We eagerly watch each new backcountry climbing skin advancement. The regular design "formula" is far from perfect; innovators keep trying new angles, but nothing has yet to fully disrupt the market. Each advancement or change offers some real advantage, but enough disadvantages so as to be not worth it. The Fischer Profoil pushes these same buttons. They aren't quite enough better in enough ways to displace regular fabric skins in all ways, but the glide characteristics might make them applicable for you in specific circumstances.
Fischer PROFOIL Hannibal Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Fast gliding, excellent resistance to icing and wetting
Cons: Glue integrity, poor grip
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Our Analysis and Test Results
It is as if Fischer took one of their wax-less nordic ski bases, peeled it off, and glued it for application to your backcountry skis. These are nothing like "normal" climbing skins. The traction comes from the directional "fish scale" pattern molded into the plastic sheet that makes up the bulk of this product. This is a unique, innovative approach that wins some and loses some.
Innovation is costly and risky. Overall, these skins aren't likely to entirely displace traditional skin construction, but there are enough benefits and enough of a niche to fill that their place in the market has "traction".
The Profoil skins glide better than all the rest. The hard plastic base glides almost like a ski base. The fish scales slow you down and inhibit side slipping, so you can't fully ski on them like normal, but the increase in glide is real. The glide differential, as compared to regular fabric skins, is greatest on spring melt-freeze snow, whether that snow is hard or slushy. On powder and cold snow, the glide differential is less. In either case, though, the Profoil glides better than any regular fabric.
In powder snow, the difference in glide between these and something fully mohair, like the Top Pick Pomoca Climb Pro Mohair is minimal. The Pomocas are almost as fast. On icy snow, though, the Profoil is markedly faster than anything else available. By comparison to the Profoil, something like the Black Diamond Ascension feels like lead boots in all snow conditions. The glide advantage of the Profoil is real and valuable.
Just like with all skins and all attributes, there are trade-offs to be made. In our experience and head to head testing, the Fischer is the poorest gripper. The plastic scales just don't grab like fabrics do. This differential in grip, between the Profoil and regular fabric skins, in perfect contrast to glide characteristics, is greatest on icy snow and less on powder snow. On icy skin tracks, the Profoil is frustrating and could be dangerous. On well-angled powder skin tracks with good technique, you might not notice any grip drawbacks. Beginning skinners and those that are generally a little less patient with their climbing should avoid the Profoil. Skinning technicians will simultaneously dig the greater glide and be able to adjust to less grip.
Every other skin grips better than the Profoil. In hours and hours of head to head testing, we found that the Black Diamond Ultralite Mix and Pomoca Climb Pro Mohair are down there with the Profoil, but still grip a little better when you consider all conditions. The Editors' Choice Contour Hybrid Mix grips quite a bit better. You will find reports online of the Profoil gripping better than other skins; we tried and tried to simulate these results, but could never get the Profoil skins to grip better than any fabrics in any conditions. Our test period allowed for the input of a handful of skiers over three months worth of Teton winter and spring skiing. We feel we encountered a broad and deep spectrum of circumstances and can make an authoritative assessment of the characteristics of these skins.
The glue is super sticky. However, that is only part of the equation. In total, the Profoil stays on your skis as well as you'd need it to, provided you are careful in your use. The main issue with glue security is the stiffness of the plastic sheeting and the creases that form in storage. Because of the stiffness and the folds in the material, it is challenging to get the entire length of the glue stuck securely onto your ski. There will be small gaps. At first, this isn't a big issue. What happens with time, though, is that snow and water sneak into those gaps and begin to lever the skin off the ski. Wet, icy glue doesn't stick any longer. This degradation in contact is a one-way street. As skins peel off in use, they won't stick back on without intervention. This is the case for all skins.
The glue itself is super sticky. It is so sticky that Fischer recommends you do not store them "base to base". Instead, it is advised that you roll them up such that the glue sticks to the fish scale side of the "skin". However, the creased and stiff construction means that glue slowly creeps off. This is the same with super soft backed "regular" skins. The really flexible backing of the Black Diamond Glidelite Ultralight rolls away under pressure and allows snow and water to interrupt the glue surface. We'd say that the overall glue integrity is essentially the same for these two products.
In our experience, this is also where the Fischer skins really shine. The hard plastic base is less prone to icing and soaking than the fabric skins. Drying them out is almost as easy as shaking the ice and water off. Of course, in the gnarliest of sticky snow conditions, the surface of almost anything will ice up. The Profoil isn't immune to this, but it does much better than the competition.
Only the all nylon Black Diamond Ascension skins come close to the anti-icing performance of the Profoil. The remainder of the products we test have more significant icing issues. It is for glide and anti-icing characteristics that the ProFoil skins earn our Top Pick.
These are bulky skins. The weight is right in line with others, once you correct for ski size, but the packed bulk is significant.
Portability is difficult to compare directly, as all our tested skis are different sizes. Nonetheless, we have enough experience and enough things to compare so as to generate useful deductions. The weight of the Fischer is right in among the lighter skins like the Black Diamond Ultralite Mix and the Pomooca Climb Pro Mohair. The bulk, though, is on the other end of the spectrum. These skins take up space in your jacket, pocket, or pack more comparable to the Black Diamond Ascension.
Compatibility is pretty easy to assess. In most cases, skins are either universal in fit, after some trimming, or they are cut and designed to work with specific skis. There are versions of the Profoil that are universal, but we tested those specifically cut and equipped to work with Fischer Skis. We have seen user-cut Profoil skins on other non-Fischer skis and observed them to be a little rough and clumsy. The plastic material simply doesn't cut as nicely as the fabric of other products.
Dynafit Speedskins are built to work with just Dynafit skis, and Profoil skins definitely perform better with Fischer skis. Otherwise, all the skins we tested are universal in compatibility.
We don't recommend these as your only skins. Given the glue, packability, and grip issues, they aren't really your "quiver of one" skins. We can recommend them, though, for long, low-angle situations. In these contexts, the glide of the Profoil is much appreciated. We can envision situations (crossing Jackson Lake to a Mount Moran base camp, for instance) where one could justify using the Profoil on the lake and then have regular skins for the steeper tracks.
As a niche, "quiver" product, value is not a super important consideration. These are a luxury item. For he or she that wants them and can employ the specialized advantages, the cost isn't a huge issue.
Skin innovations keep coming, and each one certainly has appeal, but none have yet to fully displace the traditional formula. The Fischer Profoil is truly unique and has valuable advantages, but the design isn't fully "ready" to take over.
— Jediah Porter