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Black Diamond Ascension STS Review

Expect this low-priced pair to give ok performance over many seasons of mountaineering and touring through the backcountry
Black Diamond Ascension STS
Photo: Black Diamond
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Price:  $165 List | $164.95 at Amazon
Pros:  Durable, inexpensive, good grip
Cons:  Limited glide, bulky and heavy
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 9, 2020
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49
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#12 of 13
  • Glide - 30% 1
  • Grip - 15% 9
  • Glue Integrity - 20% 9
  • Portability - 20% 2
  • Icing Resistance - 10% 7
  • Compatibility - 5% 7

Our Verdict

The proven Black Diamond Ascension skins might be the most widely used skins on the United States market. They work for everyone. This is good. However, something else will likely work better for most of us. The Ascension is durable and grips very well on the uphill. The durability is likely overkill (these will far 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 one of our award winners. 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.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award 
Price $164.95 at Amazon$210 List$210 List$210 List$230.32 at Amazon
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Pros Durable, inexpensive, good gripLight, fast gliding, enough grip, optimized glue, universal tip and tailLight, fast, compactLight, fast glidingSuper light, good-enough grip and glide, low maintenance stick
Cons Limited glide, bulky and heavyMohair blend will wear out faster than all nylon, harder to find than other brandsCompromised grip, compromised durabilityDurability concerns, limited gripMoody adhesive, finicky tail clip
Bottom Line Rugged, good gripping skins for those with limited dollars and desiring a proven product over maximum performanceClimbing skins inherently strike compromises; winner of our top award, it balances competing demands better than any otherFor skilled skinners and efficiency hounds on cold snow there are no better skins availableYou get exceptional glide, but pay for that with durability, grip, and some icing resistanceUltra light, low-maintenance, high performance skins for discerning users in specific applications
Rating Categories Black Diamond Ascension STS Pomoca Climb Pro S Glide Pomoca Race Back Fix Pomoca Climb Pro Mohair Colltex Combin Mohair
Glide (30%)
1
8
9
9
8
Grip (15%)
9
8
4
4
6
Glue Integrity (20%)
9
7
7
7
5
Portability (20%)
2
7
8
7
9
Icing Resistance (10%)
7
7
5
5
5
Compatibility (5%)
7
7
7
7
7
Specs Black Diamond... Pomoca Climb Pro S... Pomoca Race Back Fix Pomoca Climb Pro... Colltex Combin...
Measured Weight 1.43 lbs 1.23 lbs 1.09 lbs 1 lb .86 lbs
Material Nylon 70% mohair and 30% nylon 100% mohair 100% Mohair 100% Mohair
Weight Per Pair 650 for Helio 105 558g for Salomon MTN Explore 95 496g for Kastle TX 103 452g for Atomic Backland 392g for Movement Alp Tracks 100
Glue Traditional Traditional Traditional Traditional Silicone
Tip Attachment Cable tip loop Rigid tip loop Rigid tip loop Rigid tip loop Rigid tip loop
Tail Attachment Rubber strap and metal hook Rubber strap and cam hook Rubber strap and cam hook Rubber strap and cam hook Vinyl strap and cam hook
Ski Compatibility Universal Universal Universal Universal Universal
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 length and approximate width, cut to lateral shape Order for length and approximate width, cut to lateral shape

Our Analysis and Test Results

We now 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.

Note that we've reviewed (and photographed) the Ascension through iterative improvements and changes over many years now. The biggest difference each time has been in fabric pattern. Other claimed improvements have been unnoticeable.

Performance Comparison


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

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 5-10% of uphill energy over a long day.

The absolute latest version of the Black Diamond Ascension climbing...
The absolute latest version of the Black Diamond Ascension climbing skin. The functional elements haven't changed in decades, but the color and pattern does change. This is the 2020 pattern.
Photo: Jediah Porter

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.

Spring time means dry approaches and abrasive snow. For that...
Spring time means dry approaches and abrasive snow. For that abrasive springtime snow, full nylon skins can be the best choice. Here, the absolute latest pattern on Ascension skins in June of 2020 on Mount Shasta.
Photo: Jediah Porter

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

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 skins that include mohair in the mix.

You will see tons of Black Diamond Ascension skins out and about...
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.
Photo: Rosie De Lise

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.

The stiff backing of the Ascension skins is durable but bulky in...
The stiff backing of the Ascension skins is durable but bulky in your pack or pocket.
Photo: Rosie De Lise

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.

Durable, strong-gripping skins for beginning users that wish to use...
Durable, strong-gripping skins for beginning users that wish to use them for a long, long time.
Photo: Rosie De Lise

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

Jediah Porter