G3 Scala LT Climbing Skins
Blister’s Measured Weight: 640 g each (cut for 188 cm long, 112 mm wide G3 SENDr 112)
Plush: 100% Nylon
MSRP: $179 – $189
Days Tested: 20
Test Locations: Front Range, Ten Mile Range, & Elk range, CO; Wasatch, UT; Jasper National Park, Canada; Mt Rainier National Park, WA
[Editor’s Note: For 18/19, G3 renamed the Scala LT to the “Alpinist+ Universal.”]
Skins have remained largely unchanged for decades, but the Scala series from G3 offers a bit of a departure in an effort to increase deep-snow performance. G3 replaced the tip of the skin with a TPU (i.e., “stiff plastic”) insert to decrease friction and snow creep while breaking trail.
We’ve reviewed the original G3 Scala skins, and I’ve been logging time on the new Scala LT, which is much lighter than the standard Scala while retaining the same design principles.
So how does the new, lighter Scala LT perform, and how does its unique design compare to traditional skins?
Features and Weight
For the LT version of the Scala, G3 made the TPU section at the tip smaller and lighter, which they say brings the overall weight of the Scala LT down to that of their standard Alpinist skins (shaving about 15% off of the standard Scala).
The tail clip and bikini cut on the tail of the Scala LT also extends longer to cut weight. I’ll talk more about this later, but I really am on the fence about this change, as I think it significantly decreases grip in certain situations.
Skis and skins make up some of the most noticeable weight you can cut from your touring setup, as it’s weight you’re lifting with every step, and also contributes to swing weight on the skin track. The Scala LT is lighter than both my Black Diamond Nylon and Mohair Mix skins (despite being cut to my biggest set of skis). This allows me to take the heavier 188 cm G3 SENDr 112 (the skis that the Scala LT’s I’m reviewing are cut for) out on pretty much any mission, as this ski + skin combo weighs about the same as my other setups that have lighter skis but heavier skins.
G3’s Scala skins are designed specifically for breaking trail in fresh snow, something David Steele talks about in his review of the standard version of the Scala. And overall, my experience has been similar to his — I definitely don’t have any issues breaking trail with these skins. I don’t get snow creep in the tip (granted, I don’t really get much snow creep on my other skins) and the ski / skins plane well in deep snow. However, it is really difficult to say whether the TPU tip on the Scala LT makes breaking trail any less physically demanding. I can’t say that I’ve noticed a discernible difference.
But one place where the Scala LT does make a noticeable difference is while kick turning in deep snow. I usually jam the tail of the uphill ski into the snow when kick turning to make the step easier. With the long tail clip and skinny bikini cut at the tail of the Scala LT, I don’t get any snow creep at the back of the ski, which is an issue I experience with all of my other skins. But the same lack of skin on the tail of the Scala LT does have a downside, as I’ll explain later.
The TPU tip on the Scala LT doesn’t allow the skin to pack very well — the large, inflexible plastic piece makes the skin quite stiff when folded.
For packing the Scala LT, I usually fold it over on itself (glue to glue) and then fold it again into thirds. The TPU tip makes up almost exactly one third of the overall length of the skin, so this method seems to work best.
Putting the Scala LT in my pack is a bit trickier than standard skins due to the rigidity of the tip, but I have adjusted to it. If you like to put your skins in the pockets of your jacket, there’s a very good chance that the Scala LT won’t fit. If you just shove them in between your shell and mid layer (as I often do), they will fit, but it’s not all that comfortable. Still, for fast laps, this last method has been my favorite approach.
When I first got the Scala LT, their glide was atrocious; they were significantly slower than any of my nylon BD skins. However, after several days touring, they started to glide better, and now they are just slightly slower than my other nylon skins.
The biggest issue I’ve had with the Scala LT is the grip. On smooth skin tracks, they grip well; on refrozen, firm snow, they grip well; and in deep, light powder, they grip well. But, in cold, packed snow and on uneven skin tracks, I have had traction issues.
I think these issues happen specifically at concavities in the skin track. When the ski flexes into a concavity, the tip and tail of the ski are weighted proportionally more. But the tip of the Scala LT is a chunk of slippery plastic, and the last foot of the tail has little to no plush. Therefore, when the ski flexes on the skin track, the skins tend to slip.
In areas with deep snowpacks and in the spring, where the skin tracks tend to be smoother, I don’t think this would be an issue. However, billy goating around Rocky Mountain National Park mid-winter is not where this skin shines.
Contrary to David Steele’s experience with the regular Scala, I haven’t had any glopping issues with the plush on the Scala LT. Both the Scala and the Scala LT use the same nylon plush as G3’s Alpinist skins, so maybe I’ve just been lucky with Colorado’s snowpack, but I wouldn’t say this skin glops more easily than my nylon and mixed Black Diamond skins.
After about 20 days of hard use, the Scala LT is holding up pretty well. The plush is all still intact and the edges are just barely starting to fray.
The glue is holding up well and still has the perfect amount of stick for solid contact on the ski and easy on/off performance.
Price / Value
With the Scala LT coming in between $179-189 compared to $215-$219 for the standard Scala, I’d say that it’s difficult to justify spending the extra $30 on the regular Scala. The LT is lighter, cheaper, and has less finicky plastic on the tip.
Who’s It For?
If you will be pairing the Scala LT with a dedicated powder ski and don’t mind the decreased packability and traction, you’ll be very happy. You’ll get to take a wider ski uphill (making the downhill more fun) without paying a huge weight penalty for lugging up your wide ski + wide skin combo. And the Scala LT gets very little snow creep at the tips or tails, which makes them great for breaking trail in deep snow.
But an all-around skin these are not. So if you need one pair of skins to work in any and all conditions, the extra glide and packability of a traditional mohair or mo-mix skin makes a lot more sense.
The Scala LT updates the original G3 Scala skin with an improved design that significantly cuts weight. If breaking trail is your thing (and, if it is, let’s go skiing together!), then you’ll be happy to ditch snow creep at the tip and tail with the Scala LT, and maybe get a little less friction while you’re at it.
However, if you’re looking for an all-around nylon skin that offers a balance of weight, grip, glide and packability, a more traditional skin will be the better option.