The New UltraLite Mix STS Climbing Skins vs. the Glidelite Mohair Pure
The new UltraLite Mix STS skins aren't pure mohair like their predecessor, they are claimed to be both lighter and more packable. They're available in three lengths: 110 mm, 125 mm, and 140 mm. Check out this side-by-side comparison, featuring the new UltraLite Mix skins on the left and the Glitelite skins we reviewed on the right. Then, keep reading for a full summary of updates.
Here's a summary of updates to the new skins:
- Fabric — The new UltraLite skins are made with 65% mohair and 35% nylon, which Black Diamond claims makes these skins 20% lighter (though we'd like to test this claim out ourselves before confirming). The Mohair Pure skins were the only 100% mohair skins in our review and we were very impressed with their glide. We're curious to see how these new skins stack up.
- Tip Loop — The new tip loop on these skins is constructed with Dynex and aluminum and are designed to be replaceable in the field.
They are completely different, incorporating a mohair/nylon mix and a replaceable Dynex and aluminum tip loop. 2/9
Because we haven't tested the UltraLite Mix STS skins yet, the rest of this review continues to reflect the Glidelite Mohair Pure skins.
As the only pure mohair in our test, these skins stand out for their exceptional glide. While in some conditions the blended and nylon skins come closer in glide performance, in cold, dry snow the Mohair literally races ahead. Further, the full mohair skins are lighter and more packable than almost any of the other skins we tested.
Tester and mountain guide Ian McEleney strips the Black Diamond Glidelite Mohair Pure. Note the glacier rope and skis-on methodology. On glaciers, skis are part of one's crevasse fall protection. Keeping skis on while removing skins can help prevent crevasse falls. British Columbia, Canada.
These glide the best in our entire test. We conducted our formalized, side-by-side testing on wet, refrozen melt/freeze snow. Even in these conditions, circumstances under which mohair is reputed to do poorly, the Glidelite Pure skins basically led the pack. The fastest blended skins came close, but the results were within the margin of error of our test. Elsewhere, in more subjective comparative testing, it was clear that the Pure skins are overall the fastest. Common convention has it that Mohair does best in cold, dry conditions. We found exactly that.
Just as with all the other skins we tested, grip and glide in the pure mohair skins were inversely related. These didn't grip as well as others. However, in years of experience with the same model, our lead test editor has found no actual limitations on the grip of the pure mohair skins. Good technique and track setting allow even the least grippy skins to go wherever one would want to go. For those few for whom absolute grip prowess matters the most, we recommend the Top Pick winning G3 High Traction. The HT skins are truly unique and truly more grippy. They are heavy and drag significantly, but they grip well.
Lead test editor at Rogers Pass. Backcountry skiing isn't always powder and sunrises. Sometimes it is tree wrestling and groin-stretching, creek-bank skin maneuvers. In this case, even the relatively less grippy Black Diamond Mohair Pure can hack it when the skinning gets weird.
The glue on the Mohair Pure skins is exactly the same as that on the Editors' Choice Black Diamond Glidelite Mohair Mix and the Best Buy Black Diamond Ascension Nylon. In those products, especially the full nylon, we found the glue to be perfectly adequate. It sticks as needed, and is backed up by a workable tip connection and stiff fabric to slow rolling and peel back while skinning. The Mohair Pure skins, however, are much less stiff. The glue is the same, and the tip loop is the same, but we had more significant problems with the skins peeling back at the tip. Generally, it was manageable, but we did find ourselves doing that management more frequently than with other skins. We never shortened a tour for skin failure with the Mohair Pure, (and never have, in years and years of touring, there is almost always some way to make it work) but we did get annoyed with snow working in between ski and skin at the tip.
Close up view of the tip of the Black Diamond Mohair skins. All BD skins are similarly equipped, and the simple cable is by far the least sophisticated and effective in our review. For the most part, it is fine in normal application. On the softer full mohair skins, however, snow can work in between ski and skin.
Generally, convention holds that nylon is more ice resistant than mohair. We found little to no correlation. All skins, once the factory water resistant treatment wears off, ice up. All need to be scraped and waxed when the snow is fresh, the sun is warm, and the air and shadows are cold.
Packability and Weight
The Mohair Pure from BD were the most packable in our test. The same supple fabric that allows snow to work in between ski and skin folds up smoothly into one's pocket. The fabric is thin and light also. In the case of the Mohair Pure, the durability suffers a bit with the lesser weight. While other skins last way longer than the skis they serve, pure mohair skins can show some wear within a single season. Our test pair, with just thirteen days of touring on them, show fading and wear of the natural fibers.
Mohair skins wear out faster than nylon. Here, after just one season of testing, the Black Diamond Mohair Pure (now discontinued) shows lightening in color along the right edge. This is minor wear. These skins still have a couple seasons in them.
Ease of Use
The glue lets go as it should and the tip and tail kit are easy to use. We had no problems with the ease of use of the Mohair Pure. Depending on exactly which configuration you choose, these skins may require some initial set-up. All will need to be trimmed for width and Black Diamond provides a tool and instructions. Some need to be cut to length and width, which adds to the complication. It is worth noting that all G3 skins, like the G3 Alpinist we tested, need to be trimmed also, but their process is quite a bit easier.
Detail view of the tail attachment on the Black Diamond Glidelite Mohair Pure
All Black Diamond skins can be compatible with all skis. They offer a range of rough sizes and then a tool to cut them to the exact dimensions. With more sophisticated tip hooks and a better-developed cutting tool, G3 skins are just as universal and even easier to set-up and use.
Close up view of the tip attachment on the Black Diamond Pure Mohair skins.
We recommend the Mohair Pure for use in cold climates for those that can manage the glue and appreciate the greater glide.
These are a somewhat specialized tool. We recommend the Ascension Nylon as a far better value.
These fully compatible, widely available skins have a definite niche in the backcountry skiing world. Other products may serve most better, but many will certainly appreciate the unique glide and packability of the Glidelite Mohair Pure.