Black Diamond Glidelite Mix STS Review
Cons: Floppy material rolls and peels, allowing some snow between ski and skin
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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Black Diamond Glidelite Mix STS
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|Pros||Light and versatile||Light, fast gliding, enough grip, optimized glue, universal tip and tail||Well balanced in all attributes, great glue||Light, fast gliding||Light, fast, compact|
|Cons||Floppy material rolls and peels, allowing some snow between ski and skin||Mohair blend will wear out faster than all nylon, harder to find than other brands||Expensive, require ongoing periodic maintenance||Durability concerns, limited grip||Compromised grip, compromised durability|
|Bottom Line||Universally compatible and high performing, these are some of the best skins on the market for whatever sticks you take into the backcountry||The best climbing skins on the market, they strike all the right balances||These walk a tightrope, yielding a product that is fully balanced right at the performance point that our experience suggests is ideal||On the balance sheet of climbing skins, they lean in the fast and light direction, with associated compromises in grip and durability||Fast gliding skins for cold snow and accomplished skinners, the super compact, light form makes your huge skis more manageable|
|Rating Categories||Black Diamond Glide...||Pomoca Climb Pro S...||Contour Hybrid Mix||Pomoca Climb Pro Mo...||Pomoca Free Pro 2.0|
|Glue Integrity (20%)|
|Icing Resistance (10%)|
|Specs||Black Diamond Glide...||Pomoca Climb Pro S...||Contour Hybrid Mix||Pomoca Climb Pro Mo...||Pomoca Free Pro 2.0|
|Measured Weight||1.25 lbs||1.23 lbs||1.21 lbs||1 lb||1.09 lbs|
|Material||65% Mohair, 35% Nylon||70% mohair and 30% nylon||70% Mohair, 30% Synthetic||100% Mohair||100% mohair|
|Weight Per Pair||569g for 178cm Kastle TX98, 563g for 176cm Fischer Hannibal, 600g for 183 Black Crows Corvus Freebird||558g for Salomon MTN Explore 95. 587g for 183 Black Crows Corvus Freebird||551 for Blizzard Zero G, 654g for 178 Voile Hyperdrifter||452g for Atomic Backland||496g for 180cm Kastle TX 103|
|Glue||Traditional||Traditional||Hybrid glue technology||Traditional||Traditional|
|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||Vinyl strap and cam hook||Rubber strap and cam hook||Rubber strap and cam hook|
|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
The GlideLite Mix skins are a widely available, widely compatible product that strikes one balance after another in favor of ultimate performance. When we consider cost, others come very close, but the Black Diamond edges just ahead. Only more expensive options are a better overall choice.
We want skins that glide well. At first glance, and to the uninitiated, this seems unimportant. The uphill portion of a backcountry ski day is simply plodding along slowly, and gliding is the last thing we envision. Sure, we often scoot down short hills on the way up without removing our skins, but the bulk of uphill travel is slow and cumbersome. Gliding isn't a word we'd use to describe the overall travel. Look more closely at truly efficient uphill travel, however, and you will see that each step taken by an accomplished skinner has a gliding portion. The best climbers all slide their skins ahead rather than lifting them. This slide is crucial to efficiency. We can't quite put our fingers on exactly why, but we know it to be true.
If glide is vital to each step, it is important to your whole climb. If it is important to the entire climb, it is essential to 80% of your backcountry ski day. On the other hand, we need skins that stay put on the ski, and that grip the snow well enough to keep forward progress rolling along, and that last through multiple seasons. Some attributes that contribute to good glide compromise in other ways. Gliding is indeed very important, but these top scoring skins are not the best gliders. But the combination of nylon and mohair allows for the best balance of glide and grip, which is why we find them to be exceptional. Full mohair skins definitely glide better.
The grip is why we use skins. Skis are slippery on their own; we need to add traction for uphill travel. That being said, as noted above, we also need the skis to glide forward. Grip and glide are, logically, at odds. The best gliding skins are not the best grippers and vice versa. With glide, more is better. With grip, we only need so much. We need our skis to grab the snow at an angle that suits the most efficient rate of ascent. The steepest track, even if our skins would stick, is inefficient on our legs. Tilting the angle back is better for the rest of our bodies.
We only need skins that stick to moderate slopes. The Mo-Mix skins, used with good technique, stick just fine in any terrain you will encounter in typical backcountry skiing. Sure, you can get better grabbers. Notably, the nylon choices offer truly enhanced grip. To climb the steepest terrain possible, in a straight, plumb line, choose full nylon.
Black Diamond makes excellent, magical skin glue, and plasters it onto all of their skins. It sticks when you want it to (to your skis), and lets go when you need it to (in deployment when pulling skin from skin after storage and skin from after use). Among our tested Black Diamond skins, though, we found variation in actual glue integrity.
It turns out that, no matter how strong the glue is, the stiffness of the backing material matters. Supple skin material rolls and peels more readily than stiff material. This is true across the board, but is most apparent when comparing Black Diamond skins, as we can correct for tip attachment and for glue strength. All Black Diamond skins use the same tip fix and the same glue formulation. Nylon skins are stiffer, and Mohair is softer, with the blend - no surprise here - falling in the middle. The Glidelite Mix skins did not stay on quite as well as the full nylon. Overall, these skins stayed stuck well enough.
What would a review be without some nitpicking? In other rating categories like grip or glide, where the Glidelite Mix skins make clear compromises, we can forgive and justify these compromises in the interest of balancing performance attributes. With glue integrity, as it relates to the fabric stiffness, we see no reason the fabric couldn't be stiffer. Other skins in our review are just as light and packable, but stiffer and therefore stay stuck on skis better.
Further, other skins we used have tip attachments that do a better job of locking the material down to work with the glue and fabric stiffness to keep the skin from rolling. The latest rigid tip loop of the Black Diamond skins is an improvement over previous versions, but it isn't the most secure attachment when it comes to slowing the penetration of snow between ski and skin. In the end, the Glidelite Mix skins stayed on our skis well enough, but they could be better. We tested them some without the optional tail clip and had no significant problems in the rear. A perfect product, however, would do better regarding overall glue integrity.
We found nothing notable regarding icing resistance on the Glidelite Mix skins. All skins we have ever used ice up at least little in the right circumstances. This is no exception. While it would be nice if there were a product that fully resisted icing, it seems unlikely. Even bare ski bases can ice up when the snow is variable, switching between cold and dry and moist and warm. To achieve the traction necessary from skins, they need to be textured at least a little. Because of this inherent texture, they will always be even more vulnerable to icing than smooth, bare ski bases. There are tips and tricks to minimize skin icing, and mainly it involves waxing the skins.
Among the fabric products, there seems to be a pretty direct correlation between mohair content and icing proclivity. Full nylon plush ices less than the blends, which in turn ice less than the full mohair options.
Making direct, quantitative comparisons of the weight of the skins we tested was difficult. Because each pair of skins is cut to a specific model (and size and dimensions) of ski, and because each skin has different tip and tail attachments (and in the case of Black Diamond skins, different options), there is no easy direct comparison of actual weight. That being said, we could make some rough comparisons and generalizations. Once again, the Glidelite Mix skins come out in the middle. The blend of materials hedges its bets with the heavier nylon and lighter mohair to find a spot in the center of the spectrum. The material itself is perhaps a little heavier than average blended skins.
Overall, when we account for different ski sizes and clip arrangements, the Glidelite Mix is about as packable as the other major blended products.
Along with the other Black Diamond skins, the Glidelite Mix product is universally compatible. All Black Diamond skins are equal in this regard.
These are not the least expensive skins we tested, but they are close. As a top scoring product, they are priced very well. One caveat worth mentioning is that the mohair component of skins wears out with usage. Full mohair skins show wear in just a couple of weeks of heavy use and start to suffer in performance after a heavy season or two. It is harder to assess wear on the mixed skins, but it is surely happening. Very few tour often and hard enough to wear out skins, even pure mohair skins, faster than they wish to upgrade skis, but it does affect the value. Pure nylon skins will last longer than anything with any amount of mohair. That being said, the performance advantages of the Glidelite Mix skins is worth a few extra dollars and the minor durability compromise. For absolute value, full nylon has to be a little better, but we aren't keen on the performance and portability compromises therein.
Even more than in other review categories, the dominating products are far from flashy. Climbing skins are decidedly unsexy on their own, and this top performer is outstanding for its middle-of-the-road performance across the board in our metrics. This, as outlined above, is a function of the inherent polarized attributes we ask of skins. If it has to both glide and grip, somewhere in the middle is going to be the sweet spot. If it has to drag along the ground for miles and miles but pack down small, durability and weight are going to be carefully tuned.If the glue has to both stick and not stick… well, that's just magic. The Glidelite Mohair Mix is an excellent compromise at a reasonable price. Overall, other products take a handy lead. However, when we consider cost and availability, these are an easy budget recommendation. Anyone on a budget will do well to find these, either at retail or on sale, for their backcountry skis. With proper care they will last many seasons, further enhancing the value.
— Jediah Porter
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