Like many skins today, the tip connector on the Alpinist is sewn on, giving it a low profile. This design does not completely prevent snow build up, but when the skin adheres well to the ski, it can keep most snow off the glued side of the skin.
Particularly on my old pair of Alpinists, and also to a lesser degree on the High Traction, I do get some snow buildup on the glued side of the skin in the tips. (To clarify, this difference is due to the older glue on my Alpinists, not any difference between the tip attachments, which, as I said above, are the same on both pairs of skins.) This occurs most often when I am breaking trail in fresh snow. Buildup occurs mostly about 10 cm down from the tip, at the widest part of the skin. I could mitigate this problem by cutting a taper in the front of the skin. It hasn’t been a big enough problem for me to bother doing it though.
After four seasons and about 80 days of touring, my Alpinists are still in great shape, despite the fact that they’ve seen a good amount of needles, twigs, and rocks. To date, I have experienced minimal fraying, and the skin fabric still looks new. I did manage to give them one lengthy gouge when I slid right over a sharp rock, but I have been able to avoid any other damage by gingerly stepping over rocks. (Lesson learned.)
I’ve noticed some wear on the High Traction, even in the short time I’ve used them. The tip of the central plastic tooth that holds the tail in place has broken off. By itself, the tooth no longer securely holds the tail in place, but with the two other teeth still intact, keeping the skin adjusted hasn’t been a problem.
I have also noticed that the long hairs on the High Traction seem to be more likely to shed, and many of them end up stuck in the glue. Once stuck, they are hard to get off. I worry that this might eventually compromise the stick of the skin, though it hasn’t yet.
Bulk / Packability
The extra thickness of the High Traction makes them more bulky and less supple than the Alpinist, which can make it more of a pain when shoving them into your jacket or smaller pack. But so far this season, every time I have used the High Traction I have worn a 50 L backpack meant for backpacking and mountaineering, so space hasn’t been an issue.
I did not notice any difference in glue performance between the Alpinist and the High Traction, but there are a few things worth noting.
I haven’t been the most diligent about keeping the glue clean on my standard Alpinists, and this season is the first time that I have considered re-gluing them. This December, while touring in very wet snow in Juneau, Alaska, I was only able to get in three to four laps before snow buildup on the glued side of the skin made it difficult for them to adhere to the base of the ski. I bought a re-glue kit and intended to re-glue them when I got back to Colorado in early January. But in Colorado’s dry climate, stick hasn’t been an issue for me, so I haven’t bothered to do it yet. And I have been able to log 10 additional days of touring in Colorado without any problems.
G3 claims that their glue is fully functional at -30˚C (-22˚F), which is supposedly 5-10 degrees better than any other climbing skin. While I haven’t been able to really verify this claim, I have been out in some frigid weather with these skins (temperatures between -20˚C and -28˚C / -5˚F and -20˚F), and I haven’t had a problem with stick. (For the sake of comparison, my touring partners were using Black Diamond and BCA skins, and they didn’t have any problems with stick, either.)
Unless you are out in downright Arctic conditions, the glue on the Alpinist should still stick just fine.
The sizing for the Alpinist and the High Traction is the same, and, with the current tail strap and clip, I measured 12 cm of adjustability.
The High Traction skins tested are size long, which G3 says can fit skis 180-190cm long. This length will fit the 179 cm Surface Live Life 2 with the clip in the second position. When attached to the 188 cm Salomon Rocker2 115s, the clip is in the second to last position on the strap.
The skins will also fit the slightly longer 190 cm Armada Norwalk with the clip in the very last position, but I felt that too much base was left uncovered on this ski. I recommend using the long length for skis 179-187 cm in order to ensure maximum coverage.
My standard Alpinist is size extra-long and is intended for skis 189-199 centimeters. I used them for several seasons on the 191cm ON3P Caylor, and they fit well. I had good coverage, and the metal piece sat about seven notches from the end of the skin fabric. On the 188cm Rocker2, the extra-long just barely fits. I have not had a chance to try these skins on a ski that might max out the length of the extra-long size.
The G3 Alpinist is an excellent skin and my personal favorite. There are other nylon skins that grip better, but no other nylon skin I have used glides as well, nor have I found a tip and tail attachment system that is more secure or versatile.
The Alpinist High Traction, as advertised, does provide more grip, but at the cost of the gliding capability of the Alpinist. This compromise was greater than I expected, and proved to be too much of a tradeoff for me, since the touring I do most often requires extended travel over flat or low-angle terrain. So I personally would opt for the glide of the Alpinist to the grip of the High Traction skins 9 days out of 10, especially when travelling long distances.
Overall, the High Traction Alpinist would be a great tool and preferable to the standard Alpinist for someone who primarily does shorter tours in steeper terrain, like those in the backcountry areas around ski resorts.
Ultimately, it really comes down to that Glide vs. Grip preference, and the type of terrain you’re planning to be in.