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Black Diamond Ascension STS Review

Expect this low-priced pair to give great performance over many seasons of mountaineering and touring through the backcountry.
Ascension Nylon 2017
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Price:  $160 List | $159.95 at REI
Pros:  Durable, inexpensive, good grip
Cons:  Limited glide, bulky and heavy
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 18, 2019
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72
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 9
  • Glide - 30% 5
  • Grip - 15% 9
  • Glue integrity - 20% 9
  • Portability - 20% 6
  • Icing Resistance - 10% 9
  • Compatibility - 5% 9

Our Verdict

The proven Black Diamond Ascension skins might be the most widely used skins on the market. They work for everyone. This is good. However, something else might work better for most of us. The Ascension is durable and grips very well on the uphill. The durability is likely overkill (these will certainly outlast your skis, for instance) and the grip enables skin tracks that are steeper than biomechanics require. With the grip you get compromised glide that affects your overall efficiency. With greater durability comes increased weight and bulk, both on your skis and in your pack. There are certainly people for whom the Ascension is well suited, but most will do better with the Editors' Choice Contour Hybrid Mix or the Best Buy Black Diamond Glidelite Mix.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award  
Price $159.95 at REI$230 List$210 List$180 List$190 List
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Durable, inexpensive, good gripWell balanced in all attributes, great glueLight, fast glidingLight and versatileLight, well balanced performance, and an excellent tip attachment
Cons Limited glide, bulky and heavyExpensive, largest and heaviest messengerDurability concerns, limited gripFloppy material rolls and peels, allowing some snow between ski and skinExclusive to Dynafit skis
Bottom Line Expect this low-priced pair to give great performance over many seasons of mountaineering and touring through the backcountry.Virtually every aspect of skin design and construction is balanced by another competing demand; the Contour Hybrid Mix walks that tightrope, creating a product that is fully balanced.On the balance sheet of climbing skins, the Pomoca’s lean in the fast and light direction, with associated compromises in grip and durability.Universally compatible and high performing, these are some of the best skins on the market for whatever sticks you take into the backcountry.Limited to being compatible with Dynafit skis, these lightweight skins strike a great balance between glide and grip.
Rating Categories Black Diamond Ascension STS Contour Hybrid Mix Pomoca Climb Pro Mohair Glidelite Mix STS Dynafit Speedskin
Glide (30%)
10
0
5
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
8
Grip (15%)
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
7
Glue Integrity (20%)
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
7
Portability (20%)
10
0
6
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
9
Icing Resistance (10%)
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
9
Compatibility (5%)
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
3
Specs Black Diamond... Contour Hybrid Mix Pomoca Climb Pro... Glidelite Mix STS Dynafit Speedskin
Weight per pair (grams) 650 for Helio 105 551 for Blizzard Zero G 452g for Atomic Backland 569g for Kastle, 563g for Hannibal, 570g for Vta, 600g for Black Crows 550g
Weight (pounds) 1.43 1.21 1 1.25 1.21
Material Nylon 70% Mohair, 30% Synthetic 100% Mohair 65% Mohair, 35% Nylon Mohair and Nylon mix
Glue Traditional Hybrid glue technology Traditional Traditional Traditional
Tip Attachment Cable tip loop Rigid tip loop Rigid tip loop Cable tip loop Proprietary rubber knob into ski notch
Tail Attachment Rubber strap Rubber strap Rubber strap Rubber strap Metal hook
Ski Compatibility Universal Universal Universal Universal Compatible with Dynafit skis only
Precut Option? Order for approximate width, cut to length and lateral shape Order for length and approximate width, cut to lateral shape Order for length and approximate width, cut to lateral shape Order for approximate width, cut to length and lateral shape Yes

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 by market trends. 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.

Performance Comparison


Because of their bulk, weight, and glide characteristics, the Ascension scores near the bottom of the pack.

Deep in the Canadian wilderness with the Black Diamond Ascension skins. For reliable function  you can't go wrong with these.
Deep in the Canadian wilderness with the Black Diamond Ascension skins. For reliable function, you can't go wrong with these.

Glide


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


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.

Glue Integrity


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.

The tip and tail profile of the Black Diamond Ascension skins. This is proven and simple  but the G3 system is better all around.
The tip and tail profile of the Black Diamond Ascension skins. This is proven and simple, but the G3 system is better all around.

Icing/Glopping Resistance


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 the Best Buy Black Diamond Glidelite Mohair Mix and the Editors Choice Contour Hybrid.

You will see tons of Black Diamond Ascension skins out and about. They work well  for sure. However  we'd argue that their predominance is more a function of inertia than of performance.
You will see tons of Black Diamond Ascension skins out and about. They work well, for sure. However, we'd argue that their predominance is more a function of inertia than of performance.

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 Editors' Choice Contour Hybrid is about 2/3rds the weight and bulk of the Ascension. The G3 Alpinist+ Glide is thinner and lighter than the Ascension, but is stiff like the Ascension.

The stiff backing of the Ascension skins is durable but bulky in your pack or pocket.
The stiff backing of the Ascension skins is durable but bulky in your pack or pocket.

Compatibility


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. The metal hooks of the G3 Alpinist+ Glide are definitely more secure on a variety of tip shapes. Rigid tip "loops" like those on the Editors Choice Contour are also more secure than the wire of the Ascension.

Best Applications


For barebones budget applications and for applications where you will want to use your skins for hundreds and hundreds of hard-charging days, the Ascension is a good choice. For maximum performance, look elsewhere.

Durable  strong-gripping skins for beginning users that wish to use them for a long  long time.
Durable, strong-gripping skins for beginning users that wish to use them for a long, long time.

Value


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.

Conclusion


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.


Jediah Porter