Black Diamond Ascension STS Review
Cons: Limited glide, bulky and heavy
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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Our Analysis and Test Results
For the first time in years, we have just one pair of all-nylon skins in our test. The Black Diamond Ascension Nylon are a classic, long-available product that is slowly being supplanted as market trends evolve. In certain instances, these all-nylon skins are worthwhile. As other nylon options disappear, the venerable Ascension forges on and recaptures that market share. Basically, for absolute durability the Ascension Nylon is great. In fleet or rental settings, these are likely the best skins you can get. For all others, the performance bump with mohair blend skins is worth the slight tradeoffs in price, grip, and durability.
All nylon construction means that the Ascension skins glide more poorly than any of those that include mohair. Efficient skinning means sliding your skis forward with each step. Skins that do this with less resistance save you energy. Mohair and mohair blended skins glide better than the Ascension. Discerning users on our test team, anecdotally, report that the restricted glide of the Ascension costs 10-15% of your uphill energy over a long day.
Grip is inversely related to glide. All nylon construction grips really well. These are the best gripping skins in our test. Now, this seems like a good thing. And, indeed, there is little more frustrating or draining than skins that slip backwards. First, though, your technique will improve. Good skinners can ascend more steeply than beginners, all else equal. Next, no matter your level of experience, biomechanics are a greater limiter on your angle of ascent than skin grip. Even all mohair skins grip more steeply than your legs operate best. Maximum grip is unnecessary for maximum efficiency.
After slipping backward on your skins, skins that fall off your skis are one of backcountry skiing's greatest frustrations. First, align your expectations. In some conditions, all skins will fail. It is "par for the course" to have skin glue failure a time or two during your backcountry ski season. Even the most fastidious care will get snow and liquid water onto the glue. Both of these forms of H2O contamination will prevent your skins from sticking. Next, realize that Black Diamond glue is great. It is just sticky enough, and stays where you want it to stay. Finally, overall glue integrity is a function of the glue itself, fabric stiffness, and tip and tail attachments. The Ascension fabric is super stiff. This is good for keeping your skins on your skis. The tip and tail attachments are among the least sophisticated in our test, but they do the job.
Synthetic nylon fibers in the plush of the Ascension Nylon absorb virtually no liquid water. It is liquid water that precedes (sometimes immediately) icing of your skin fabric. Ascension skins are very resistant to glopping. We can't say that they won't ice up at all. In the right conditions, all skins will ice up. But the Ascension is better than most. They are certainly better than skins that include mohair in the mix.
Packability and Weight
The Ascension skins are the bulkiest and heaviest skins we tested. You don't get this durability without a trade-off. Bulk and weight are the price you pay for plush that will last for millions of vertical feet. For a given size of ski, the average competitor is about 2/3rds the weight and bulk of the Ascension.
Black Diamond sells the Ascension skins to work with any skis on the market. Shop and measure carefully, but know that you can cut them to work on anything. The cable tip loop isn't as secure on wide and rounded ski tips.
Initial purchase price of theAscension is lower than most. Further, they are widely available and often deeply discounted. Finally, the long service life brings down your "per day" price even more. These are a good value. However, for just a few bucks more you can get the Best Buy Black Diamond Glidelite Mix and get considerably better performance.
Climbing skin purchase is often an afterthought. We don't advise this. If you don't put much thought into it, you might end up with the Ascension. It isn't a wrong choice, and it might be your best choice. However, you might also be better served with a different product. Read our reviews to see what will work best for you. Because of their bulk, weight, and glide characteristics, the Ascension scores near the bottom of the pack.
— Jediah Porter