Junk In The Trunk: Climbing Skins

Three choices for all your backcountry adventures

Right in the middle of Powder Week last month, the skies cleared at Jackson Hole and we were treated to a bluebird day after weeks of snow. The conditions were also fairly stable, so the place went off as people charged into spots they'd been waiting to access for weeks. Iconic lines got lapped all morning.

POMOCA Climb Pro, for the best glide.
POMOCA Climb Pro, for the best glide.

POMOCA Climb Pro
MSRP: $208.95

Out at the front of the pack was Eric Henderson, a former lead guide at the resort who is now the communications manager for Dynafit and POMOCA. I saw him later that day and he told me he and a couple others had climbed Cody Peak and skied several other shots all before lunch. For those not familiar with Jackson Hole, that means they'd climbed and skied more vert that morning than most of us could pack into a full day.

Henderson, or "Hende," as his friends call him, has a hard time sitting still so it's no surprise he was out front. It's also no surprise that his favorite skins for moving fast are the POMOCA Climb Pro, which are 100 percent mohair. Yes, Henderson works for that brand, but I can confirm that the skins are great for putting in mileage. They won't grip to steep faces like some other skins on the market, but they're as fast and smooth as they come, and they're my go-to for hut-to-hut trips or anything that requires real distance.

G3 Alpinist High Traction, for the steeps.
G3 Alpinist High Traction, for the steeps.

G3 Alpinist High Traction
MSRP: $159.95-$164.95

On the other end of the spectrum are G3's Alpinist High Traction climbing skins. There are plenty of places in Jackson where these come in handy as well because they're made for steep climbs. Instead of mohair, the Alpinist High Traction use synthetic material and supposedly increase traction by 10 to 20 percent. Those numbers are hard to verify, but I can say that when it counted, the skins gripped better than anything else I've had on my skis. They'll slow you down on the flats, but there was almost no slippage, even on steep, packed down slopes.

Black Diamond Ascension Nylon STS, for the happy medium.
Black Diamond Ascension Nylon STS, for the happy medium.

Black Diamond Ascension Nylon STS
MSRP: $159.95

Right in the middle of these two extremes sit Black Diamond's famous Ascension Nylon STS skins. These ubiquitous orange skins have been around for a long time (in various iterations) and adorn many a backcountry board. Like a trusty Toyota pickup or Subaru Outback, they're reliable and everyone has 'em. They're on the stickier side, so they grip better than they glide, but generally they're a great all-around skin. I've had a pair for years now and with a fresh coat of glue every once and while, they just keep going.

Unfortunately, none of these skins are going to ensure you'll be able to keep up with Hende. He'll still be a blur on the horizon moving twice as fast and skiing that much more vert. But with a quiver that includes all three, you will have what you need to make sure you can get to at least some of the goods next time it goes blue and the race is on again for fresh tracks.