The Best Climbing Skins

Climbing skins are available with a wide variety of plush materials, adhesives and clips, with each being specific to a user’s preference and requirements. With this in mind, we tested traditional skins, glueless skins, custom cut skins and plastic skins in order to determine the best in each category. We used several reviewers for the testing since most skiers want something different out of their climbing skins. Some want better grip for steeper skin tracks or icier snow conditions while others like the efficiency of better glide. To ensure we addressed all the variables, testers were required to use them on a variety of touring days to ensure that each climbing skin was used in several snow conditions. This included hard pack, windslab, ice, powder, and of course everyone’s favourite heavy, wet, elephant snot (that’s seriously what it’s called). Testers logged several thousand vertical feet on each climbing skin to determine how the plush worked on various skin tracks as well as how the plush held up over time.

Climbing skins were originally made using the short hairs from the skin of seals and are pretty simple in design. They have since evolved and now are available both in a synthetic and natural option with nylon being used in the synthetic versions and mohair for the natural fiber skins. Nylon is known to provide better grip and durability whereas mohair will glide more efficiently but also wear down faster. Blends of these two fabrics are also available which creates a plush with attributes of each.

Innovation never stops in the ski world and the same is true for climbing skin development. Fisher has taken cues from their cross-country line and now offers a completely plastic climbing aid (notice that we do not call it a climbing skin). The advantages of using plastic over a plush are that it won’t absorb water over the course of its use and therefore not gain any weight, which is a backcountry skier’s worst enemy.

As always, don’t forget to travel in the backcountry safely and wisely. Consult your local avalanche forecast before traveling in unmitigated backcountry terrain, travel with partners, and make sure to carry rescue equipment and know how to use it.

Review Year
Best in Class
Overall Rating
Price
Name Overall Rating Ratings The Good The Bad Price
Volkl Custom Climbing Skins
93
Best in Class
2018
Glide to Grip ratio 9
Glue Quality 8
Ease of Use 9
Weight 8
Attachments 9

Effective tip & tail connectors

Tapered cut is symmetrical for easier storage

Pre-cut to fit Volkl skis

100% Mohair provides efficient glide

Only work with Volkl Skis that have a tip hole

Glue is so tacky they are difficult to separate

Glue turns black over time

MSRP
$239.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Dynafit Speedskin Climbing Skins
92
Grip to Glide Ratio 8
Glue Quality 9
Ease of Use 9
Weight 7
Attachments 9

Easy on/off

Packable and light

Laser cut to fit Dynafit skis

Hard to find in North America

Only works with Dynafit skis

MSRP
$180.00
BEST DEAL
G3 SCALA Climbing Skins
92
Glide to Grip ratio 8
Glue Quality 8
Ease of Use 9
Weight 8
Attachments 9

Pack down to a super slim size

Light

Easy to use tail & tip clips

Plush sticks to skin glue

Snow can creep under tip

MSRP
$204.00
BEST DEAL
G3 Alpinist Climbing Skins
90
Grip to Glide Ratio 7
Glue Quality 8
Ease of Use 8
Weight 8
Attachments 9

New tail cam works beautifully

Range of sizes from 70–140mm

User assembled so they fit any skis

Great price

Not as light as 100-percent mohair skins

Grip is not always effective on colder days or hard packed up tracks

MSRP
$145.00
BEST DEAL
Fischer ProFoil
89
Glide to Grip ratio 9
Glue Quality 6
Ease of Use 7
Weight 9
Attachments 8

Great traction & glide

Peals from skis easily

Packs down small & flat

No moisture absorption on wet snow days

Must use separator to prevent glue on glue contact

Squeaky on certain snow conditions

Glue loses adhesion below 0F

Snow migrates under the ProFoils at the folds

MSRP
$234.95
BEST DEAL
High Trail Evotec Climbing Skins
88
Glide to Grip ratio 8
Glue Quality 6
Ease of Use 8
Weight 9
Attachments 7

Glide & grip are excellent

Very easy to seperate

Lighter than traditional glue skins

Tip attachment fits any size/brand of ski

Contaminants can be washed off with water

Fragile plastic tail clip

Noisy bang as metal rivet tails hit the ski

Adhesion temperamental in very cold

MSRP
$220.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Atomic Charter Climbing Skins
87
Grip to Glide Ratio 8
Glue Quality 8
Ease of Use 7
Weight 8
Attachments 6

Pre-cut for easy, out-of-the-package use

Will fit other skis of similar dimensions as there are no proprietary tip or tail connectors

Plastic tail clip will likely fail at some point or crack

Tip connector is fairly basic and will not accommodate a fatter ski

Tail clip falls off skis with rounded tails

MSRP
$172.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Black Diamond Ascension Nylon STS Climbing Skins
86
Grip to Glide Ratio 8
Glue Quality 8
Ease of Use 7
Weight 7
Attachments 6

Fits most ski widths and lengths since you customize them yourself

Durable nylon plush stands up to multiple years of use

Grips in all types of snow conditions

The tail clip is designed to integrate with Black Diamond Skis

You have to cut and essentially build the skins to suit your specific skis (not for everyone)

The adjustable tip and tail attachments wear out over time

You may pull a muscle trying to separate the glue, it’s that strong

MSRP
$140.00
BEST DEAL
Colltex Mohair Climbing Skins
85
Grip to Glide Ratio 8
Glue Quality 8
Ease of Use 5
Weight 8
Attachments 6

Treated to repel water

Good grip and glide characteristics

A protective storage sheet must be used to prevent glue side from coming into contact with itself

Plastic Tail clip will likely fail at some point or crack

Tail cam-lock can be finicky to use

Expensive

MSRP
$210.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Gecko Climbing Skins
84
Grip to Glide Ratio 7
Glue Quality 4
Ease of Use 9
Weight 9
Attachments 5

Adhesive is easy to separate

Lightest skins we’ve tested

Very low bulk so they compact down well

Tail clips break easily

If the adhesive gets cold then snow contaminates them, it’s game over

Very expensive

MSRP
$240.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Volkl Custom Climbing Skins

Volkl’s Custom Climbing Skins come pre-cut so they are ready to use immediately. With a 100% mohair plush, these skins provide excellent glide while not sacrificing much grip. Their weight is respectable and the fact that they are cut symmetrical tip to tail means there will be no exposed areas which can become contaminated when stored. The custom skin pin attachment system ensures they affix to Volkl skis securely and won’t fall off no matter what happens. The extra tacky glue used also helps with this, unfortunately it also means that it makes separating them a little harder than other skins reviewed. Their pre-cut, ready to use design is what makes these skins so easy to use. There’s no need for any trimming, just buy, attach and climb—if you have Volkl skis.

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G3 Alpinist Climbing Skins

At just $145, the G3 Alpinist Climbing Skins provide huge value compared to other skins on the market. Being the lowest priced skins I reviewed I was expecting less from the Alpinist Skins but actually received more in the form of an innovative and effective tip clip and tail cam designs that worked seamlessly with any ski I tested them on.

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Fischer ProFoil

Traditional skins are difficult to separate and it’s awkward to fold them back together especially on windy days. The new Fischer ProFoils use a rigid plastic which unfolds into sections. These sections are easily applied to and removed from your skis, even in the windiest conditions! This rigid design allows the ProFoils to be folded flat for easy storage in your pack. The ProFoils are constructed from hydrophobic materials (i.e. plastic) so they don’t absorb water, accumulate weight or ice over the course of the day. This allows their glide and grip characteristics to remain consistent no matter what the snow conditions.

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G3 SCALA Climbing Skins

The Urethane Hybrid Tip Connector on the SCALA climbing skins has several advantages including reduced friction at the tip and it makes them easier to fold in the wind. Fluffy powder would work its way under the tip on occasion. The skin’s grip was more than adequate and held up well when compared to other climbing skins in this test. The tip and tail connectors also worked effectively with generous amounts of adjustment built into their design. I’d consider these to be the best connectors on the market when you consider that they can be used on any ski and are not limited to a specific ski brand or model.

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High Trail Evotec Climbing Skins

Traditional glue climbing skins are very hard to separate and quickly become contaminated by dirt, fibres, and debris. These glueless climbing skins from High Trail use a silicone-based adhesive coating that has low tack, so the skins separate effortlessly. However, this lack of adhesion can be a problem in very cold temperatures or if the silicone gets contaminated with snow. While using a non-traditional glue saves on overall weight, as does the simplified tip and tail attachments, I’m not 100% confident in their durability. That said, their climbing performance is second to none with the 65% mohair and 35% nylon blend providing impressive glide and grip.

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Climbing Skins Review Results

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Given the variety of glue and plush combinations in the climbing skins tested it’s difficult to name one the best, however, the Pomoca Volkl Custom Climbing Skins had to be the overall reviewer favorite. The fact that the Pomoca Volkl Custom Climbing Skins come pre-cut to fit Volkl skis is a huge plus as most people butcher their first and even second and third pair of climbing skins that they have to cut. With a 100% Mohair plush, they provided the best glide with minimal snow adhesion in warmer temps, other skins tested with nylon plush or a combination of nylon and mohair did not perform as well. Pomoca manufactures these skins for Volkl and they are known for some of the best skins on the market, from the plush to the glue, they simply performed the best.

While innovation is a good thing it doesn’t mean much if you can’t count on it in all conditions and since climbing skins can be your lifeline to getting back to the trailhead, you want to know you can count on them every single time. For this reason, the High Trail Evotec Climbing Skins and Fischer Profoil still require some refinements in order to be fully reliable. If you’d like to dabble your toes into the world of climbing skin innovation then perhaps the G3 SCALA’s would offer up enough of traditional climbing skin with some new design element in the mix.

Glide to Grip ratio

The ideal for any climbing skin is to have optimal glide and grip so that you are efficient with every step. While Nylon plush is best for grip, Mohair is preferred for its superior glide characteristics. The G3 SCALA Climbing Skins use a 100% nylon plush while the Pomoca Volkl Custom Climbing Skins use a 100% mohair plush. The High Trail Evotec Climbing Skins use a mix of both nylon and mohair fibers to take advantage of each fabric’s qualities. The Fischer Profoil on the other had is a pure plastic skin and compared closest to the G3 SCALAs for both grip and glide.

Glue Quality

Ensuring that your climbing skins remain adhered to your skis in any snow condition no matter how cold it gets is a requirement of any climbing skin’s glue. However, you don’t want the glue to be so strong that it makes it impossible to separate the skins when you want to apply them to your skis. This is where the Pomoca Volkl Custom Climbing Skins performed best. The High Trail Evotec Climbing Skins were by far the easiest to separate, given that they don’t use a traditional glue, but rather a low tack silicone adhesive. This was also their downfall, however, as the adhesive did not work well when the air temperature plummeted.

Ease of Use

How easy a climbing skin is to use can really be defined in two ways, its day-to-day use and also how easy it is to size to your skis. The Pomoca Volkl Custom Climbing Skins have to win hands down for out of the box readiness as there is no cutting required—if you have Volkl skis. Day-to-day ease of use is really about the quality of the skin’s glue as you want the glue to be strong enough to adhere to the skis but not so strong that you have to pay a visit to the emergency room for a hernia after trying to separate them. In this respect, the High Trail Evotec Climbing Skins are by far the simplest to use since they use a low tack silicone in place of traditional glue. You also want the tip and tail connectors to be intuitive and simple in design yet effective so that they hold onto the ski firmly. The tip and tail attachment mechanisms on the G3 SCALA Climbing Skins get high marks for in both of these areas as well as for their ease of adjustability.

Weight

While most climbing skins are of similar weight, there are areas where savings can be made. This typically comes down to the skin material and tip/tail connection hardware. The simpler the connectors, the lighter they tend to be and it’s for this reason that the Fischer Profoil are at the top of the lightweight list. They also get top marks due to their use of plastic rather than heavier traditional skin material. Keep in mind, however, we are talking about mere ounces of difference at most. The next lightest combing skin was the High Trail Evotec Climbing Skins, again for their simple tip and tail connectors and lack of traditional adhesive.

Attachments

Tip and tail attachments come in many varieties with some being over thought and some simple and cheap feeling. G3 had the most reliable attachment mechanisms on their SCALA Skins thanks to their tail cam design and independent tip arms. However, Pomoca’s custom tip connection made specifically for Volkl skis are also a solid contender. They used a male/female connection that requires a 90° twist to lock in place. This provides a super solid connection but does make removal tricky if you wish to keep your skis on while you peel your skins. On the bottom of the scale was the High Trail Evotec Climbing Skins and Fischer Profoils. Both of their tip and tail connectors seem under-thought and under-designed which does not instil confidence where you want it most.

Test Methods

In order to truly test a climbing skin, you need to use them in as many different snow conditions as possible. Multiple touring days gaining thousands of vertical feet are required in order to accurately test skin grip, glide, glop and durability. Our job as testers is to ensure we encounter every kind of snow conditions that the average backcountry skier would encounter in a seasons worth of ski touring. Here in the B.C. Backcountry, we have primarily powder and lots of it, so we had to go searching for wind scoured-hard pack slopes. With average winter temperatures warmer than the Rockies we also ensured that when the mercury dropped to a balmy -20°C (-4ºF) that we continued to test as this is when glue failure is most prevalent. Conversely, spring conditions provided warm isothermic snow conditions that could lead to skin glop. This is where the climbing skin gets saturated with moisture and snow packs onto it and makes skinning next to impossible.

What is a Climbing skin?

Climbing skins are a combination of a synthetic material with adhesive on one side and plush fabric on the other. They are cut to match the width and length of your specific skis with the adhesive holding them firmly against the base. A tip and tail clip secure them firmly and allow for some adjustability. The plush which comes in contact with the snow is made up of tiny hairs that are orientated in such a way that they offer of glide when moved forward and grip when pulled back under tension. Climbing skins are placed onto your skis to help you efficiently and effectively create a skin track or path up a slope which you can then ski back down.

While climbing skins initially started out using animal hair for the plush they now use mainly nylon for its durability, low price point and good grip—Mohair is still used but is substantially more expensive. The inclusion of plastic tips or complete plastic skins are also now available as are various kinds of glue and glue-less skins, these, however, are not yet widely used as most people are waiting to see how they perform over the long term. A very large segment of the climbing skin market is custom skins which are ready to go out of the box, no trimming needed. You would typically buy these when you purchase new skis as they would be specific to that model, length and width of ski. You can expect to pay from $150 for nylon climbing skins up to $300 for pure mohair, with the newer, innovative designs running in at the high end of this price range.