Skinning Tricks – Crabbing

| December 14, 2013 | 11 Comments

Here’s a skinning trick I use all the time, which for lack of a better term I call “crabbing” as the idea is move sideways like a crab. This technique is useful for getting around short, slick, firm areas such as you might find on a ridgeline or when trying to contour around a rib feature.  The first part of this 30 second video shows the standard issue slipping/patching/turfing technique and the second half shows crabbing.

The underlying concept is to get off your edges (which won’t do anything for your skinning) and instead turn your skis uphill and flat, so that you can maximize their surface contact with the snow.  I typically use this for short sections, like a couple hundred feet at the most, and if more than that is needed, I’ll start booting or change my route to something with less contours.

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Trying to follow the direction of travel as shown by the red line will force you on to your edges and in turn lead to a nice faceplant.

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By turning your skis uphill and flattening them out, you can still follow the direction of travel by taking crab-like steps sideways.

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Category: 05 Uphill, Tips & Technique

About the Author ()

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

Comments (11)

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  1. Caleb Spare says:

    Hey man, thanks for your skinning tips. They are so great. I read your post about standing upright (not leaning forward) for skinning maybe a year ago, and last season it really helped me a lot.

  2. Scott says:

    Oh my gosh, what a great tip. I’ve been skinning for 5 years and it NEVER occurred for me to do this. Thank you for sharing Andrew.

  3. Jason Mack says:

    It’s crabbing season here in Tahoe! Getting ready for the big refreeze.

  4. Justin says:

    I like the crabbing technique. I also sometimes go the other way and use edges instead of skins, and sidestep up/across.

  5. Billy Balz says:

    Question: 1. Does anybody skin with some buckles buckled..aside from bottom buckle?
    2. What is the steepest track going straight up before you need to zig zag or boot pack? I find myself maxing out around 30 degree angle on the up without zig zagging
    Thanks!

  6. Question 1: Top buckles undone always and power strap removed.

    Question 2: It depends on how sticky the snow is. In perfect conditions, you can go up to 40+ degrees, but at that point your legs will be smoking.

  7. Bill Balz says:

    Thank you Andrew, your tips are awesome. As a followup, 1. Do you completely ditch the power strap on all AT boots altogether? 2. Was that you in the crabbing video in what appear to be orange Maestrales? If so, do you use that boot in all terrain types? 3. Finally, for skinning will you always keep the 45 degree buckle (or its equivalent on a particular AT boot) latched just tight enough to keep your heel in place (for blister protection mainly?) Thanks and a very Merry Xmas to you and your family!

  8. Hi Bill –
    1) Yes, I completely ditch the powerstrap on AT boots. I save them and don’t throw them out, but I personally don’t use them.
    2) Yep – orange Maestrales. I use them for all sorts of skiing, but not racing.
    3) For touring, I definitely pop the top buckle and like to have the arch and the toe done up to provide some edge control.

  9. Bill Balz says:

    Thanks Andrew, that’s been advice well heeded. As a newbie on the ice coast, plus two young kids, I’m kinda confined to a quick 1500′ vertical ascent at 6:30am….I go fast and the burn is awesome, though I am drenched at the top. Seems you like steep aerobic skinning as well? How do you manage sweat when you are out all day or even multi days when it’s cold and you have no shelter? Do you really slow it down or do you just keep moving? I’m really interested because I’ll be in PC and snowbird in feb and April and def want to do some day tours when the resorts are dry. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Would also love to buy you and your wife (and noisy daughters) dinner one night if you are free….restaurant of your choice with unlimited rounds of your choice.

  10. Man that is just so simple and obvious. Cringing to think of all the needless hateful ungainly slopping about I have done because this had not occured. Awesome.

  11. Dave says:

    I might also add to this tossing your boots back into ski-mode on the steeper-icier skinners as it can add some leverage and help shift weight posteriorly.

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