There are many variations on the skin theme available nowadays – nylon, mohair, mixed, hybrids, domestic, European, tip catchers, tail rippers, no tails and everything in between. I’m partial and opinionated about what I like for the Wasatch, but am the first to admit that the best skin for the job is probably whatever the locals use in a given area. First off, the locals are bound to know their snowpack and what skins work best on it, and secondly, their skin tracks are going to reflect that. When Europeans bring narrow mohair skins to the Wasatch with no tip or tail loop, they inevitably get frustrated with the steep skin tracks and then the cold, dry air causes their glue to fail and their skins fall off. Conversely, bringing a pair of burly nylon skins to Europe would be like walking around with sandpaper on your skis as the snow pack and skin track favor the gliding properties of mohair.
That said, it is possible to make almost any skin work in almost any condition. The reason I like nylon skins with a tip & tail kit for the Wasatch is that we often have fine grained, dry snow which the courser nylon material tends to bite well in. We also don’t have very long approaches compared to other places and they tend to be steep, so glide (like you get with mohair) isn’t a big issue.
On the mohair/nylon hybrids, I’ve tried two different brands of them and while they are billed as “the best of both worlds” I personally thought they were the worst of both worlds. They don’t climb very well compared to nylons or glide well compared to mohair, which is frustrating. Personally, I’d rather use a skin which is really good at one thing or another (like climbing or gliding) rather than one that merely doesn’t suck too much in most conditions.
An excellent little technical skin primer can be found here.
Category: 05 Uphill