Climbing Skins: A Guide & Comparisons

Blister's climbing skin guide and comparisons
Reviewers Drew Kelly & Jonathan Ellsworth skinning the backcountry near Crested Butte, Colorado.

Intro

Paul Forward: Boots, bindings, and skis for ski touring have taken a technological quantum leap over the last 10-20 years and I get as excited as anyone over light, reliable, high-performance backcountry gear.

Unfortunately, it’s still possible to spend upwards of $2000 (or much more) on a fancy new ski / boot / binding combo and still have a mediocre gear experience because of bad skins. I would even go so far as to say that, aside from boot fit, skin choice is the single most important gear factor affecting the efficiency and comfort of the ascent portion of ski touring. While the skins of 2020 look pretty similar in lots of ways to the skins I first started using in the ‘90s, there have also been some notable improvements.

I’ve skied a wide variety of skins in the past ~25 years, including such dubious developments as Voile’s snakeskins, multiple variations of a product called “clipskins” that used no glue or adhesive, glueless “Vacuum” and “Gecko” skins, and dozens of different variations of conventional glue-based skins. (I never did get to try Fischer’s fish-scale skins though!)

We’ve put out some climbing-skin roundups in the past, as well as reviews of individual models, but now we’re diving into a bit more detail about (1) skins in general, (2) the properties to consider when picking a pair of skins, and then (3) we’re comparing a variety of skins we’ve been using a lot over the past few seasons.

We also have several new options that we’ll be adding in the future, so stay tuned for an update.

Article Navigation:  Intro //  Skin Properties //  Skin Comparisons

General Properties of Skins

Everyone has different priorities when it comes to skins, but below are the most important characteristics of skins for me. Farther down in this article, we’ll go into greater detail on how specific skins on the market compare in these regards.

One thing that hasn’t changed much over the years is the material used in the fibers or “plush” of climbing skins — the most common materials are still nylon and mohair fibers. Mohair is made from the hair of Angora goats, and in addition to being used in climbing skins, it’s also used in a lot of high-end apparel. The synthetic fiber nylon is used for a bazillion different things, climbing skins being just one of them. Mohair and nylon each have their upsides and downsides, which we’ll get into below.

(1) Grip

When a ski with a skin attached is pressured back against the snow as you try to push off and move forward, fibers of the skin engage with the snow and create traction / grip. This “technology” is just about as old as the ski itself (the first “skins” were just animal hides strapped to wooden planks) and it still works pretty much the same as it always has.

It seems that the main factors that play into grip are (1) the type of material being used, (2) the length of the individual fibers, and (3) the orientation of that material relative to the ski base.

As a general rule, nylon fibers (which are often shorter) tend to be grippier than mohair fibers (which are often longer), though there are differences across different skins that we’ll get into below.

Blister's climbing skin guide and comparisons
Paul Forward skinning with the Black Diamond UltraLite Mix.

Generally, the skins that offer the best grip don’t glide super well, but some people prefer very grippy skins because they often skin very steep and / or icy tracks where grip is important. Grippier skins can also be helpful for beginners as they’re easier to keep from sliding backward while you work on your technique, though they can also encourage poor technique due to their poorer glide. (If your skins don’t glide well, you may end up picking up your skis off the snow while skinning, vs. the more efficient technique of keeping your skins in contact with the snow during each stride.)

(2) Glide

When sliding forward, some materials create less resistance than others because of the same variables mentioned above in the Grip section. Generally, the better the grip, the worse the glide, and vice versa.

All other things equal, mohair skins tend to glide a bit better than nylon.

Not only does improved glide help you skin across flatter terrain with less effort and more speed, but at least in my experience, it can also help on steeper ascents because it allows you to use more efficient technique by keeping your skis (and skins) on the snow while pushing them forward. I still see plenty of people in the backcountry picking their skis off the snow when they slide them forward and I suspect some of them would be able to break this habit with better-gliding skins, and consequently find themselves moving more efficiently through the backcountry.

(3) Adhesive

Aside from the various “glueless” varieties alluded to above, most skins rely on some kind of reusable adhesive to stay on the bases of your skis. Some glues are super sticky and difficult to remove while others are easy to remove but are more prone to falling off your skis when you don’t want them to. And then there are many that fall between those ends of the spectrum.

If you’re like me and you prefer to keep your skis attached to your boots during the uphill-to-downhill transition, the stickiness of your skins’ adhesive will become more important, since trying to contort your body to rip skins while standing and dealing with an extremely sticky adhesive can be pretty frustrating.

All skin adhesives change over time and most will get less sticky, though there are some that, counterintuitively, actually get even stickier and “gummy” after extended use. Some of this variation over time can also be impacted by how and where you store and maintain your skins. For best practices on that, we recommend asking the manufacturer of the skins you use, as best storage practices vary between brands.

(4) Durability

Some skins hold up better than others, and the overall durability of a skin will come down to not only its plush / fibers, but also its tip / tail hardware and adhesive. Conventional wisdom is that nylon skins hold up better over the long term than mohair skins. Skins with a thicker plush also tend to last longer than those with a thinner plush. And then there’s a good deal of variance when it comes to the long-term durability of tip / tail hardware and adhesives, which varies between brands and which we’ll discuss a bit below in the comparison section.

Blister's climbing skin guide and comparisons
Reviewers Drew Kelly & Jonathan Ellsworth skinning Schuylkill Ridge, Crested Butte, Colorado.

(5) Tip & Tail Hardware

Most modern skins have attachment points at the tip and tail of the ski to keep them in place on your skis. I’ve had some great skins with good glue and very nice plush that ruined ski tours because of poor tip and tail hardware. The tip and tail hardware is one characteristic of skins that tends to differ the most across different brands — almost every brand uses a different style of hardware, with each having upsides and downsides.

(6) Packability & Suppleness

I love being able to roll up my skins and shove them into my coat on the descents. When I do put them in my pack, it’s still nice when they are compact and tidy, since it means I have more room for other gear, or gives me the option of using a smaller pack. Sometimes, however, suppleness and packability come at the cost of snow being able to more easily pack up under to skins, especially at the tips, since stiffer materials tend to not fold as much and consequently stay flush with the bottom of your ski bases. As with most gear, there are lots of tradeoffs to consider with climbing skins.

(7) Weight

Climbing skin weight is important, but also very tough to quantify (the best way, inconveniently, is to actually get your hands on several different skins).

Pomoca, for example, provides the weight-per-surface-area for their skins, but most other manufacturers do not provide this info. On our end, it’s tricky to get useful measured weights since there are so many factors that affect skin weight, such as the skin width, length, and tip & tail hardware. And then if you’re cutting skins for different skis, the comparison gets even more convoluted. But in general, the more packable and thin the skin material, the less it’s going to weigh, so below we’ll provide some subjective thoughts on this in the comparisons.

I will say that anyone looking to put together a lighter touring setup should make sure to factor in the skin weight, since that’s weight you’re moving with every single stride.

(8) Setup / Trimming

Most skins come with some variety of a razor blade or plastic letter-opener-type device that you can use when cutting skins to the shape of your skis. In more recent years, G3 and Pomoca have included clever devices that make cutting skins easier since they automatically trim away the material over your ski’s edges, rather than forcing you to precisely shift the skin to either side to account for the ski’s edges (which you don’t want covered by your skins).

A Note on Ski Width & Climbing Skins

One very important variable that affects glide, grip, and glue (and maybe durability?) is the width of the ski being used with your skins.

Blister's climbing skin guide and comparisons
Paul Forward skinning with the Pomoca Climb Pro S-Glide & 148mm-wide DPS Spoon.

In my experience, really wide skis with edge-to-edge skins generally grip better than a narrower ski with the same skins. On the flip side, wider skis also seem to generate more friction, consequently decreasing glide efficiency. This is all pretty intuitive, given that a larger ski (and therefore, larger skin) creates more surface area that contacts the snow. Because of this, I think the benefits of high-glide / lower-grip skins increase as the ski width increases.

Skin Comparisons

So, with that preface, let’s jump into some of the skins we’ve been using a lot over the past few years and have been able to directly compare to each other. We’ll go through each performance category mentioned above and include our thoughts on how the skins stack up against each other.

We’ll be adding more skins to this comparison in the future, but in the meantime, if the skin you’re interested in isn’t listed here, we’d recommend checking out our individual climbing skin reviews and our Winter Buyer’s Guide.

Luke Koppa has also been using several skins that I haven’t used, so he’ll be chiming in here, too. And then we plan on updating this comparison with some new options in the future once we’ve been able to get considerable time on them.

Here are the skins we’re comparing for now:

  • Black Diamond Ascension STS (full nylon)
  • Black Diamond UltraLite Mix (mohair / nylon mix)
  • Contour Guide Pure (full mohair)
  • Contour Hybrid Mix (mohair / nylon mix)
  • Contour Hybrid Pure (full mohair)
  • G3 Alpinist+ Glide (mohair / nylon mix)
  • G3 Alpinist+ Universal (full nylon)
  • G3 Minimist Glide (mohair / nylon mix)
  • Pomoca Climb 2.0 (mohair / nylon mix)
  • Pomoca Climb Pro S-Glide (mohair / nylon mix)
  • Pomoca Race Pro 2.0 (full mohair)
  • Volkl Mohair / Nylon Mix (for Volkl Blaze 106)
  • Volkl Mohair (for Volkl VTA 88 Lite)

Grip

Paul Forward: First, all of the skins listed have sufficient grip for anything that I’ve done this season. I haven’t recently done a ton of icy, spring-snow skiing, which is where skins tend to suffer most in terms of grip, but for my limited spring skiing and extensive cold-snow skiing, they’ve done well. I do tend to favor lower-angle skin tracks but still encounter steep, icy tracks on occasion.

The only skins that I had slipping issues with were the Pomoca Race Pro 2.0 but I blame a lot of that on the fact that I was using 100mm-wide, straight-cut skins on a pair of the 105mm-wide Blizzard Zero G 105, which equated to quite a bit of base exposed at the tips and tails. I was also using them on a day with a small amount of soft, light snow that was blown on a firm skin track, which is always tricky.

Blister's climbing skin guide and comparisons
Paul Forward skinning with the Black Diamond UltraLite Mix.

The G3 Minimist Glide, Pomoca Climb Pro S-Glide, and Black Diamond UltraLite Mix are all pretty similar in that I’ve experienced almost zero slippage from any of them in any conditions. The Volkl VTA Mohair are on much skinnier skis (VTA 88 Lite) but they’ve still done well, including on fairly icy spring tracks.

Luke Koppa: I have used the Race Pro 2.0 on some super firm, bumpy skin tracks and I will say that I’ve had some frustrating issues with slippage, though it’s important to note that this was mostly while sidehilling, which meant I was only engaging a fraction of the ski / skin (a set of ski crampons would’ve been ideal in these instances). On mellow, icy skin tracks where I was skinning more bases-flat (on a 91mm-wide ski), I have had few issues, provided that I focused on keeping my skis / skins contacting the snow during each stride.

As for the two full-nylon skins here, the Black Diamond Ascension and G3 Alpinist+ Universal, I’d say their increased grip is quite subtle compared to mohair / nylon mix skins like the Pomoca Climb 2.0, Black Diamond UltraLite Mix, Contour Hybrid Mix, and G3 Alpinist+ Glide. Unless you spend a ton of time on icy skin tracks, skin on really narrow skis, and / or just don’t want to spend a lot of money on your skins, I think mohair / nylon mix skins make more sense for a lot of people, rather than full nylon.

Blister's climbing skin guide and comparisons
Luke Koppa skinning a steep, firm, bumpy sidehill with the Pomoca Race Pro 2.0 on the way to Mt Sneffels.

Here’s how we’d rank these skins in terms of grip. And while we are ranking these in a list, it’s worth noting that we’ve found all of the mohair / nylon mix skins to be very similar when it comes to both grip and glide. In our experience, you really start to notice a difference when going to a full nylon or full mohair skin and we’ll call out which skins truly stand out from others, so don’t get too caught up in the specific placement of the mix skins in the middle of this spectrum.

Best Grip

  • Black Diamond Ascension (full nylon)
  • G3 Alpinist+ Universal (full nylon)
  • Pomoca Climb 2.0 (mohair / nylon mix)
  • Pomoca Climb Pro S-Glide (mohair / nylon mix)
  • Contour Hybrid Mix (mohair / nylon mix)
  • G3 Minimist Glide (mohair / nylon mix)
  • G3 Alpinist+ Glide (mohair / nylon mix)
  • Volkl Mohair / Nylon Mix
  • Black Diamond UltraLite Mix (mohair / nylon mix)
  • Contour Hybrid Pure (full mohair)
  • Contour Guide Pure (full mohair)
  • Volkl VTA Mohair (full mohair)
  • Pomoca Race Pro 2.0 (full mohair)

Worst Grip

Glide

Paul: I’ll just reveal now that the Pomoca Race Pro 2.0 is currently my favorite skin on the market. It has as good or better glide than any skin I’ve ever used, no matter the snow surface. Other pure-mohair skins like the Volkl/Colltex VTA Mohair skins are also quite good but it feels like the Race Pro 2.0 might be slightly better.

The G3 Minimist Glide, Black Diamond UltraLite Mix, and Pomoca Climb Pro S-Glide are also very good. And, to be fair, G3 does offer the Minimist in a 100% Mohair version (the “Minimist Speed”) that is probably a more fair comparison to the Race Pro 2.0.

On many days in the backcountry, I toured with different skins on each ski to compare and all of the skins with a mix mohair / nylon plush felt pretty equal. It’s worth noting that most skins seem to offer slightly worse glide when brand new but this tends to get better after a few runs / days.

Blister's climbing skin guide and comparisons
Drew Kelly skinning with the Pomoca Climb 2.0 and Jonathan Ellsworth skinning with the Black Diamond Ultralite Mix, Crested Butte, Colorado.

All of the pure-mohair and mohair / nylon mix skins listed here have markedly better glide than any pure-nylon skins I’ve used. For comparison, I grabbed a few varieties of nylon skins that I had laying around from Black Diamond and G3 and the difference in friction between the two is notable.

Luke: Yep, I agree. While I find that most mohair / nylon mix skins grip quite similarly to full-nylon skins in most conditions, I think the difference in glide is much more noticeable. That said, for short tours, I also don’t really mind the increased friction of a full-nylon skin, it’s just that I’d personally pay a bit more for a better-gliding skin (and the other upsides that those skins often come with, like packability and lower weight). I agree with Paul in that most of the mohair / nylon mix skins I’ve used have felt very similar when it comes to glide.

Here’s how we’d rank these skins in terms of glide. And again, don’t focus too much on skins that are right next to each other in this spectrum, as the differences between them are likely quite subtle.

Best Glide

  • Pomoca Race Pro 2.0 (full mohair)
  • Volkl VTA Mohair (full mohair)
  • Contour Hybrid Pure (full mohair)
  • Contour Guide Pure (full mohair)
  • Black Diamond UltraLite Mix (mohair / nylon mix)
  • G3 Alpinist+ Glide (mohair / nylon mix)
  • G3 Minimist Glide (mohair / nylon mix)
  • Pomoca Climb Pro S-Glide (mohair / nylon mix)
  • Contour Hybrid Mix (mohair / nylon mix)
  • Pomoca Climb 2.0 (mohair / nylon mix)
  • Volkl Mohair / Nylon Mix
  • Black Diamond Ascension STS (full nylon)
  • G3 Alpinist+ Universal (full nylon)

Worst Glide

Adhesive

Paul: Glue / adhesive seems to be very difficult to get right, and particularly, to do that consistently.

I’ve had many Black Diamond and G3 skins over the years, some with great glue and some with glue that immediately got gummy and was either too sticky or not sticky enough. I’ve had skins come so grippy that I’ve had them rip out P-Tex core-shot repairs from my skis and that were impossible to remove without taking off my skis (which I prefer to do when transitioning at the top of a run). I’ve also found that the fatter the skis, the less I wanted really sticky glue.

Of all the skins I’ve used, I’ve never used an adhesive that I liked better than the adhesive on the Pomoca Race Pro 2.0 & Climb Pro S-Glide I tested this year. I was able to rip them without taking off my skis, but even after 4-5 laps in a day (often sticking the skins to wet ski bases), they never fell off. I still don’t have a ton of days on them but after at least 15 on the Race Pro 2.0 and 5 or so on the Climb Pro S-Glide, I’ve had zero issues.

The G3 Minimist’s glue is also quite good but is stickier than I need. Because I broke one of the tail hooks (see below) I haven’t put enough days on them to know how much their glue “breaks in” over time, but they definitely stay on skis very well.

Blister's climbing skin guide and comparisons
Luke Koppa skinning with the Pomoca Race Pro 2.0, Crested Butte, Colorado.

Black Diamond’s glue seems to have varied a ton over the years. I have three pairs of Black Diamond UltraLite Mix skins and at least 100 days combined between them. All of my Black Diamond skins were very sticky when new, to the point where I couldn’t rip them without removing skis. But at this point, they are now very manageable in this regard. I have had the two most well-used pairs of the Black Diamond UltraLite Mix fall off my skis during cold winter days, but they were salvageable.

I almost always ski down with my skins in an interior jacket pocket or otherwise against my base layers to warm them on the way down and highly recommend this strategy, especially for cold days, to preserve the stickiness of the adhesive. The Black Diamond glue has been totally adequate but I don’t think their formulation is as refined as Pomoca’s.

The Colltex glue on the Volkl VTA Mohair skins is working great so far. After about 3 days of use, it has loosened up enough for me to rip skins with skis on and it seems to stay on my skis quite well. I need more time on them to gauge the long-term performance of the glue, but it seems at least on par with the Black Diamond Glue.

None of the skins listed here have any issues with leaving glue residue on skis, something I experienced a lot with some older Black Diamond and G3 skins in particular.

Luke: Yep, Pomoca’s glue is pretty great (my impression of the glue on the Pomoca Climb 2.0 seems in line with Paul’s notes about the glue on the Race Pro 2.0 and Climb Pro S-Glide).

Personally, I think Pomoca and Contour’s “Hybrid” adhesives are my favorites. Contour’s Hybrid adhesive is even easier to rip than Pomoca’s, and I haven’t personally had any issues with it not staying stuck to my ski bases when I want it to. That’s basically the ideal adhesive combo for me (I also prefer to rip skins with my skis still attached to my boots).

I’ve also spent a lot of time using Black Diamond’s UltraLite Mix skins and their Ascension skins, and I do think their current glue is pretty good. After a few days of use, I have minimal issues ripping those skins with my skis still attached to my boots (though it’s not as easy vs. Pomoca & Contour’s Hybrid adhesive), and I haven’t had any issues with them falling off or glopping up after extended use.

G3’s glue has been similarly hit-or-miss with me, but their current skins do seem to have it more dialed than in the past. Their glue is still definitely on the stickier end, but with some practice, I’m able to rip their skins with my skis on. But they still seem to be the stickiest of the skins I’ve used. I still have some G3 Mohair / Nylon Mix skins from 2015 and their glue is now very gloppy / sticky, but I haven’t yet had that issue with their current skins.

Blister's climbing skin guide and comparisons
Paul Forward skinning with the Black Diamond UltraLite Mix.

Lastly, I’ve also spent some time using the Volkl-branded skins for the Volkl Blaze 106, which I believe are similar to the skins Paul’s been using on the VTA, apart from the Blaze’s skins being a mohair / nylon mix (rather than full mohair), and I find that glue to be a bit stickier than Pomoca’s glue but pretty similar overall (and I’ve used those skins for about 10 days so far, with minimal changes in overall performance).

Here’s how we’d briefly summarize the adhesives for each skin brand:

Pomoca: notably superior in every way; easy to rip, but also very secure

Contour Hybrid: even easier to rip than Pomoca, maybe a touch less secure, but very versatile overall

G3: Very sticky, to the point that it may be too sticky for some people

Contour “Guide:” Feels like it falls somewhere between G3 adhesive and Black Diamond adhesive; on the stickier end

Black Diamond: Quite sticky, still pretty easy to rip, but stickiness seems to deteriorate after multiple seasons

Volkl/Colltex: Similar to Pomoca, maybe a bit stickier / more difficult to rip

Durability

Paul: Most people have concluded that nylon plush tends to be more durable than mohair plush. While I’m not disputing that, I think it’s also worth trying to quantify what that actually means for the average skier.

I’ve personally logged at least 80 days on an old pair of Black Diamond 100% Mohair skins (the old black ones) without significant signs of damage or a notable decrease in performance. I don’t doubt that Nylon skins hold up even better, but I think we all need to ask ourselves just how many days we put on a pair of skis / skins each season and whether getting, for example, a 4th season vs 2-3 seasons out of a given skin is worth dragging around a less efficient skin, more weight, and more bulk. Personally, I’d rather buy a new pair of skins slightly more frequently and have a much nicer time each day I’m on a skin track.

Water resistance is another important durability variable. So far, all of the skins I’m discussing here have done equally well in this regard. They all have excellent water resistance when new and have gradually trended toward soaking up more water the longer I use them. I haven’t had “glopping” conditions too much in the past two seasons, and will update this review if I notice significant variability between different skins.

I discussed glue durability above and won’t revisit that here.

Hardware durability is another matter. I’ll get into the actual hardware functionality and ease of use below, but here I’ll address how well the different hardware has held up during my use.

Overall, Pomoca’s hardware seems to be the most bombproof of the skins I’ve been using. The tip pieces seem just about indestructible and are quite simple and robust in design. The Pomoca tails feature a stretchy rubber piece with a fairly thick plastic clip. I’ve had zero issues with this and I tend to pull on this stuff pretty hard, especially when ripping skins with skis on in tricky locations, like steep sidehills.

Pomoca Race Pro 2.0

The Black Diamond hardware has been slowly changing over the years, but overall, their “STS” tip and tail connections have remained fairly similar for a few seasons. The UltraLite Mix skins mentioned here are the exception, which save weight by utilizing a Dyneema cord to connect the tip bar. While I initially found this to work quite well, I’ve had issues with all 3 pairs of my UltraLite Mix skins. What usually happens is that the Dyneema cord pulls free from the plastic tip piece. I’ve usually been able to get it back in working order without having to take apart the tip assembly, but more than once, I’ve had to resort to a screwdriver to get it all back together. It’s never been a catastrophic failure because I’ve always been able to fix it, but it’s quite annoying when it happens. I’ve started being much more careful with how much pressure I apply to the tips of the UltraLite Mix skins.

The rubberized tail straps on the Black Diamond skins used to crack and break quite often after heavy use, but it seems like Black Diamond has changed the material slightly so that they are now more durable.

Black Diamond UltraLite Mix

I really like the tip hook system on the G3 Minimist since it’s simple, lightweight, seems quite strong, and works well with really wide ski tips. The tail system features a simple camming system that slides on a piece of strong, rubberized material. Unfortunately, on my third day using the Minimist skins, the cam device for the tail somehow fell apart. I’m not even sure how it happened, but at the top of a mellow, straightforward skin track, I reached back and part of the system was missing so that the little metal hook was just hanging loosely off the tail of the skin and could no longer be used to cam and attach. On my last run of the day, I was able to just skin up without the tail hook, but especially if the glue loses tackiness over time, I would prefer the security of having a tail hook. I am unimpressed by how easily the G3 Minimist system fell apart after minimal use, though G3 did say that this issue should be resolved with the currently available Minimist skins (our pair was one of the first batches) and it would definitely be covered under their warranty. We’ll be spending more time with the current-production Minimist skins next season and will report back with our long-term experiences with them.

G3 Minimist Glide

The Colltex / Volkl tail system is similar to the Pomoca one but the tail hook slides along much more easily and hasn’t held its position as well. The tip system on the Volkl VTA system is a bit of an outlier because it’s only usable for Volkl skis that feature the specially shaped tip hole to receive the skin attachment. The tip is very secure and unobtrusive but it’s a little trickier to pop it free when ripping skins without taking off skis.

Volkl Mohair Skins for VTA 88 Lite

Luke: I’ve probably got around 60-80 days on the Black Diamond UltraLite Mix and haven’t had had any issues with the tip clip coming undone, but I can totally see how that would happen — it’s a minimal attachment, and I’m particularly careful with how much pressure I put on it.

Black Diamond’s standard “STS” attachment system has been more reliable, with zero issues on the skins I’ve used that use that standard attachment.

Black Diamond Ascension STS

I haven’t used the G3 Minimist hardware, but I will say that I have several G3 skins with their “normal” tip and tail hardware and I have not experienced a single durability issue. I love their regular tip and tail hardware, and I haven’t even seen a single pair of those skins with a problem. But, as usual, the lighter and more minimal you go, you typically tend to sacrifice some durability.

G3 Alpinist+ Glide

Contour’s hardware is very similar to Pomoca’s, with a simple bar for the tip and a plastic camming clip for the tail. After about 50 days on various Contour skins, I haven’t had any durability issues with them.

Contour Hybrid Mix

On the Volkl Blaze 106 skins, I haven’t had any durability issues, though I’ve only put about 10 days on those skins. It’s also worth noting that the tail strap on the Blaze 106 skins is much thicker / rubberized, so I actually find it more difficult to adjust vs. Pomoca’s tail strap.

Tip & Tail Hardware

Paul: The most functional tip / tail kit I’ve ever used is the current Pomoca system found on both of the Race Pro 2.0 and Climb Pro S-Glide (and Climb 2.0) discussed here. It doesn’t look fancy, but the tip hook is simple, light, and tough and the tail hook has the perfect amount of stretch to be secure, stays in place on any ski with a flattish tail, and seems quite durable. Pomoca also offers a “twin-tip” style tail hook for more rounded-tail skis, but I haven’t tried it.

The Black Diamond UltraLite system also works quite well. The tip fits a wide variety of skis but has the durability concerns mentioned above. I prefer to use the tail hook in a slightly different manner than intended, wherein I snap them in place so that the rubbery part is sandwiched between the ski and the metal hook. I find that this is more secure, especially for more rounded tail shapes.

As I mentioned above, I think the G3 Minimist tip system is quite good and seems very durable and versatile. The tail hook / cam worked quite well until the plastic piece that holds it together popped out somehow and made the tail system unusable, though we’re hoping to find that issue resolved with the current versions we’ll be testing this coming season.

Luke: I agree for the most part.

I think Pomoca’s standard tip / tail hardware (i.e., not their specialized race-ski hardware) is very reliable and seems to work well on most skis. I’ve used the regular tail hook / strap on some skis with twinned tails and haven’t had any significant issues with the tail clip falling off.

Black Diamond’s regular STS hardware and the minimal hardware on the UltraLite skins seem to work well on most skis. I do think that the tail hardware from Pomoca and G3 does a bit better on skis with very rounded and / or twinned tails, but I still rarely have Black Diamond skins’ tail clips come off most skis.

I haven’t used G3’s Minimist hardware, but their regular hardware is easily my favorite of any skin in terms of staying on all sorts of skis. It works well on skis with square-shaped tips, it works well on skis with rounded tails, it works well on skis with twinned tails … it’s worked well on every ski I’ve ever put it on. The main downsides to the standard G3 tip / tail system are that (1) they don’t let you cut them shorter since the hardware is glued / laminated to the skin and (2) they’re by far the least packable due to the extended plastic reinforcements.

Blister's climbing skin guide and comparisons
Luke Koppa skinning with Volkl's Mohair / Nylon Blaze 106 Skins, Crested Butte, Colorado.

Contour’s hardware is pretty similar to Pomoca’s, with a simple tip bar and large, plastic clip at the tail. The Contour tail strap is less stretchy and more slippery than Pomoca’s, and I find that it doesn’t work quite as well with rounded and / or twinned tails compared to Pomoca and G3. But on any ski with a flat and / or squared-off tail shape, I haven’t had problems with Contour’s hardware falling off.

The hardware on the Volkl Blaze 106 skins is very similar to Pomoca and, unsurprisingly, works well on the ski it’s designed for. That said, I’ve also used it on some other skis and it’s similarly versatile vs. Pomoca, though its smaller tail clip doesn’t hold quite as well on skis with very rounded tails.

Packability, Suppleness, & Weight

Paul: When comparing any of the skins I’ve been discussing here with the box of old skins I have, the most notable thing about the newest ones is how thin, supple, and packable they are. Even skins that are only 2-3 years old feel quite big and stiff compared to the one’s I’ve been using this past year.

The obvious benefit of thin, supple skins is the weight savings and packability. To me, weight is very important but so is packability. As I’ve mentioned above, I almost always stash my skins in a pocket or otherwise in my jacket and, especially with fat pow skis, being able to do that is a lot easier with these thin, supple skis.

The downside is that the skin material sometimes gets so supple that it’s easy for snow to creep under the edge of it while skinning. Of all the skins listed here, I had this issue most often with the Black Diamond UltraLites. This is probably related, at least in part, to the narrow tip attachment point that doesn’t provide much support for the surrounding material.

The best combination of integrity and suppleness I’ve used is the G3 Minimist Glide, which features a stiff “carbon fiber insert” at the tip to reduce the snow creep. Based on my limited time with them, it seems like this works quite well and is a great solution to the problem.

The Pomoca Race Pro 2.0 & Climb Pro 2.0 S-Glide also seem to have just enough integrity to keep out the snow creep. This is also aided by the wider tip connection of the Pomoca system.

The Volkl system does seem more prone to the snow creep problem but I’ve only used the very skinniest (88 mm) version of their current skins, which are less susceptible to this issue.

Luke: Yep, I’ve had similar issues with snow creep and the Black Diamond UltraLite. This seems much less pronounced on the stiffer, thicker, heavier, less supple Black Diamond Ascension. I do really love how thin, packable, and lightweight the Black Diamond UltraLite Mix is, and for me, this outweighs any snow creep issues. Black Diamond’s Ascension skins are quite stiff and thick, in line with the G3 Alpinist+ Universal, and those two are the bulkiest, least packable, and heaviest of the skins here.

Reviewer Jonathan Ellsworth with the Black Diamond UltraLite Mix, Crested Butte, Colorado.

G3’s Alpinist+ skins use very different hardware compared to anything else here, with extended plastic sections at the tips and tails. While I rarely have major problems with snow creep, I do think G3’s standard system is the best in this regard. On the flip side, those big plastic sections also seriously hamper the packability of G3’s Alpinist+ skins, and if you love to roll up your skins, doing so is pretty difficult with those big plastic sections (despite the skin material itself being fairly thin on the Alpinist+ Glide).

Contour’s Hybrid Mix, Hybrid Pure, and Guide Pure skins all feel pretty similar in terms of suppleness and packability. I’d say they’re all quite similar to the Pomoca Climb 2.0 in those regards — i.e., less supple, thicker, and heavier than Pomoca Race Pro 2.0 & Black Diamond’s UltraLite, but notably more supple and thinner than the Black Diamond Ascension and G3 Alpinist+ Universal.

The Pomoca Race Pro 2.0 skins I have are cut for the 178cm-long, 91mm-wide Majesty Superwolf, so it comes as little surprise that they’re by far the smallest / most packable skins I’ve used. But the skin material itself is also just very thin and pliable, and I’d love to put a pair on my fatter skis since the packability (and glide) benefits would be much more exaggerated on a larger ski.

The Volkl Blaze 106 skins fall somewhere between the Black Diamond UltraLite and Pomoca Climb 2.0 / Contour Hybrid Mix in terms of suppleness and packability — better than average, but not exceptionally supple or packable.

While, for the reasons we noted above, skin weight is difficult to quantify, the Pomoca Race Pro 2.0 and Black Diamond UltraLite Mix seem to be the lightest of the skins here. The other mohair / nylon mix skins seem fairly similar to each other in terms of weight, and the full nylon Black Diamond Ascension and G3 Alpinist+ Universal are the heaviest.

Setup & Trimming

Paul: Black Diamond continues to include what is basically a disposable letter opener for cutting their skins. I’ve trimmed dozens of pairs using their technique (shifting the skin sideways to account for edges) and they have helpful videos on their website. That said, G3 and Pomoca include much better skin-cutting tools that just make the whole process easier since they automatically trim off the ski material over the ski edges. In the past, I felt like some of those tools exposed too much edge / base, but the tools that were included with both my Pomoca and G3 skins were perfect. For those who’ve cut a lot of skins, a good job can be done with any sharp blade (particularly a hooked razor blade) but everyone will appreciate the convenience of the Pomoca and G3 tools.

Luke: Yep, I’m very impatient, and more often than not, I’ve procrastinated and end up needing to cut skins right before I head out to ski. So, tools like those included by G3 and Pomoca make my life a lot easier, and don’t leave me with the Chainsaw Massacre look of my butchered Black Diamond skins.

Reviewer Jonathan Ellsworth skinning Schuylkill Ridge, Crested Butte, Colorado.

In the past, Contour included a basic tool and it worked as well as Black Diamond’s, though Contour has reportedly updated their tool and it may now be similar to Pomoca and G3’s. I’ll also add that I prefer G3’s tool since Pomoca’s will flex a bit if you grip it tightly, which can cause it to shift slightly as you run down the length of the ski.

Final Thoughts

Paul: The Pomoca Race Pro 2.0 is my favorite skin of the current options I’ve tried. I love the glide, the grip is ample for anything I do (especially with fat skis), they have simple, durable and well-designed hardware, and the adhesive is the best I’ve ever used.

I was a big fan of various Black Diamond and G3 skins for many years but the Pomoca Race Pro 2.0 is excellent. I also liked the Pomoca Climb Pro S-Glide but, to me, any small gains in durability and grip of the Climb Pro are usurped by the lower weight and better glide of the Race Pro 2.0. Given the choice, I’d put Race Pro 2.0’s on all of my skis.

The G3 Minimist Glide has a ton of potential and I’d love to try their full-mohair Minimist Speed version, given my preference for maximum-glide Mohair skins.

The Black Diamond UltraLite Mix has long been a favorite of mine due to its glide, suppleness, and weight. But now that I’ve tried the Pomoca Race 2.0 (and the G3 Minimist, if I have better luck in the future with the tail hooks) I don’t think I’ll be buying any more UltraLites.

Luke: I guess I have less conclusive thoughts than Paul — mostly, I’ve just been really impressed by all the recent skins I’ve used. I do agree with Paul in that the Race Pro 2.0 is a very impressive skin, and I think that’d be my choice for my wider skis that I use for mid-winter touring. But for my narrower skis that I break out in the spring (and consequently, frequently on firm, bumpy skin tracks), I think I’d opt for something with a bit more grip like the Pomoca Climb 2.0, Black Diamond UltraLite, Contour Hybrid Mix, or maybe the G3 Alpinist+ Glide.

And then if I were skinning on a ski with abnormal tip and / or tail shapes, I still love the security of G3’s Alpinist+ tip and tail hardware. The bulk of that same system is what makes me often opt for other skins, but if you just want your skins to stay on your damn skis, G3’s Alpinist+ skins are still your best bet.

Contour’s Hybrid adhesive is my all-time favorite, and I’d be happy using their Hybrid skins on just about any of my skis. My only real complaint with them is that they’re bulkier than the Pomoca Race Pro 2.0 and Black Diamond UltraLite, but I wouldn’t be upset if I had Contour Hybrid skins on all my skis.

For me, I don’t see any need in my skin quiver for a full-nylon skin like the Black Diamond Ascension, G3 Alpinist+ Universal (or Big Sky Mountain Products’ nylon skins, which reviewer Cy Whitling loved). But those skins also tend to be more affordable and durable, so they still warrant strong consideration from those on a budget or those new to backcountry touring. If you’re able to spend a bit more, though, I’d encourage most people to look to any of the better gliding, more packable mohair / nylon mix skins listed here.

So, in sum, all of these skins have their place in the market, and we hope that this guide has helped you figure out which ones should be on your list next time you’re in the market for a new pair of skins.

15 comments on “Climbing Skins: A Guide & Comparisons”

  1. Just buy Pomoca skins. I’ve tried G3 and BD and it’s worth spending the extra bucks for skins that just work and don’t gunk up.

  2. Thanks for the review, skins are indeed often overlooked. After many years on G3 nylon skins I switched to Colltex mohair and have never looked back. I’ve tested the Pomoca skins out with 4Frnt skis and they are really excellent. I love the efficiency of smoothly gliding skins.

    One thing that I’ve observed is that people new to ski touring often have difficulty with proper form, keeping the weight on the heel and end up sliding backwards on steep uptracks. While I’m personally fully bought in to the mohair skin, higher grip skin might be more suitable to newby tourers who are less confident. The chaos and terror of sliding backwards can ruin a fine day for someone new to the sport. Once they get their form dialed I’ll push them towards mohair.

    Poor tip and tail hardware can certainly ruin a nice skin. I had to replace my Coltex tail attachment with the G3 aftermarket tails. The original tail clip kept sliding off my twin tip skis. Thankfully the modification has been bombproof since.

  3. From someone who’s a relative newcomer to backcountry skiing , thanks again for these reviews and comparisons. I do have one question though. I’m getting close to pulling the trigger on a new pair of skis and have narrowed it down to a few different specific models , one of which is the 4FRNT Raven. Then I found out that there will be a separate version of that ski that comes with Pomoca Free Pro 2.0 skins, so my question is how do those skins compare with the ones in this guide? My apologies for being so long winded and thanks in advance. Cheers!

    • Good question — that’s one of the skins that we will add in the future, since we only just started spending time on it late this spring. But in our initial experience, it seems like it falls between the Pomoca Race Pro 2.0 and Climb 2.0 in most regards. I.e., it glides quite well, is very packable, and doesn’t quite match very fast-gliding mohair skins like the Race Pro 2.0 but offers slightly better grip. Overall though, it feels like a very good pairing with the new Raven, particularly if you’re not skinning on super icy skin tracks very often.

  4. Great info. I’ve been on pomoca climb pro for a few years on 5 pairs of skis. Hundreds of thousands of feet skinned in all conditions. So reliable. I barely use skin wax on them in spring. Skin failure can ruin your day, or much worse.

  5. This is a very nice guide, although not really relevant to what I ski. Almost all of my touring is spring west coast after the lifts close. Therefore it’s icy on the way up, and all I ever want is more grip. Ski crampon or booting in spikes are options but I’d rather stay on the skins as both of those are slower. So my question is what is the best grippy skin on the market for steep and icy?

    • Most of our reviewers have preferred the Black Diamond Ascension or Big Sky Mountain Products Nylon skin for that scenario. We’ve got a little bit of time on G3’s Alpinist+ Grip skins, and those seem promising and could arguably be the best choice, but we don’t yet have enough time on them to confirm. But in our experience, most nylon skins are pretty similar overall in terms of grip, and the BD Ascension and BSMP Nylon also glide a tiny bit better than some other nylon skins. At least in my experience, if conditions are both icy and bumpy / inconsistent, I find that ski crampons make way more of a difference than switching to any different type of skins, but nylon’s the best choice for getting maximum grip out of your skins.

  6. Nice review!

    I’m also a Pomoca convert after many years of BD. However, I did manage to blow up a Pomoca tip clip during a kick turn on my 3rd day using a new Pomoca Climb Pro S-Glide. Never had that happen with any other skin. I’ll continue to use Pomoca because I really do like them better than BD in all other regards, but I had a different experience than was mentioned in this review so I wanted to comment.

    Otherwise, excellent review and I really like the overall emphasis on glide with the minimal required grip as opposed to moar grip.

  7. Detailed review!
    Like my Pomoca Climb Skins that I got late last year much more than my previous BD. I did break the plastic tail clip on a very cold day that I tried to force over the tail. Presumably mostly or all user error.

    Whats the best way to clip the tail that people have found? Cheers.

  8. Sorry if I missed it in the article but how does the Blister Crew approach choosing skin widths? If you had a new pair of 4FRNT Raven’s would you go straight cut 100mm or wall to wall carpet 120mm… Or split the difference and go 110mm? Or is it all dependent on expected conditions? I would ideally like one set of skins to cover the whole season in the Canadian Rockies.

  9. As a fairly new backcountry skier I have been anxiously waiting for this article. I feel I have quickly zero’d in on some of the critical aspects of what makes a skin work well. Listening to a recent podcast of Hoji (I think) talking about skins for the Raven ski also helped. As good as this article is (it covers a wide array of detail), I am hoping you will add more detail on how much of the ski bottom to cover and what the trade offs are. It seems Paul does wall to wall mostly. On wide skis, that may not be the way to go with grippy skins. You touch on this, but there seems to be 3 approaches (wall to wall, match waist width and no cutting, match tail width and cut middle). Another request I have is more detail on glide and grip on each skin. The charts are good, but a description of each skin would be nice. Lastly, waxing your skin is important and can really improve the glide on snow.

    My personal experience is I use Blizzard Zero G 108mm skis, 185cm on the East Coast. I have wall to wall BD Glidelight Mix skins based on Blisters recommendation. To me they feel like snow shoes. There is basically no glide and I can walk up an icy wall (not really), they don’t lack for grip. I have to lift the ski almost off the snow for it to slide, the the effort it takes to slide them is noticeable. I am going to get another “glidier” skin, not sure
    after reading the article which one and what size. I assumed I would get the Pomoca Race Pro 2.0 after reading the article, but they only come max width 65mm,. I can’t expect you guys to be miracle workers, but if you can add some guidance on balancing width, grip, and glide I would appreciate it. To me, I want the best glide I can get and if I give up some grip I can deal with it by technique. I don’t think putting a 65mm wide skin on my 108mm skis is the way I should go.

    You guys are still the best source of info on the web.

    • Re: the Race Pro 2.0 width, it seems that the available widths are a bit inconsistent across retailers. We’ve been using 100mm-wide Race Pro 2.0 skins, but I’m having a hard time finding that width on the web right now. I’ll reach out to Pomoca to see if we can confirm the officially available widths for that skin. If you need to get one soon, I’d personally recommend the Contour Hybrid Pure — it doesn’t glide quite as well as the Race Pro 2.0, but I think it glides better than Black Diamond’s mix plush and I really like its glue.

      As for skin width vs. particular types of skis, it sounds like we could do a whole other article on this, so I’ll work with Paul to do that. For me personally, I usually go with skins that cover edge-to-edge on any of my skis that will rarely see powder / soft snow. I hate slipping because part of my ski bases in contact with firm snow aren’t covered by my skin, so especially on skis that I’ll mostly use on harder-packed snow, I prefer edge-to-edge skin coverage along most of the ski. For my pow skis, I usually still want edge-to-edge coverage for most of the middle section for the inevitable wind-packed sidehill, but I’m much less worried about edge coverage for the last ~25% of the ski at each end. Overall though, this seems to mostly come down to personal preference and what conditions you typically ski, along with many other factors that we can go into more detail on in another article.

      As for the detailed comparisons on glide and grip, the reason we don’t go into much more detail here is because, at least in our experience, the differences between skins — especially those in the same category (e.g., nylon vs. nylon, mix vs mix, mohair vs mohair) — tend to be extremely subtle. Both me and Paul have found that most skins with a similar plush composition (e.g., full nylon, 70% mohair / 30% nylon, or full mohair) share extremely similar grip and glide characteristics, to the point that we don’t feel confident making very conclusive statements on one gliding / gripping notably better than the other, in most cases. There are a few minor exceptions that we noted in this article, and I wish there were some major outliers, but many of the similarly constructed skins do feel very similar on snow.

  10. Thanks Luke, great response and very helpful. I guess if I want best glide I should go with 100% mohair and probably get a tail width, or midpoint width skin. Thinking about width, I can always cut it narrower if I want more glide / less grip, so don’t go too narrow to start with.

    It would be nice to add what category or construction the different skins are in the charts, the names can be a bit misleading and hard to sort out without looking them all up. Based on what you said above, any skin in the same category will have very similar glide/grip. I have only been on one other skin, which I don’t even know what it was, but it had noticeable more glide (or less resistance than mine) and a bit less grip too. I was probably on a 100% mohair vs my 70/30 mix skin.

    • Yep, I think going a bit wider to start is a safer bet for that reason.

      And good call — just added a note about the plush type next to each skin in the list. If that previous skin was faster gliding / less grippy, I think it’d be pretty safe to assume it was full mohair based on your notes about the Glidelite.

Leave a Comment