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Backpacker Magazine – Fall/Winter Gear Guide 2011

Ski Strong: Going Up

Master the art of backcountry climbing and skinning.

by: Evelyn Spence

Master the art of skinning
Master the art of skinning

>> Fit
Shaped skins offer more climbing efficiency, while straight skins are lighter and easier to maintain. Buy shaped skins to match the ski’s fattest section (about 10 inches behind the tip) and trim them one to two millimeters narrower than the base. Both ski edges should be exposed. For straight skins, match the width to your ski’s narrowest point.

>> Climb smart.
Breaking trail? Zigzag to create consistent switchbacks; don’t beeline to the top. Compacted snow is slick, so if a leader’s ascent is steeper than 15 degrees, the rest of the party won’t be able to follow his tracks.

>> Adjust on the move.
Change direction with maximum control by making rounded turns on flat benches. Slipping? Stomp into the snow, take short steps, and keep your waist and back straight to center your weight.

>> Prevent buildup.
Snow may stick to skins’ fibers and weigh you down—especially in variable temps. Rub the hairs with Black Diamond's Glop Stopper ($13).

>> Remove
With no wind, try this: Kick back one ski into a vertical, tip-down position behind you; reach back, remove the tail clip, and pull the skin halfway off; kick the ski’s tip forward and yank the skin entirely off. If it’s windy, remove skis, then unstick and fold all at once to keep them snow-free (see below).

>> Fold
Keep glue surfaces dry when snow exposure is likely: Peel the skin’s tail half and fold it glue-to-glue while the tip is stuck to the ski. As you remove the tip half, fold it together.

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