Skinning in the Sandbox

| February 4, 2009

While skinning up Argenta today I was reminded of the term “skinning in a sandbox.”  About the only silver lining on this condition is the apt and funny mental imagery of actually skinning uphill in a sandbox, but aside from that, it is a very frustrating experience.  What makes it so annoying is that it is not the skins that are slipping (although it feels like it), but the snow sheering on itself.  This condition often happens when surface hoar crystals start to get as big as potato chips (as is happening now in the Wasatch), or when the top layer in the snowpack becomes very faceted and rotten, which is also happening.

Julia Niles chillin' on the skinner. Don't worry, be happy.

There are three things that can be done to alleviate the misery;

  1. Cut your skin angle down.  I love my high pegs as much as the next skinner, but you can’t sink the spurs into the track angle if the snow itself is sheering. 
  2. Concentrate on establishing your uphill, inside edge with each step.  Skinning is just the opposite of skiing and your uphill, inside edge is your “control” edge.
  3. Be patient.  Mellow out.  Relax.  Hum a little tune.  You aren’t going anywhere fast.

There is also a popular forth option, which is to blame it on someone, like the Finns or Norwegians.  :)
Help support and smile like Julia in a pair of Mountain Hardwear Women’s Sychro Pants from Click on the photo below…


Category: 05 Uphill

About the Author ()

Andrew McLean lives in Park City, Utah and is a gear designer, writer, photographer, ski mountaineer, climber, Mountain Unicycle rider and father of two very loud little girls.

Comments (9)

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  1. KatieC says:

    This leads to the ultimate skinning koan: how to blame the Norwegians while humming Dream Evil?

  2. Andrew says:

    Is it possible to be mellow while humming Dream Evil?

    Speaking of which, have you done any/many laps on that particular CD lately? I heard B-Rad was going to install a CD player in Van 5.0 which would be dedicated elusively to playing “The Book of Heavy Metal” at volume 11 at all times. Don’t like it? Get out.

  3. Lil'C says:

    It is definitely NOT possible to mellow out when the evil demon behind you has lungs the size of a top-fuel dragster, a boot/ski/skin rig that weighs less than the underwear you have on, and you have every reason to think that mellowing out would earn you colon exam sponsored by Dynafit and Scarpa!

    Nope, it’d be easier to mellow out in Van 5.0 listening to Henry Rollins cover Tom Jones’s “It’s Not Unusual” through a 1200 watt Fosgate amp personally tuned by the Red dog!

  4. Jared says:

    I skinned up Argenta this morning as well. We checked out the main chute from below and decided that the snow sucked. Went to ski the hoar frost instead. Found it on the ridge west of the Argenta slide path. Gotta love the sound of frost 2 inches deep when you ski it.

    BTW, you wouldn’t happen to be the guy cussing up a storm after almost hitting a tree would you? He made me laugh.

  5. Andrew says:

    Hi Jared – I don’t think that was me, although I felt like it at times. Argenta is starting to resemble a ski resort, eh? I’ve never seen it so tracked out, but on the bright side, it caused us to poke around a bit more and we found a really nice line that I’m sure we’ll be hitting again.

  6. Pemker says:

    Hehe, I’m a finn and do skin a lot in neighbor country Norway in the spring and early summer… That fourth option you mentioned is really widely used whenever the uphill part of touring sucks. Mmm, usually we blame the Swedes;)


    PS Discovered this great site via, will be back often. Andrew, just wanted you to know that you have fans in Finland, too!

  7. Andrew says:

    Hi pemker – it was great to hear from you, especially all the way from Finland. I’m glad to see that you have a sense of humor as well. :)

  8. Xover says:

    bwah; thought i was the only one in the world experiencing this phenomenom right now in upper Mineral yesterday as i was all alone and had a sweet 1.5k shot of creamy, east facing pow to myself with only 1 track down low on it ’cause the dog didn’t like the Kitty Box ; )

    thanx for the 3 reminder tips AT; you’re always the man. glad i wasn’t the only one inventing new four letter words or any fathomable conglameration of them ; )

  9. Duncan says:

    Oh cry me a river! You lucky slobs. I’d take hoar frost and “tracked out” slopes any day over what I’ve got here – skinning up a hill of machine-made snow in the rain. Sigh. Oh well, that’s what I get from living in the Southeast. By the way, did you know there’s an ice climbing guide to the South? “Southern Fried Ice”. Cracks me up.

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