How to use seal skins in ski touring

How to use seal skins in ski touring

Are you new to ski touring? You’ll have to choose your new best friends: seal skins. Necessary for sliding forward, they must be adapted to your skis and the terrain on which you’re going to hike. Follow our advice to find the skins best suited to your needs.
Just to clarify a point from the outset: no seals were mistreated during the writing of this article.
Today, skins are made of synthetic material or mohair wool.

What is a skin and what are they used for in ski touring?

Historically, skins were made of real animal skins with short, tough hair. They were used to make forward progress by sliding on the snow. They are fixed under the skis to move forward: the bristles slide on the snow when you press on the ski while sliding forward, and prevent the ski from sliding backwards, because the bristles stand up and hold the ski when it tries to move backwards. Then, when the time comes to make your descent, you have to remove them to glide properly.

So they’re essential for use when ski touring.

Which skin to choose from among the different types?

Today, there are three types of skins:

  • The 100% mohair skin

    Mohair wool has great gliding and anti-slide-back qualities. But it’s a little fragile, and need regular maintenance, which is why these skins are generally recommended for competitors.

  • Mixed mohair/synthetic skins

    Generally made of 30% synthetic and 70% mohair, these skins offer the best of both worlds: good glide, good grip and optimal durability over time.

  • 100% synthetic skins

    Difficult to find commercially, 100% synthetic skins have very good grip, but glide less smoothly than mixed or 100% mohair models. However, they’re very durable.

Skins with or without glue?

To stick the skins to the bottom of the skis, glue is the preferred method. But in recent years, glue-free systems have been developed.

Skins with glue are the most common, but they need to be glued regularly to ensure maximum adhesion between the part of the skin which is in contact with the ski and the bottom of the ski. If you opt for skins with glue, you must always bring a small carrying net in which to store them when you no longer need them. Otherwise, you risk getting glue on the things in your backpack.

A new generation of skins appeared a few years ago, called self-adhesive skins, which don’t require glue. They’re made of silicone or acrylic, and work according to the molecular suction cup principle = they stick without requiring glue, but make sure you wash them regularly in lukewarm water, as the dust that accumulates on the skin can hinder their good adhesion. Easy to remove and carry, they’re more expensive, but are winning over more and more skiers.

Which system should I choose for attaching my skins?

Skins stick to skis thanks to the glue or molecular suction cup, but this obviously isn’t enough to keep them in place when climbing. They attach to skis at the tip and generally also at the rear of the ski.

  • System with stirrup at the front of the ski

    The stirrup works like a hook that fits around the tip of the ski, like a riding stirrup goes around the foot. This system is very common, as it’s compatible with most skis. On the widest skis, it’s often supplemented by a tensioner at the rear, which keeps the skin in place under the ski for long ascents.

  • How to use seal skins in ski touring

    Insert system

    If your skins and skis are the same brand, it’s possible that your skis are equipped with a compartment in which the insert located at the end of your skins can be housed. This system lets you save a few grams compared to fixing with a stirrup.

  • How to use seal skins in ski touring

    Elastic or tensioner system

    Lighter than the stirrup and practical, you don’t have to take off your boots to remove the skins, as there is an elastic system. It isn’t compatible with all skis, because notches are required for the elastic to fit on the front of the tip.

How to use, look after and store your ski touring skins?

To enjoy the benefits of your skins for longer, you need to use them properly and take care of them.

  • What wax to use on your skins?

    To avoid clogging, i.e snow accumulating under the skins which becomes heavy and prevents the skins from functioning properly, in particular the anti-slide-back effect, you can use a wax which has a water-repellent, anti-clogging effect.

  • When to put skins on your skis?

    Remember to install the skins before starting a climb, on flat ground which lets you take off your boots safely. Check that the bases of your skis are clean to ensure the glue works properly and protect your skis by avoiding foreign bodies between the base and the skin. Skins are sensitive to humidity, so avoid walking through puddles of melted snow when they’re attached to your skis.

  • How to store skins to carry them on the descent?

    To store your skins, you should first fold them in half with the sticky parts touching, then in half again. If you have a carry bag, store your skins inside. And if you plan to do another climb, and the snow conditions are suitable, consider putting your skins in a pocket to keep them warm, which will make it easier to stick them back on before the next climb.

    Never put the hairy part of the skin in contact with the glue.

  • How to dry skins after an outing?

    After a day’s ski touring, you need to dry your skins so that you can reuse them for your next trip out. To dry your skins properly, it’s important to dry them in the open air, away from a heat source, and keep them flat. Avoid drying them in direct sunlight on your skis.

  • Store skins away at the end of the season

    When the ski touring season is over, you should store your skins folded, in their transport bag, in a cool, dry place.

Do you have any more questions about ski touring skins? (FAQ)

When to re-glue skins?

If your skins start to stick to your skis less effectively, it's time to reapply a layer of glue. Be careful, though, as this must be done on clean, dry skins before setting off! Re-gluing at the start of the season is recommended.

When to change your skins?

Skins are designed for many miles of use. If they get damaged, you’ll need to change them. When, despite waxing and re-gluing, they no longer slide well or the anti-slide-back system no longer works, it’s time to invest in a new pair.

You now know everything about skins, the essential accessories for a ski touring trip. Gripping system, material, attachment... We’ve provided an overview so you can find the right skins for your skiing.