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Ski skins and ski crampons are often used with alpine touring bindings. They are less commonly used with skis fitted with telemark bindings.
Ski skins attach to the bottom of the ski with reusable adhesive (that stays sticky) and are secured by a clip around the tip of the ski and an attachment at the rear. They have a synthetic fibre surface that grips to prevent the ski sliding backwards and slides when the ski is moved forwards.
Modern ski skins evolved from mohair and sealskin that was strapped or glued to ski bases.
Ski crampons attach to specific ski bindings and have metal teeth that sink bite into firm snow to provide additional grip.
Maintaining ski skins
- Skin adhesive deteriorates over time and loses its stick which can cause the skin to detach from the base of the ski, particularly in fresh snow. Ensure ski adhesive is in good condition.
- There are different types of skin adhesive that are not compatible. When replacing or supplementing the adhesive ensure the correct type is used.
- Keep skin adhesive away from dirt and vegetation to preserve its stickiness.
- Skin adhesive loses its stickiness when wet or coated by fresh snow. Keep them warm and dry as much as possible.
- Check attachment fixings at tip and tail before each trip to ensure they won’t fail.
Using ski skins
- Some adhesive allows the skins to be folded with the adhesive surfaces together, while other types recommend against this.
- A strip of “glue saver mesh” can be used for folding the adhesive side of skins together without the adhesive contacting.
- A small stuff sack is good for storing and transporting skins.
- Skins fit skis in both length and width – ensure they fit correctly before a trip.
- Trim excess skin in the narrow section of the ski so that the edges are 5-10mm away from the edge. This is critical for allowing the edge of the ski to be used.
- Avoid skiing downhill on skins where possible, they don’t provide good glide and can be damaged if icy or rocks are encountered.
- When staying in alpine huts it is common for ski skins to be put on racks to dry. Ensure they are clearly marked and easily identified.
- Carry four plastic ski straps that can be used to strap the skin to the ski if the skin adhesive fails.
- Skins can “ball up” in some snow conditions – snow accumulates into a large mass under the ski that prevents the ski from sliding. Rubbing a small amount of glide wax onto the skin can prevent this happening.
Ski crampons are useful when climbing steep icy slopes. Ski crampons are usually made for and fit specific bindings. They provide a metal blade with teeth that digs into the snow when the ski is stepped on. They swing up out of the way when the ski is moved forward.
Ski ropes are a cheap alternative to skins and can be constructed using 4 m of 4–6 mm diameter rope. Tie a small loop in the middle, place this over the ski tip and lace the rope under and over the ski from tip to tail. They take some time to prepare and fit but are a cheap alternative to skins and can provide good grip for a difficult ascent if a skin fails.