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Contour Hybrid Mix Review

These walk a tightrope, yielding a product that is fully balanced right at the performance point that our experience suggests is ideal
Contour Hybrid Mix
Photo: Contour
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $180 List | Check Price at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Well balanced in all attributes, great glue
Cons:  Expensive, require ongoing periodic maintenance
Manufacturer:   Contour
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 29, 2021
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72
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 11
  • Glide - 30% 7
  • Grip - 15% 8
  • Glue Integrity - 20% 8
  • Icing Resistance - 10% 7
  • Portability - 20% 6
  • Compatibility - 5% 7

Our Verdict

These are great skins. That's where simple reviewing of Contour's Hybrid skins ends. The best climbing skins will always be the least exciting. Virtually every aspect of skin design and construction is balanced by another competing demand. These skins are “just right”. They aren’t the best at any one thing, and that is by design. Virtually every performance attribute is balanced by another. Maximize glide, say, and you reduce grip. And the same goes for virtually every assessment criteria. Inherently, good climbing skins are going to be compromises. For us, and for how we understand backcountry skiing, the Contour Hybrid Mix is perfectly compromised.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Contour Hybrid Mix
This Product
Contour Hybrid Mix
Awards Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award Best Buy Award 
Price Check Price at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
Check Price at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$209.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$210 List
$199.95 at Amazon
$195 List
$199.95 at Amazon
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Pros Well balanced in all attributes, great glueLight, fast gliding, enough grip, optimized glue, universal tip and tailLight, fast glidingLight, fast, compactLight and versatile
Cons Expensive, require ongoing periodic maintenanceMohair blend will wear out faster than all nylon, harder to find than other brandsDurability concerns, limited gripCompromised grip, compromised durabilityFloppy material rolls and peels, allowing some snow between ski and skin
Bottom Line These walk a tightrope, yielding a product that is fully balanced right at the performance point that our experience suggests is idealThe best climbing skins on the market, they strike all the right balancesOn the balance sheet of climbing skins, they lean in the fast and light direction, with associated compromises in grip and durabilityFast gliding skins for cold snow and accomplished skinners, the super compact, light form makes your huge skis more manageableUniversally compatible and high performing, these are some of the best skins on the market for whatever sticks you take into the backcountry
Rating Categories Contour Hybrid Mix Pomoca Climb Pro S... Pomoca Climb Pro Mo... Pomoca Free Pro 2.0 Black Diamond Glide...
Glide (30%)
7.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
5.0
Grip (15%)
8.0
8.0
4.0
4.0
5.0
Glue Integrity (20%)
8.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
5.0
Icing Resistance (10%)
7.0
7.0
5.0
5.0
5.0
Portability (20%)
6.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
6.0
Compatibility (5%)
7.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Specs Contour Hybrid Mix Pomoca Climb Pro S... Pomoca Climb Pro Mo... Pomoca Free Pro 2.0 Black Diamond Glide...
Measured Weight 1.21 lbs 1.23 lbs 1 lb 1.09 lbs 1.25 lbs
Material 70% Mohair, 30% Synthetic 70% mohair and 30% nylon 100% Mohair 100% mohair 65% Mohair, 35% Nylon
Weight Per Pair 551 for Blizzard Zero G, 654g for 178 Voile Hyperdrifter 558g for Salomon MTN Explore 95. 587g for 183 Black Crows Corvus Freebird 452g for Atomic Backland 496g for 180cm Kastle TX 103 569g for 178cm Kastle TX98, 563g for 176cm Fischer Hannibal, 600g for 183 Black Crows Corvus Freebird
Glue Hybrid glue technology Traditional Traditional Traditional Traditional
Tip Attachment Rigid tip loop Rigid tip loop Rigid tip loop Rigid tip loop Cable tip loop
Tail Attachment Vinyl strap and cam hook Rubber strap and cam hook Rubber strap and cam hook Rubber strap and cam hook Rubber strap and metal hook
Ski Compatibility Universal Universal Universal Universal Universal
Precut Option? 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 Order for approximate width, cut to length and lateral shape

Our Analysis and Test Results

There are two distinct plotlines we have to spell out before diving into our analysis of these skins. First, we were wrong about these skins. How's that for reviewer vulnerability? We loved them at first and then fell hard out of love with them. We were right the first time. We have learned that, when performance suffered, it wasn't the product's fault. It was an issue of maintenance. All skins need some maintenance to perform well. These skins require more significant maintenance but perform more significantly well. We learned that, in a sense, alongside the manufacturer. The manufacturer, it seems, knew these skins would need to be cleaned more consistently than others. They tried to tell all of us consumers. But they didn't make it easy to clean them. They've since begun to ship new skins with small packets of cleaning wipes purpose-built to refresh the stick of the "Hybrid" glue. These wipes and a cleaning spray are now way, way more available at retail. We like it. Though it has been a ride.

Next, branding and such. Contour Hybrid skins are available in a variety of settings and under different brands. We've tested Contour branded skins and those sold under the Backcountry Access brand. Contour branding's umbrella covers a wide range of skins, including different glue types and different plush/fabric blends. We tested the sweet spot Contour Hybrid MIx and the unqualified BCA Climbing Skins. As it turns out, they are exactly the same. We can't tell the difference and the companies suggest that they are the same. We review and discuss them accordingly. We have pictures of Contour and BCA skins. We discuss them as Contour Hybrid Mix skins. In the name, "Hybrid" refers to the two-part glue formulation and "Mix" refers to the mohair/nylon blended fabric. With that somewhat irrelevant business out of the way, let's dive in on a closer look.

Performance Comparison


The Contour Hybrid Mix skins carefully balance all the competing...
The Contour Hybrid Mix skins carefully balance all the competing demands we place on skins. They're durable, for the weight. They stick well, but let go. They grab the snow, but glide forward.
Photo: Jediah Porter

Glide


Glide is the most important, and therefore most highly weighted, performance attribute for your climbing skins. For efficiency, skins need to glide forward. However, maximize glide, and you entirely lose grip. There will always be a sweet spot, and for different users and in different circumstances, that sweet spot may move around. Beginning backcountry skiers want more grip and are ok with less glide. Improve your skinning technique, and you need less grip and can realize the benefits of more glide. A small number of folks will want more glide and less grip, and a similarly small number of people will want more grip and less glide. However, the big, center of the bell curve of users will dig the exact balance that the Hybrid Mix skins strike. On the Contour skins, you can slide down gentle hills and swinging your foot forward is largely unencumbered.


Let us reiterate. Every skin attribute is balanced against another. Maximum glide would be the best. But that's just your bare ski base. Adding anything to your ski base will add friction and reduce glide. Further, you will only realize the benefit of enhanced glide with good skinning technique. Biomechanically, skinning works best (for some reason… we don't really understand why, to be honest) when you slide your skins forward instead of lifting them up with each step. The Mohair/Nylon blend of the Contour Hybrid Mix skins won't get in your way too much.

Mid winter powder hunting. This super long, cold, strenuous day we...
Mid winter powder hunting. This super long, cold, strenuous day we resupplied water halfway through and removed and applied the Contour skins a dozen times. The skins kept up great.
Photo: Jediah Porter

Grip


Grip is the antithesis of glide. Similarly, it needs to be balanced. Of course, maximum grip would be great, but we have to acknowledge that maximum grip has minimum glide. There is always a give and take. In short, the Hybrid Mix skins have enough grip for all but the clumsiest skinners in the gnarliest of conditions.


In tens of thousands of vertical feet of highly varied Teton and Canadian ski touring, the traction of the Hybrid Mix was just enough. Full nylon skins grab better, to be sure. However, that amount of traction is unnecessary. These grab well enough to get a beginner through their first season of skinning and to get you up gnarly frozen corn and slicked mid-winter drought existing skin tracks.

The Contour Hybrid Mix, as sold by Contour under their own brand...
The Contour Hybrid Mix, as sold by Contour under their own brand. These same skins show up in different colors and under different brands.
Photo: Jediah Porter

Glue Integrity


Glue integrity is actually a combination of the nature of the glue itself and the stiffness of the skin fabric. Sticky glue helps skins stay on skis. Also, and less obvious, stiffer skins stay better on skis. Super soft skin fabric rolls at the edges, letting snow force its way in and leading to glue failure. As in everything skin-related, there is a balance to strike. Super sticky glue is great until you need to wrestle skins apart from storage, while super stiff fabric is best for glue integrity until you need to pack them in your jacket front.


The glue and fabric employed by the Hybrid Mix skins stays on your skis worse than most. With fastidious use, they do all you need them to do. Fastidious use requires, as we alluded to above, some cleaning periodically. Your cleaning interval will depend on a intensity of use, attention during storage, and the general "dirtiness" of your ski life. Cleaning is, by far, best done with the dedicated Contour cleaning products. Whether in wipe or spray form, we found the Contour products to be way, way more effective than any sort of improvised solution we could dream up (or track down online…). Whatever is actually in Contour's cleaning solution, it isn't readily replicable in another format. Do yourself a favor and remain equipped to clean with the proper stuff. It is worth it. The performance of these skins is worth the marginally greater maintenance required.

The tip attachment of the Backcountry Access Climbing skins. It is...
The tip attachment of the Backcountry Access Climbing skins. It is stamped with "BCA", but everything about it is familiar to the Contour branded option.
Photo: Jediah Porter

Icing Resistance


The primary variable influencing fabric side icing is conditions and stride. Keep to just cold (<0c) or just warm (at 0c) snow and you'll have few to no problems. If you have to alternate between warm and cold snow, slide your skis ahead with each stride and you get a long way. Next, skin fabric treatment matters. A waxed skin will always glop less than an unwaxed one. Nonetheless, normalizing for waxing, conditions, and stride, we still see some differences. The propensity for icing is a function, after wax, of manufacturer pretreatment and percentage of nylon in the fabric. Good pretreatments help, and more nylon helps. It isn't real clear what Contour does to their skins, but our anecdotal experience seems to suggest that icing is reasonable.


The Contour Hybrid Mix skins ice up at about the same rate as other mohair/nylon blended skins. You have a great deal of control over icing, regardless of skin construction or attributes. When that fails, these have got your back.

Contour/BCA tail clip. This is a great design that gave us no...
Contour/BCA tail clip. This is a great design that gave us no troubles whatsoever. Pro tip: generally, you don't need this much coverage to the tail of your skis. Save some weight and friction with shorter skins, relative to ski length.
Photo: Jediah Porter

Portability


Thin fabrics and flexible backing make for a more packable skin. Of course, larger skis require larger skins, which also influences packability. Correcting our assessment for ski size, the Hybrid Mix skins are among the more packable options. That they can be so light and compact while still being stiff enough to resist peeling is much appreciated. See? Every design criterion has a counterpart. You can't tug on one part of the skin design equation without affecting another. However, you can tune things to optimize in a couple of directions. The packability attributes of the Contour skins doesn't seem to dramatically compromise other attributes.


Thinner, innovative climbing skins are definitely lighter and more packable than the Contour Hybrid Mix. All those, though, that are more portable than the Contour are specialized or compromised in some way or another.

Our most recent skin testing session included Backcountry Access&#039;...
Our most recent skin testing session included Backcountry Access' version of the Contour Hybrid Mix skins. We like them, regardless of the branding.
Photo: Jediah Porter

Compatibility


Compatibility is easy to assess. Either the skins can be cut to fit a variety of skis, or they are built for one particular make and model. The Hybrid Mix skins are compatible with all skis.


With the ever-increasing co-branding relationships that Contour is forming, you might very well find that the dedicated skins that are sold with some skis are actually Contour Hybrid Mix. Atomic and Hagan license Contour skins to sell matched and precut to their ski models, for instance. Do some research at the time of purchase to see who actually made your ski brand's skins and realize that we are commenting here on Contour's Hybrid glue and nylon/mohair "Mix" fabric.

Value


Though these are on the pricier side, we find that the performance is worthwhile. The increased maintenance needs and costs, we have found, yield longer function than skins with "traditional" glue. Commit to the care of some Contour skins and you'll get performance that outlasts that of others.

The Contour Hybrid Mix skin is well tuned for long-time, intense...
The Contour Hybrid Mix skin is well tuned for long-time, intense use. Just be aware and prepared to make required maintenance. With that maintenance, performance remains more consistent and more consistently better than other options.
Photo: Jediah Porter

Conclusion


These skins are mostly "just right". They aren't the best at any one thing, and that is by design. They also aren't the worst at any one thing. The Contour Hybrid Mix is well balanced, except when it comes to glue performance. To make these stick reliably, you need to be diligent with various glue preservation techniques in the field.

Jediah Porter

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