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Clip Skins Revolutionize True Backcountry Skiing

I recently covered the Marquette Backcountry Skis. I really liked the ease of use of the skis when compared with gluing your own skins, but really hated the fact that the skis seem marketed toward completely unprepared, unskilled tourists that don't want to really get involved in the sport of backcountry skiing. Because the sport of backcountry skiing really demands more work and skill than sledding at your local golf course, and equipment involved should reflect that a little better.

A new product out of one of Canada's snow capitals, Nelson, BC, Clip Skins bring a lot of the ease of use of Marquette skis while still requiring the same type of investment as regular skins. Like traditional skins, these are sold separately and require a separate pair of skis (and presumably some knowledge of actually using those skis). They cost a competitive $150, so they're definitely not a cheap toy. 

But they are a whole lot easier to use. Traditional skins use adhesive to bond them to the ski base. Thing is, you have to peel the messy skins off before making your descent. Then, if you want another run, you have to re-bond the skins to the base. And repeat over and over again throughout the season. 

Now I'll admit, my very limited backcountry experience has been of the "slackcountry" variety (skiing outside the boundaries of lift-served resorts with very minimal hiking and no need for skins). So, I don't have much experience with the trials and tribulations of skins. But here's a few lines from Clip Skins' website to help you visualize the difficulty that gluing and peeling skins presents:

"Ready to give up...The satisfaction of muscling skins apart, sticking skins back together on a windy ridge, glue failure far from home, stiff, cold skins against your belly on the descent, pine needles and pebbles embedded in the glue, taking gloves off in subzero weather to mess with skins..." 

Okay, seeing as how its directly from the creators, you may discount that as marketing speak. Fair enough. Here's what backcountry skiing blog SkiingTheBackcountry had to say when they heard about Clip Skins:

"I sure hope that the days of all out battle with my climbing skins are over.   No more freezing my ass off as I pull with all my might to get my skins apart.  No more hours lost on the ridiculous process of cleaning & re-glueing skins.  No more wasting money on new skins when I'm too lazy to re-glue my dirty ass, dog-hair covered skins." Pretty much the same sentiments as the company's website. Suffice it to say, there's definitely a demand for an easier skin. 

The Clip Skins simply snap to the perimeter of the skis with a series of metal clips. You don't have to be an experienced, "earn your turns" backcountry skier to know that clip and unclip is a lot easier than clean, glue and peel. Seems like it could really make backcountry skiing a little easier--and with avalanche testing, route scouting and steep, dangerous climbs to worry about, one less hassle is should prove a welcome addition to the sport. 

Near as I can tell, Clip Skins just launched this month and are available directly at clipskins.com.  I look forward to reading the first reviews to see if these can effectively replicate the climbing power of traditional skins. In the meantime, here's some video directly from the company: