G3 High Traction Skins Review

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | September 19, 2012      

Shop for G3 High Traction skins.

Skins always compromise between glide and grip. The two factors seem inversely linked by some mysterious law. Hair length, stiffness, and quantity are minutely tweaked to achieve the best balance.

Well tested G3 high traction skins, after about 30 days of S.A. skiing.

G3’s Alpinist skins have always tended slightly toward the side of more glide, less grip, although still staying comfortably in the middle ground occupied by most popular skins. While most find the snow-stick adequate, some yearn for more. This year G3 is adding a new skin to their line, dubbed the “High Traction”, which is nearly identical to the Alpinist skins, with the addition of more traction: roughly a 20% increase in grip, coupled with a slightly smaller decrease in glide.

I tend to prefer skins with more glide than grip, hoping to reap the benefits of efficiency, while overcoming the grip deficiency with careful technique. Sometimes the snow is simply too icy or steep for your skins, and after a few awkward slips the energy you save by easy gliding starts to become moot. I was interested to check out the new High Traction skins, so I opted to take a pair of them with me to South America this summer, along with a pair of normal G3 skins, as a sort of “control.”

Upon first inspection the High Traction skins feel different compared to their Alpinist brothers, with noticeably longer hairs. They of course feature the ingenious G3 tip attachment, as well as their new tail attachment, which I hadn’t yet tried.

South American volcanoes seem to be the perfect place for skin testing, as the lower slopes often consist of low angled, wind hardened ice. It’s next to impossible to hold an edge to switchback, so the only option is to go straight. As the ice gets steeper, the longer you can keep skins on the better, avoiding resorting to inefficient booting. Of course, there’s also lots of low angled approaches, with lots of up and down, so skin glide is important as well.

Skinning up ice on Volcan Nevados de Chillan

Skyler, my partner in Southern ski adventures, and I both have the same size skis. To start off the comparison, we both donned one High Traction skin, and one standard skin. The difference wasn’t immediately apparent, but became obvious as the day progressed. Intermittently, while skinning up the ice, one ski would slip, while the other would hold–always the high traction ski. Inversely, on the low angled sections, the difference in glide was immediately apparent, depending on the type of snow. We kept up the experiment for a few weeks, and the difference was hardly noticeable on some types of snow, and obvious on others.

For the next stage of experimentation, one of us took the high traction skins, the other the Alpinist skins. Of course this is less accurate and more subjective, given the possible difference in techniques or skin track quality. It’s been my experience that whoever is breaking trail tends to get the best traction, at least in deep snow. The opposite can be true in spring snow. There were a few occasions where the High Traction skins would hold, while the guy on the Alpinist skins would be slipping. However, for the most part, when the snow got slippery, it was bad enough that no kind of skin could hold on, and we both resorted to booting.

The other features of the skin worked great, with no discernible difference between the types. The new tail attachment works great, one of the few I’ve found to match the standard Dawson “rat tail”. I’ve only had it slip off once or twice, and it’s easy to cam on and off, the weakness of the old G3 tail attachments.

It’s of course quite hard to explain or compare the minutiae of skin grip differences, and a bigger factor is probably the technique of the skinner. However, I would say that the High Traction skins are noticeably grippier (as well as less glide-ey), than G3 Alpinist skins. They probably come close to the grippiness of the gold standard of grippy skins, Black Diamond Ascensions, while having perhaps a bit more glide.

I think I still prefer the original G3 skins, with their slightly better glide. However, the High Traction skins are great if you want to use the versatile tip clips and secure tail clips on G3 skins, and have a bit more traction.

Weight (per individual skin, trimmed to a 175 K2 Coomback):

High Traction skins:
Skin #1: 10.8 oz 305 g
Skin #2: 10.5 oz 299 g

Alpinist skins:
Skin #1: 10.2 oz 290 g
Skin#2: 10.1 oz 286 g

Shop for G3 High Traction skins.


17 Responses to “G3 High Traction Skins Review”

  1. Tony September 19th, 2012 9:06 am

    Good review.
    Any chance wildsnow could start including some kind of weight with skin reviews/product announcements? Some choose skis using weight as an important attribute, since we spend so much time dragging them uphill – it would be useful to have a resource for climbing skin weights to help assemble a lightweight setup.

  2. Lou Dawson September 19th, 2012 9:11 am

    Hi Tony, Thanks for the feedback! Our internal style rules are that we include weights for virtually everything, but sometimes we forget. I’ll be more on the case, and also add skin weights to our weight chart. Lou

  3. Louie Dawson September 19th, 2012 9:20 am

    Thanks! Weights are tricky with skins, with size differences. I haven’t had access to a scale either, but I will in a day or two, when I get back to the states. I’ll put up some weights then. I agree, skin weights are important.

  4. cam September 19th, 2012 2:21 pm

    Thx for the review Louie, I just wanted to note that all new G3 Alpinists ship with the new tailclip as well, not just the HT model (they did last year as well).

  5. d September 19th, 2012 3:22 pm

    Grip: where I find G3 (and some other) skins perform poorly is after 100 solid days of use. I am sure the new ones grip well out of the box when the hairs are factory flattened to all point firmly backwards, but what about when they become ‘G3 shaggy’, as they are known for?

    Louie – thanks for the review, however please revisit after a season.

  6. Caleb Spare September 20th, 2012 3:28 am

    Hey guys, thanks for the scientific approach and the useful info.

    I’d be interested if at some point we could see a post about the necessary technique (referred to in this post) to keep skinning when conditions are hard and/or steep.

    Personally, I feel pretty uncomfortable skinning on even moderately steep slopes when the snow is hard, especially on those spring morning approaches. I’ve taken a few nasty falls (and even slides requiring self-arrest) while skinning so I’m pretty wary of these conditions.

    One of the better things I’ve read online about this is an idea of keeping the weight on the “skin pocket” that Andrew McLean refers to in this post:


    Ever since I saw that a few months ago I’ve been waiting for winter to try applying this technique.

    You guys have any similar tips or ideas to bear in mind?


  7. harpo September 20th, 2012 10:37 am

    Doesn’t BD have some new skins this year, I think Ascensions that are supposed to have more glide? Does anyone have info on those?

  8. Jim R. September 20th, 2012 12:09 pm

    I use Ascension skins because I prefer to have more grip. My one complaint about them is that they are not very supple, and are difficult to wrap into a tight package to fit in my jacket pockets. How do these G3 skins compare in terms of rolling up?

  9. Kathy September 20th, 2012 9:13 pm

    Great review!

    ” I think I still prefer the original G3 skins, with their slightly better glide. However, the High Traction skins are great if you want to use the versatile tip clips and secure tail clips on G3 skins, and have a bit more traction.”

    Yes I agree. more traction and more safety

  10. Fernando Pereira September 22nd, 2012 11:13 pm

    I have G3 Alpinist skins with over 60 days on them, and B&D ski crampons on a Dynafit Vertical ST-G3 Tonic setup. B&D crampons come with an optional plastic spacer that ensures that the crampon engages well even on the middle climbing post setting, at the expense of additional drag on the low post setting. Just got back from Argentina, where I skinned on some fairly hard, steep spring conditions at Refugio Frey, Cerro Lopez and Challhuaco (I missed Tronador because of bad weather).I’ve also used this gear for spring skiing in the Sierra, Shasta, and South Sister. I think that the better glide of the Alpinists with the support of ski crampons when the going gets tough is a win overall, allowing for more efficient movement on flatter terrain/better conditions and greater safety when it gets steep and icy.

  11. Louie Dawson September 23rd, 2012 1:00 pm

    I (finally) weighed the skins. I weighed both skins of each pair, they all differed slightly.

    High Traction skins:
    Skin #1: 10.8 oz 305 g
    Skin #2: 10.5 oz 299 g

    Alpinist skins:
    Skin #1: 10.2 oz 290 g
    Skin#2: 10.1 oz 286 g

    There is a small weight difference, but probably not much more than manufacturing tolerances.

    Good point about the suppleness, that is a nice thing about the Alpinist skins. The High Traction skins are slightly more bulky, and less maybe a little less supple.

    I believe thickness is one determinate of skin pack-ability. of 8 layers (i.e. stuck together skins folded twice) of Alpinist skins is about 1.8 cm thick, while the same amount of the high traction skins is about 2.5 cm. A Black Diamond Ascension is about 2.3 cm.

    Of course the stiffness is also a big factor. Alpinist skins are not very stiff, and same goes for the High Tractions. It’s hard to compare to Ascensions, since skins become way softer with age, and I the only Ascensions I have around are either brand-new, or pretty old.

  12. Dan September 29th, 2012 9:55 am

    Louie: Lots of talk about skin weight, which doesn’t really matter for the average skier on a day trip, and grip, which frequently depends upon skinning technique. track angle, snow conditions, etc. Foldability is nice, but consider that the stiffer skins (Ascensions with orange knap) are a lot easier to manage in the wind than the noodle like mohair skin, etc. As an aside, I gave up trying to force skins into a jacket pocket a long time ago…I just shove them into my jacket after buckling the pack belt…helps to keep the skins/glue warmish and isn’t a problem with moisture unless one is on a multi-day outing (tenting/snowcaving).

    What about the glue performance? In the past (N. Cascades, BC Coast Range skiing), I have encountered more skiers with glue problems (esp with the G3 skins, but not this past season) than anything else. Do you plan to talk about glue? Or maybe this is a subject addressed elswhere?

    BTW: I have tried many different skins over the years and always end up back with the Ascensions (orange nylon) because of 1) Glue: seems to work better than any other skin out there, or at least as well as any other skin. 2) Grip: Because I am so slow anyway and because there is not a lot of rolling terrain here in the NW…you are either skinning up or skiing down, glide is not as important as grip. The big issue with the better grip for me is the energy expended poleing, slipping, pounding the ski/skin into the track for more traction, etc. is noticeably less with the nylon Ascensions than with any other skin I have tried in the past 30 years. I found that the Dynafit skins also gripped pretty well, but are difficult to remove with skis on (and not drag in the POW). Ditto with the Volkyl skins. Nobody I ski with wants to fiddle with removing skis to remove skins while yo-yoing on a POW day.

    Thanks for all your work and the SA TRs. I know how hard it is to write after skiing/climbing all day, esp. when in a tent or primitive hut.

  13. Bruno January 14th, 2013 10:59 am

    I’ve always cut the skins to match the ski sidecut, but read that quite a few riders just go with straight skins. Anyone ever compare how much grip you might loose in a straight setup compared to a cut skin?

  14. Jack November 1st, 2013 2:51 pm

    I’m buying and trimming G3 Alpinist (not the high traction) to fit a pair of K2 Coombacks, 182 cm length. The backcountry.com sizing site mentions the “straight” option (size to go edge to edge at midski and not cover tips/tails) and
    the “cut to side cut” option.

    I’d like to reiterate Bruno’s question: Is the straight setup really in play here or
    is cut to sidecut the way to go?


  15. John November 1st, 2013 9:55 pm

    I think it depends on your usage. It’d probably be pretty disappointing to try and sidehill in firm conditions without the sidecut but I bet you could get away with the straight cut if the skis were only going to be used in powder.

  16. Jack November 2nd, 2013 8:36 pm

    John – thanks, that settles it. I’m an Eastern skier, so they are mainly going to see a little bit of everything, but CO style powder on rare occasions only. Full side cut it is!

  17. Len January 27th, 2015 7:44 am

    What is your take on Gecko climbing skins? I have used Glidelites for a long time. But I am intrigued by the weight of the Gecko.

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