Climbing Skin Liposuction

Post by blogger | October 14, 2011      

Sometimes lipo ends up being overkill. Perhaps all the time. Succumbing to that same syndrome, I’ve been experimenting with just how skinny I can make a pair of skins and still actually move forward on them without falling on my face. This pair of 2-inch wide jobbies worked okay on moderate terrain, used with a ski of about 95 mm underfoot. You’d definitely want to go wider for a bigger plank. Purpose: Long approach marches on super low angled terrain.

I used an old pair of Dynafit mohairs I had lying around. They were completely bald on the edges and just about ready for the dumpster.

I used an old pair of Dynafit mohairs I had lying around. They were completely bald on the edges and just about ready for the dumpster. Glue was gone as well, so I renewed with a few coats of Gold Label.

The Dynafit tail clip was narrowed and re-attached with rivets.

The Dynafit tail clip was narrowed (above) and re-attached with rivets. Tip fixation is Dynafit as well, could be anything, even duct tape. The idea is easier backcountry skiing during long low-angled slogs.

Cutting climbing skins to be skinny.

Cutting climbing skins to be skinny. I used a stick of 'holy' steel from the hardware store as a template. I tried cutting without a template; fail.

If you’ve got a pair of skins with worn out edges, cut ’em down and do some experiments with backcountry skiing. Another option to increase glide is to cut a pair of skins at normal width, but significantly shorter at the tail. Still another option is to use “kicker” skins that mount under the boot area of the ski. I’ve found the latter to be more problematic than useful. Your take WildSnowers?


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39 Responses to “Climbing Skin Liposuction”

  1. Kyle October 14th, 2011 8:57 am

    At the end of last season i cut down some old 60mm skins to half length to use on my vectors. Only tried them a few times but worked great on the low angle/flat terrain.

  2. Herf October 14th, 2011 9:10 am

    Interesting you say that kicker skins are more problematic than useful. I have the BD kicker setup and think they’re great for many approaches. They’re lightweight and give a fair glide vs. a full length skin, especially since they’re only on the kicker area They are easily removable with skis still on. They make a great backup since they’re so light, small and easily carried. Also, they don’t have to be adjusted for different length or width skis.

  3. Bill October 14th, 2011 9:21 am

    A set of skiny skins is standard gear for me along with side to sides.
    Usually 1/3rd to 1/2 of waist width.
    I use them a lot for flatter approaches and with the California glop
    we have, can work well up to around 30 degree angles.
    On the days that that snow is sticking to skins bad, they are indespensible.
    A lot easier moving a skinny ski thru it than a full width.
    At times I have also been able to put on the skins without taking my skis off.

  4. Joe October 14th, 2011 10:10 am

    Lou – I know this may come off as a form of heresy, but for low angle approaches there’s a really light type of skin called…(brace yourself)…WAX. Wax gets a bum rap for mucking up skin glue and slowing down p-tex, but after 20 years of using it in the Canadian rockies I’ve had few issues. In different climates requiring different wax this may not be the case.

    Wax tends to get scraped off naturally by pine needs etc. So by the time you hit your big climb there’s not much there to worry about. When I apply it in the parking lot some folks freak out, but then you sail past them on the approach as they lug a big carpet underfoot. Soon they get different ideas. I suspect I’ll get pounced for saying this, but Skins have been oversold to us as the only tool for approaching. Approaching with wax is an art that shouldn’t be lost for all the amazing benefits of skins. Okay. I’m gonna duck for cover as the anti-waxers come out….

  5. Randonnee October 14th, 2011 10:28 am

    BD Kicker skins work well but so do skinny skins. For randonnee skiing I like the slickness of walking with the kicker skins. In other words there is no drag on the tips and tails with the kicker skins as one walks When one steps, the kicker area is lifted first, thus tips and tails without skin offer little resistance.

    The appeal of the skinny skins is the idea that one may kick and glide like xc skiing. It is possible and perhaps useful on long, flat slogs.

    I find more utility in the kicker skins for walking- not striding- over skis. Kicker skins may be pushed to steeper angles successfully, temporarily, for climbing if applied competently. But as stated above, the advantage of kicker skins is the friction-free walking stride.

  6. Lou October 14th, 2011 10:38 am

    Joe, no accusation of sin will come from me. I’ve used nordic wax for years on flat approaches, but tend to use a snowmobile more and more for that sort of thing these days, for some odd reason (grin).

  7. Philip Hammer October 14th, 2011 11:04 am

    The problem with Lou’s central strip idea is that (as he noted) it only is designed/intended to work for flat ski travel. As soon as you move towards and edge the ski will slip. I’ve seen people splitting a narrow skin and fixing each side close to each edge. But that option is very awkward to refold. I’ve been thinking about experimenting with using relatively wide skins and shaving a central strip down the middle, leaving perhaps 1″ of fur down each edge. One could also shave more off the tip/tail area. Has anyone tried that? Success? Failure?

  8. Brent October 14th, 2011 11:11 am

    How about a real ski with a waxless base, e.g. Vector BC? Anyone tried these yet? Its on my hit list this year.

  9. Philip October 14th, 2011 11:18 am

    Friends who have toured hut-to-hut in Norway were laughed at for using skins rather than wax. Here in the Coast Mtns in BC we occasionally use wax – a very efficient option on long, flattish icecap trips with suitable snow conditions. I’ve actually travelled for 3 days on very wet snow with no wax and no skins – just fuzzy bases! I guess with worn-off glide wax and enough wear and tree sap I unintentionally generated high tech Zero XC racing bases.

  10. bobby October 14th, 2011 11:28 am

    sad to say, optimizing this exact senario has been a significant mission in my life for 10 years now. (and the cause of much abuse to and from my partners)

    I’ve gotten down to a very effective design that connects at the tip, and ends behind the foot, relying on good glue. The width is dependent on ski width, ranging from 1/2″ wide on a skinny ski, up to 1-2″ on a fat ski. For real fat skis, I’ll run a 1/2″ width from the tip back to a point about 12″ in front of the boot, then taper the width out to 2-3″ under the foot section. Very effective on flat and moderate (green/blue run) grade in a skin track. Soft snow, on edge, or more grade, the regular skins go on. I have had many good long rests waiting for very strong partners on flat approaches before beginning the real climb. (the rest cuts down on how long they wait for me on the hard stuff)

    Wax is better and more versatile, but a much more developed skill set and touchy outcome.

  11. Joe October 14th, 2011 11:50 am

    Lou – thanks for your defence. Ican return the favour as far as saying I agree snowmobiles certainly do bite into the snow on the flat approaches, but I find they are difficult to mount to my skis, and the weight they add underfoot makes them prohibitive…


  12. Dave October 14th, 2011 11:51 am

    On long approaches in the Alaska Range I’ve had great success with kicker skins. And I agree with Herf that they’re an excellent backup if something happens to your full-size skins. Wax works great too, especially on cold dry snow. Modern waxes are really staightforward to use, and its fun to mix them and monitor the outcome. I would stay away from klister if you plan to switch out to skins though, it will contaminate your glue for sure. After holding out for 47 years, I am now the owner of no-wax bc skis as well. Plan to use in rolling terrain around home, especially in spring conditions. Its my klister avoidance strategy! Sorry to hear about the snowmachine Lou – I know its a controversial topic, but I can’t get around how stinky, loud and obnoxious they are, not consistent with the bc experiences I seek. I’d sooner choose a shorter tour.

  13. BK October 14th, 2011 12:19 pm

    I’ve found “tip skins” work the best on flat rolling terrain. Run the skin from ski tip to the balls of your feet. When going up small hills, leaning forward the friction is on the front of the ski. Going down small hills, you can sit back on your heels and glide on the tails. Since they’re full-width, you still have the ability to edge into sidehills. One pair of old skins will make two pairs of tip skins, so give your buddy the extra set.

  14. Lou October 14th, 2011 12:53 pm

    One trick I used to use quite often was to place a strip of duct tape down the length of ski, and nordic wax the tape. Worked super will with klister for slushy spring approaches. That was in the days of narrower skis, of course…

  15. Kevin October 14th, 2011 12:59 pm

    I too have to chime in for skinnies & wax. I buddy and I shared an old set of BD accensions ripped lengthwise (creating, maybe 1.5″ skins) DIY wire tip bail and Lou’s rat-tail rear round em out. I was surprised how steep I could go with them the first couple times out.

    I haven’t heard this technique yet – I’ve mounted them on the outside edge on my way out to skate long slight downs but still be able to negotiate little rollers (usually old roads and such)

    I also usually have a chunk of blue extra as an option – covers a pretty broad temp range and scrapes off easy if needed.

  16. Christian October 14th, 2011 1:37 pm

    The madshus intelligrip skins look promising. Unfortunately, I think they only exist in skinny version…

  17. Dave October 14th, 2011 1:40 pm

    In an emergency like skin failure or loss (it happened to me!), get a little water on your bases and step in dry snow. Amazing traction, zero glide.

  18. byates1 October 14th, 2011 4:37 pm

    we call them runner skins. work great for dicking around..

    believe it or not, some k2 sahales 167, tlt speeds, and tlt 5 carbons were my grab for xc type excursions with runner skins, when i am just traveling around my trail running terrain, enjoying being outside and taking in the surroundings.

    it’s what it seems to be about afterall..

  19. Scott Nelson October 14th, 2011 5:57 pm

    Yeah ! Another fan of the K2 Sahales. Super versatile ski in my opinion, too bad its gone. Just too narrow waisted for most folks these days. Great for fitness laps though, which make it a good match for the narrowed down skins you guys are talking about.

  20. Randonnee October 14th, 2011 6:59 pm

    Good to hear some guys ski on Sahales. I continue to ski my Chogori, sometimes with kicker skins, and TLT4 boot. The wider tip helps in soft snow and powder, yet the 70 waist moderately stiff Chogori sidehills and edges well- effortlessly! Today I hiked miles of old-growth forest beneath some higher peaks, remembering the many trips there on skinny nordic skis. I was thinking the Chogori/ TLT4, with kicker skins and full length skins could work well on that 7 mile forest approach, and the Chogori could handle the mountain skiing….

  21. Steve October 14th, 2011 7:27 pm

    Brent- the new fat waxless skis are soo much fun, from redneck biathlon XC to faceshots.

  22. Robie October 14th, 2011 8:12 pm

    In my pack for long logging road approaches are wax and what I call “bikini skins”
    which are full length x 50mm. Wax is v40 blue xtra and v45

  23. Andy October 14th, 2011 8:33 pm

    When i started skiing 5 years ago i started with BD kicker skins. being my first year on skis i thought i would use it as a way of keeping my self out of trouble in the steep stuff that i was not ready for yet. the sales guy at REI said that there was no way they would work for my intended purpose. To be honest i was surprised where i could go on them in the Wasatch. these days i have regular BC gear, skins and all. however i use my kickers still on long low angle approaches in the Uinta mountains. they have there place. however after reading about these skinny skins i might just have to play around with this idea during the coming season.

  24. Geoff October 14th, 2011 9:03 pm

    I’ve found that a rotary cutter (available in sewing supply stores) works well for cutting skinny skins.

  25. Halsted Morris October 15th, 2011 1:21 pm

    Making you’re own kicker skins from your older used skins is easy (it helps to have a sail sewing palm). I use them a lot for side country tours. They are cheap, simple, small size and light weight.

  26. Jamie October 15th, 2011 2:23 pm

    I have used skinny skins for years, they work great most of the time, but I have really had great luck with these wide temperature range waxes for low angle approaches. I have also had good results covering a very soft (even a very thin layer of klister) wax with a harder wax and had no trouble putting skins over it, but to do a good job takes time, and best done with an iron or torch. The soft wax helps with grip, and hard wax keeps it from icing.

  27. Anhthony Ross October 15th, 2011 4:57 pm

    I have had a pair of BD Kicker Stickers for many years and have had nothing but good experience with them – on long glacier approaches in BC Coast Range (Mt Waddington) where the lack of friction made it a lot easier to keep up with the guide despite packing full winter camp gear and towing a sledge. They also worked very well this year in Norway where the melt had started and open streams running on top of the snow were a real problem. The kicker stickers were on for most of the day (removed and reattached several times) and despite the snow being very wet I had no problems at all – they saved the trip as klister and I do not get on and using full skins would have been very tiring.

    The big plus of kicker stickers is the lack of friction at the front of the ski – so it is much easier to slide the ski forward which is an advantage over any full length skin in my view, even a narrow one. Think of it as similar to the wax pocket on a nordic ski and in BD’s case the stainless steel plate and strap at the front ensures a tight bond to the ski so that there are no problems with peel off.

    However I do carry full length skins as well for the big / steep climbs partly as the kicker stickers are nordic width – like Lous cut down skins – so are not good on hard traverses or steep climbs where more traction is required.

    Some may argue about the extra weight – but as far as I am concerned this is easily repaid by the energy saved on a long glacier approach or 15 miles up a frozen lake.

  28. RobBJ October 16th, 2011 3:53 am

    Can’t believe I didn’t think about using my old skinny skins for flattish rolling terrain. I’ve been pulling one skin off and then using a nordic type kick, stand on the other ski to glide technique.

  29. Brian October 16th, 2011 2:32 pm

    Kicker skins rock! not for the steeps though. better on long approaches at moderate angles to avoid the side step for 200 yards routine.

  30. Michael Pike October 17th, 2011 9:17 pm

    I think you should call them THONG skins.
    I’ve used kicker skins for perhaps 15 years and really like them.
    I also have become a fan of Rossignol BC 125 waxless skis for wetter snow.
    I skied a bunch of 40* passes with a 50lb pack last spring on several Sierra Crest tours.

  31. Wookie1974 October 19th, 2011 6:06 am

    Any tips for me on how to make a set of kick-skins? I’ve seen these in catalogs, and looked for a pair for years, but I have never seen any for sale here and since I’m not a cc skier, I’ve never run into a pair I could eyeball.
    I’m thinking that a short skin that has a velcro loop that goes around the ski, proabably just in front of the binding and lots of sticky glue would hold well enough.
    My intended use is for sidecountry excursions. I’ve got some dukes on alpine skis for my resort set-up, and I keep skins in my pack all the time. Putting them on and taking them off is a bit of a pain, especially when you might have only 100 yards to get back to a marked trail…and in any case, full skins take up a bit of room in my jacket, or backpack if its warm. I’m thinking that for just dicking around, and unplanned outings into the near-resort backside, a short, light, easy to apply skin might be enough…
    Of course – then I’ll have to switch to a sidecountry binding that I can flip without taking off.

  32. Lou October 19th, 2011 6:13 am

    Wookie, the problem with kick skins is the front of the ski pushes against the snow and get peeled up. Solution on the better ones was a metal plate that rode tight against the ski. If you want minimalist skins, I’d suggest just cutting some somewhat skinny and short at the tail. Experiment, start with them fairly wide and see how they do, if they seem like overkill, cut them down. Also, in terms of bulk, some of the mohair skins are much less bulky.

  33. Robie October 19th, 2011 6:45 am

    Bikini width skins can be found at used gear sales. Leftovers from the dawn days of telemark. Often mohair. Very cheap.and always longish . Of course the price could go up if there’s a revival.

  34. stephen October 20th, 2011 7:58 pm

    Narrow, full-length skins grip very well provided the base can be kept flat on the snow, but provide little traction on firm traverses. Kicker skins handle traversing well if they’re wide enough, but won’t climb as steeply as a narrow skin IME, or more steeply than a decent pattern base will in suitable conditions. However, any skin is much better than a pattern in icy conditions.

    Kicker skins also have problems in granular snow (common here in Oz) as the snow tends to get under the front of the skin and buld up, causing drag and sometimes causing the skin to become detached. Wider kicker skins (70mm+) suffer worse in this regard than narrower ones (<=60mm), and skis with topsheets that aren't flat don't help as it's harder to get the strap tight enough to prevent stuff getting underneath.

    For flattish approaches just about anything will work as long as there's a little grip. Conditions here are not wax friendly, and wet snow isn't kind to skin glue, so pattern bases are commonly used for touring here and I expect that Clipskins will become increasingly popular, provided no major problems emerge.

  35. Jack December 30th, 2011 3:29 pm

    Question about narrow skins: I have 2 pair of skis, 98 and 120 mm underfoot. I won’t do a lot of skinning with the 120mm. I’m thinking of using only one pair of skins on both skis, obviously cut to the narrowest pair. How much of the ‘skin performance’ I will lose when I use the narrow (each side 11 mm too small ) skins on the wider skis ? Would it be a ‘linear’ performance loss, like 22 divided by 120 (about 20%) ? Any educated guess is welcome.

  36. Matt July 1st, 2012 12:27 am

    Hi Lou,

    A little off-topic, but I recently got a great deal on some G3 Tonics and am in the process of moving a set of Vertical ST’s from my old BD Kilowatts (same length). Thanks for the tutorial on this site, by the way! Can I safely use the skins cut for the Kilowatts which are slightly narrower (127/95/116 vs. 132/100/123) without sacrificing much or any uphill grip? My first instinct was to go ahead and buy new skins just to make sure, but since I only have 10 days or so on the old pair, I’ve been wondering whether or not I can ‘get away’ with reusing them on the Tonics. Given your vast experience, I’m curious to know what you recommend.

    Thanks to anyone who cares to comment!

  37. Lou July 1st, 2012 2:25 pm

    Matt, if the skins are cut wide for the narrower skis (close to the edges) you can probably get away with using them on the wider, depending on your style of touring and the snow conditions. But if you expect to do some aggressive skin climbing, you’ll want skins cut just to the inside of the ski edges. Sorry I don’t have a more definitive answer, but it does depend on your technique, style, expectations, etc… Lou

  38. Ryan December 28th, 2012 2:50 pm

    Any one have advice on cutting that slot into the ski to accept an elastic skin tip, like on the Dynafit skins or Pomoca Race Pros? I have a pair of La Sportiva RST’s I’d like to mod, and they have a tip hole similar to the ski in the first picture above. As simple as cutting with a Dremel? Did you use a template? Any specific epoxy to seal up the cut? Thanks in advance.

  39. Felix D. January 25th, 2014 7:18 am

    Hi Lou, a great website and resource this is!
    I own a set of older BD Ascension skins, 80mm wide underfoot, that I have no use for anymore. I was wondering if there is a DIY solution to turn them into split skins for my fat new BD AMPerages… Could not find any report of someone ever doing that. Do you have a hint? Greetings from Hamburg, Germany

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