G3 Alpinist High Traction Skins 2012/2013 — Quick Look

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | July 26, 2012      

Testosterone. Some say the legendary chemical causes wars, unplanned pregnancies and nearly every other detrimental condition known to mankind.

I’d include death-wall steep skin tracks in that list.

The evidence is clear. Some of you guys like to go straight up hill, even to the point of leaving your partners behind slipping and sliding, sometimes even resorting to setting their own switchbacks as you forge upward on your oblivious path of manly destiny. Even so, everyone seems to come back smiling, to dig out brews from the trailhead snowbank and laugh about how funny it looked when Bill skied backwards down the skin track at 20 mph with his skins on. More, before you scour me in the blog comments, it’s true that sometimes a steeper track is practical, such as when setting odd lines to avoid avalanche danger, or when breaking trail in snow so deep it clogs your ears on the up track (Hokkaido, it’s on the list).

Rob Moore (right) shows Louie and Lisa Dawson the new Alpinist High Traction skins.

Rob Moore (right) shows Louie and Lisa Dawson the new Alpinist High Traction skins. Note the new graphics, specific to this model.

So, for those of you whose skin tracks could easily become ice climbing routes, enter G3 High Traction skins.

During our recent PNW travels, we managed a stop by G3’s headquarters in Vancouver, Canada. Product developer and engineer Rob Moore showed us around (more on that in another post), but as I know many of you WildSnow readers are especially interested in climbing skin technology, here’s a quick report about just the skins.

First, know that G3 makes all their climbing skins in-house, meaning they get contracted textiles from overseas, formulate and job out the making of their glue, but put everything together right there in Vancouver. As with many small manufacturing operations, doing it that way has its economic downsides compared to overseas manufacturing, but is terrific when it comes to quality control. One thing about G3 — despite a few hiccups now and then, they obviously don’t skimp on quality.

Alpinist High Traction (HT) skins are said to be about 20% more grippy (depending on snow conditions) and have noticeably, though not excessively, less glide. In our skin testing over the years, we’ve noticed that the regular G3 Alpinst skins glide incredibly well for nylons, but do lack a slight bit in the traction department. I asked Rob about this. He said it’s not that tough to spec out nylon skin material that has different ratios of glide vs traction, and the regular Alpinist hit a sweet spot for a lot of backcountry skiers. Hence, they won’t be changing the regular skin — simply offering the HT version.

A few issues come to mind regarding this sort of climbing skin. If only one person in a group has HT skins during a trail break, what good is he if other skiers can’t follow? Thus, will the Alpinist High Traction skin drive a trend to this sort of fur, instead ofglide-optimized mohair type carpets? Will we be carrying two pairs of skins in our backpacks: one for the approach, and one for the climb? Interesting times.

Look for Alpinist High Traction skins this fall at your favorite shopping venue. If you need more testosterone, I’ve heard it’s available on the market as well.


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18 Responses to “G3 Alpinist High Traction Skins 2012/2013 — Quick Look”

  1. See July 26th, 2012 1:41 pm

    Sorry if this is a bit off topic, but it seems to me that higher traction skin materials are useful for narrower skis with less total surface area.

    I intend to try some pretty fat skis for backcountry powder this coming season, and have been thinking about getting some light mohair skins to save weight without loosing grip (I hope) because the total surface area will be pretty large.

    Do you think this will work? Would it be better than using medium width high(er) traction skins cut down the middle and applied along the edges? Would the new high traction skins be especially useful for people with narrow skis?

    Thanks again for the great blog.

  2. Lou Dawson July 26th, 2012 2:05 pm

    See, after a lot of messing around over the years, I don’t think there is a direct relationship between surface area and skin grip. In fact, at some point it might be an inverse relationship due to pressure on the snow. Kind of like the mythology of big fat tires for off roading. Fat tires can help by making more cushion and more bridging, but they don’t always yield more traction. If you want proof, watch a dual rear wheeled 2-wheel-drive pickup try to get out of a snowy parking space in winter. Rather comical, sometimes.

    Glad you’re liking the blog, your visits are appreciated, and remember to explore the advertisers — they keep it going as it’s a full-time job.


  3. Bob July 26th, 2012 2:09 pm

    If you want more traction on steep, icy snow slopes simply use binding crampons or take the skis off and start booting. Skins need to glide well for many aspects of ski mountaineering such as flat approaches and rolling terrain. They could be somewhat useful going straight up in very deep powder but in those conditions regular skins stick well anyway.

  4. Julian July 26th, 2012 7:20 pm

    I wonder if the most efficient system would be skis with a fish scale in the kick zone for the approach and skins for the climb? This type of system really helps on rolling terrain with far more glide and yet enough kick to avoid multiple transitions.

  5. Lou Dawson July 26th, 2012 8:08 pm

    Gad, I wish fish scale skis would just go away. They only work in certain conditions, at low angles, and the scales mess up downhill performance. For approaches, the best thing I’ve found is a skinny cut pair of mohairs, or even nordic wax.

  6. See July 26th, 2012 8:22 pm

    Or maybe skating?

  7. mike July 26th, 2012 8:48 pm

    Most of the places I go have a 2-3 mile flat approach, I thinking of using a black diamond “kicker skin” this year for the approach and then switching to the my regular skins for the uphill. I might be able to offset some of the extra weight of carrying them by getting a set of mix nylon and mohair skins. Anyone have any thoughts on this idea?

  8. d July 27th, 2012 3:05 am

    +1 fishscale in spring. No regrets at all.


  9. Forest July 27th, 2012 4:49 am

    Sorry, Lou but I still love my fishscales! I also love my full skins, my kicker skins, my ski crampons AND my kick wax. They all work great on certain tours. I am also very pleased that G3 is retaining their regular Alpinist skin as they are a great gliding and very durable skin with all the grip most people need.

    BTW, I am eagerly awaiting delivery of a new pair of Vector 180s WITHOUT fishscales! 😉

  10. cam July 27th, 2012 8:03 am

    Glad G3 are offering a better product. My Alpinist skins work okay on the majority of touring missions but slip on steep, firm tracks where my older BD’s wouldn’t. I would always sacrifice a little glide for better grip, but I understand that some tourers wouldn’t.

  11. Lou Dawson July 27th, 2012 9:14 am

    What’ll be interesting is to go out with a BD Ascension on one ski, and a G3 High Traction on the other one. We will do that as soon as we have snow at WildSnow Field HQ. Lou

  12. Kihm July 27th, 2012 11:58 am

    Bravo to G3 for stepping up to the plate and designing a skin with better traction. Your girlfriend will love em. Next the boot manufacturers will have to design a better walk mode to allow more flexibility toward the back which, to me anyway, is more important than a skin with excessive traction. ;-]

  13. PhilT July 27th, 2012 3:22 pm

    I have flopped between G3 and BD for my skins a couple of times. I love the glue on G3 skins, but preferred the traction/glide compromise of the BD skins. While I hear that the new BD glue is supposed to be an improvement, I think this season I’ll pick up a set of these new HT G3 skins and see if they get me what I’ve always dreamed of – the grip of BD with the glue of G3.

  14. Kevin July 28th, 2012 7:53 am

    I have a friend who loves to break trail and seems to always try to go straight up the steepest slopes. Needless to say, I don’t end up calling him much. There is an art and beauty to the perfect skin track. One should take pride in making a track that is usable to those that follow. As far as glide versus grip, that seems to be somewhat regionally specific. Where I tour, there is very little approach, so glide does not reaqlly matter. What I want is grip. It is good to see G3 improving grip, as I thought it was lacking in their old skins.

  15. Dede December 4th, 2012 7:48 pm

    Lou, have you gotten out to compare this year’s Ascensions with the G3 HT’s? I’m looking for the highest traction skins available as I seem to have the problem of great “backwards glide” with my ’11-’12 G3 Alpinist skins. I’m not sure how much the problem is technique (I’ve just switched from tele to AT, so the system is way more rigid), or perhaps my DPS Nina 99’s, which have a very short running surface because of the long rocker (but they’re so light! and so fun!). I’m hoping a higher pile skin will at least help a little– in my 22 years of backcountry skiing, I’ve never had so much trouble going up hill! I tried adding ski crampons, and they just kept me from slipping sideways… I still slid backwards.
    I was thinking I’d just get the Ascensions, but apparently they’ve modified the pile for improved glide. So, what’s the grippiest skin out there this year? And, feel free to add icy traverse skinning technique tips for those new to Dynafit bindings! 🙂

  16. Lou Dawson December 4th, 2012 8:09 pm

    Dede, G3 Alpinist skins are known for emphasizing glide over traction, and yes, they don’t grip as well as one would sometimes like. That’s why they made their High Traction version. From the sound of it, you should switch to something else immediately. Either the Ascension or the G3 High Traction. Reviewing skins for traction is difficult, that’s why you don’t see a lot that in the media. Results depend so much on snow surface, weight of person vs width of ski, technique, and so forth. Even placing one skin on one ski and one skin on another is fraught with variables, not to mention how do you get enough skins to be cutting a bunch of them up…

    Another thing that’s going on is that the pendulum of gnar is swinging back to lightweight efficient gear. So you’re going to hear a lot more marketing verbiage about how well various skins “glide.” When in reality there may not be a whole lot of change. I have to laugh (in a good way) about G3 coming out with a high traction skin when everyone seems to be going back to mohair and learning how to set efficient skin tracks.

    And yes, a lot of this is cultural. In Europe all you’d ever need is some G3 Alpinists or any brand of mohair. Go to the Wasatch, and suffer unless you have wall-to-wall velcro on the bottom of your skis as well as ski crampons.


  17. TR October 17th, 2013 7:58 pm

    ” What’ll be interesting is to go out with a BD Ascension on one ski, and a G3 High Traction on the other one. We will do that as soon as we have snow at WildSnow Field HQ. Lou ”


    Did you end up trying the G3 HT skins with the Ascensions on the other foot like you said?

    First pair of skins were the BD Mohair Mix Ascension skins. Just spent a year with the Hightrails Mohair-Mix glueless skins that worked great except the two times the “not” glue failed on steep, icy skin tracks. So looking to get a pair of G3 skins to use on those icy cold days (rare here on the coast) and trying to decide between the regular G3 and HT skins.

    We’ll see which (Hightrails or G3) I end up using more…

  18. Lou Dawson October 18th, 2013 7:30 am

    TR, thanks for holding me to those off-the-cuff promises I make the mistake of making in writing (grin). Didn’t do that this past winter. Best intentions, but got sidetracked by the Ultimate Quiver ski review project. I still have a pair of HT skins I can do that with, so we’ll give it a go in a couple weeks. Promise (grin). I’ll even stick a note on the skins.

    Beyond that, I don’t see how a skin could be any better with traction than a BD Ascension, unless it lost a lot of glide. My prediction is the compare will be splitting hairs, and probably depend on the type of snow.


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