to use them again.

  13. Sinecure February 9th, 2011 9:39 pm

    Seems to me these could be a great thing for ski mfgs to use if they’re selling skins to match their skis. It would offload the clip gluing responsibility to the ski mfg, and they could also ensure they’re cut tight and perfect. I like the idea of a more compact package too (ahem).

  14. Bar Barrique February 9th, 2011 10:28 pm

    Who makes the “skin”, and, what type are they? eg. Mohair blend?, Synthetic?

  15. Matt Kinney February 9th, 2011 11:06 pm

    I was also curious about these skins. Excellent reviews like this are backed by actual experience with the BC ski products, not just a single day or a few hours. I appreciate you not rushing the review and finding the good and the bad.

    With that said, the next test is durability over 50-75-100 days. The reason I say this is most skins stretch. If the clipskin stretches it could cause some issues because the original fit has to be seriously precise. If the skin stretches, then that increases the space between ski and skin for snow to build pack. A bumpy skin slides poorly.

    I like being able to rip my skins off while my skis are on. It seems like that might be an issue if the clips are not perfect?

    Please continue using these skins as you see fit and keep us informed.

    And don’t forget to study less and ski more. 😀

    Do they have a frat theret called I Tappa Keg?

  16. Louie Dawson February 10th, 2011 12:03 am

    Dan- The coombacks I have been using the skins on have a little bit of rocker, but not much. I don’t think they would perform any differently on a ski with a lot of rocker than a glued skin.

    Bar- the skin material on the ones I have is from climbing skins direct, which works well, however I think they are in the process of changing the material, maybe the clipskins guys can chime in?

    Matt- I’m planning on doing a long term review after I have used them for a few more months. Definitely feeling the need to ski more and study less, hopefully the weekend will fix that…

  17. Kaj February 10th, 2011 12:28 am

    To answer your questions:

    Yes, they can be used on rockered skis – in fact with rockered skis the clips hold with more tenacity due to the curvature.
    Indeed we are looking into offering a kit that would allow clips to be added to worn-out glued skins. Also, using a small amount of glue is fine for those interested in a hybrid skin, but it’s really not necessary.
    As was mentioned, the skin material is from Climbing Skins Direct, and it has excellent grip and glide. We had some problems with stretch initially, but that has been solved with the use of Mylar.
    We will soon be offering a twin-tips kit that is super easy to use.

  18. Eurob February 10th, 2011 3:56 am

    Have you seen gecko skins? They work adhesively, without glue, much like the namesake’s toes.

    Couldn’t imagine it could work first, but was led to believe when I saw them in action.

  19. scree February 10th, 2011 6:17 am

    hmmm… seems that you can only use these skins with 1 pair of skis, too pricey if you have a quiver.

  20. aviator February 10th, 2011 7:45 am

    I have the geckos, but haven’t cut them yet

  21. Lou February 10th, 2011 7:57 am

    Eurob, I tested Geckos extensively a few years ago. Even met with the creators near Innsbruck. I always liked the concept, but the skins themselves were low quality so I backed off from the reviews and such. Perhaps I should revisit.

    Below are some of our Gecko blog posts:

    Gecko skin website:

  22. aviator February 10th, 2011 8:03 am

    as I understand it, they are now generation 3, (red box), and completely different, ie no fraying like before

  23. Eurob February 10th, 2011 8:52 am

    aviator, seconded, I’ve also heard that the newest generation fixes previous flaws. Try to borrow them for testing soon. Just went along with the guy testing them until now, and played a bit on top of the mountains. Quite intriguing concept …

  24. aviator February 10th, 2011 9:38 am

    they had me with that demo video where he scrapes them clean over the ski and rinse them in water

    they’re too heavy though, I’mma put some ultralight race clips on them and cut em short

  25. Cascade Alpinist February 10th, 2011 7:46 pm

    I remember when the clips broke on the old style skins and the duct tape came out to repair them and get home… so I’m a little skeptical on the durability and the system. Also I can remember that the skins would roll on steep side hills with hard spring style of snow, sometimes coming off in the process or at least adding to the struggle.

    I have been using the Colltex ct40 skins, which are amazing and have worked in all types of temperatures. Low tack to the touch but have a pressure sensitive adhesive – you have to use skin savers, but they stick like crazy and are very durable mohair skins. Worth a look and maybe a review.

  26. Bar Barrique February 10th, 2011 9:08 pm

    I think that a kit to retrofit a pair of skins that needs re-glueing would be interesting. My skins seem to accumulate a lot of stuff into the glue, and, need to be re-glued at 2 years. Skin glue has weaknesses, and, it would be nice to try some alternatives.

  27. Eurob February 11th, 2011 1:10 am

    Cascade Alpinist, interesting you mention ct40, i’ve had nothing but frustration with them. Often couldn’t get them to glue properly any more after the first transition, regardless of temperature. Also the glue deteriorated quickly, maybe after like 20 days of use, so I had to re-glue them mid-season. Always used the mesh and tried to handle them as carefully as possible. Oh well …

  28. John S February 11th, 2011 2:05 am

    I was out last weekend with a fellow on these, and except for one minor skin-coming-off, they worked very well. It was his first outing on them, and while he did bring some spare “normal” skins, he used the clip skins without incident.

    Interesting idea!

  29. stephen February 11th, 2011 8:10 am

    Has anyone using the clipskins had any problems with clips coming unstuck? If you did, were you using the new “rubberised” glue? Thanks.

  30. Lou February 11th, 2011 9:28 am

    Cascade, the whole reason we didn’t review Clipskins when lots of other websites and forum contributors were panting over them was that they went through a fairly lengthy and public development process. The latest iteration is much different than the earlier ones, but I’m sure still has its weaknesses. For example, if the clips are not installed tight, and the skin isn’t stretched tightly between tip and tail, and if the ski they’re installed on doesn’t have a good defined area for the clips, then I’m sure the skin can still roll off, or come off in other ways. That’s why I wonder if just a bit of skin glue on the clip skin would give them that extra edge, resulting in best of both worlds…

    Main thing to me in terms of performance is that Louie is using them quite a bit, and so far they’ve proved very effective.

    Biggest problem is that how Clipskins perform depends on them being configured really well. To expect the end user to do that, on their first try, is asking a bit much in my opinion. Better, it seems to me that the sweet spot for Clipskins would be selling them pre-configured for a given model/size of ski.

  31. Kaj February 11th, 2011 10:34 pm

    Indeed it would be great to have them pre-cut for specific skis, and that may in fact be offered sometime in the future. In the meantime, I’ve been amazed at how failures have not been due to operator error in installing the clips or trimming, but rather design/materials issues (my fault). The earlier version was too stretchy, and that, coupled with a tail cam that was not quite the right configuration, could lead to spontaneous disengagement of the skin. There is now a great amount of latitude in how tight both the clips and tail cam should be. The clips work fine even if they are so loose they nearly fall off from looking at them, and the tail cam can be so loose actuating it requires minimal pressure, thus getting the setup “just right” is not paramount.
    My primary concern at this point is dialing the materials so they last for many years to come.
    Kaj Gyr (Inventor of Clipskins)

  32. Osquar February 13th, 2011 8:01 am

    Are there any store to get that rubber-toughened cynoacrylate-thingy? I have a pair of climbing shoes that needs a bit taking care of…

  33. stephen February 13th, 2011 11:58 pm

    ^ If you are in the USA the answer might be yes, but the maker does not appear to have any agents anywhere else in the world.

  34. Greg February 16th, 2011 1:24 am

    Hey Kaj et al,

    My fiancee has had hers out on a few trips now. She got them just after Kaj started using the new non-stretchy material. Even so, we’ve found that when they get warm/wet, there is a very small amount of stretch. I think we adjusted the length/tension very precisely according to the instructions (which as Kaj mentions above indicate minimal tension). However, when they get warm/wet they stretch just a bit, and they come off sometimes under tension on the steep ups. We’re going to adjust them about 3/8″ shorter and im pretty confident that will resolve any issues. The side clips we installed according to the instructions too, and those work flawlessly (easy on, and can rip right off with skis on). It’s quite liberating not having to worry about caring for the glue. I don’t think they need any glue.

    After my experience with them I’m pretty sure I’m going to get them for my next pair of skins.

    I would be interested in the clip ‘upgrade’ for traditional skins. My ClimbingSkinsDirect glue isn’t as sticky as it used to be.

  35. Kaj February 23rd, 2011 11:57 pm

    Hey Greg,

    Thanks for the report. Due to the fact that we’re now selling quite a few in Europe, and Europeans are used to tip stretchers with no tail cam, we will be incorporating a tip stretcher and nixing the tail cam. This will eliminate any possibility of spontaneous release under strain (due to a fixed hook and no cam at the tail). It will also take up any minor stretching.

  36. Dave C. March 12th, 2011 4:51 pm

    First outing on mine today. It was only a short test, but they worked flawlessly. They go on easier than glued skins (no worrying about alignment) and come off easily (I rip from the tail without taking off the skis). One fell out of my pocket on the descent, but when I climbed back up to find it I didn’t have to worry about snow contaminating the glue!

  37. Dave Cramer March 29th, 2011 8:26 pm

    Just used Clipskins for a seven-day backcountry lodge trip in British Columbia. The only problem was when someone who was following too closely dislodged my tail clip. Somehow I then stepped out of the tip loop, and had to reapply the skin. Otherwise I think they’re great. I don’t think I’ll go back to glued skins.

  38. Tom Wolfe May 2nd, 2011 7:29 am

    Clip skins seem like a really bad idea. Glue skins just work, I don’t get why manufacturers feel like they need to keep coming up with innovations on something that ain’t broke.

    That said, I’ve just been using a pair of the Colltex CT40 mohair skins. I see it as a sensible refinement of the glue concept — they stick like crazy when they’re on the ski but they’re a lot easier to handle than traditional glue and don’t gum up or get dirty. And of course Colltex mohair rules: it climbs and slides like nothing else. Maybe I’ll write a review for WildSnow one of these days.

  39. Dave Cramer May 2nd, 2011 8:32 am

    I was thinking about this yesterday. If Clipskins were the standard, how would you market adhesive skins? You have a strip of fabric that will be only used in wet conditions, where temperatures vary from -40 to +60 F. It needs to be attached to a piece of plastic that is always covered with wax, but then needs to be applied and removed hundreds of times a year. Is glue the obvious solution to this problem? 😀

  40. Justin February 25th, 2012 7:17 pm

    Any updates on long term durability from Louie’s testing? Is stretch becoming an issue?

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