Updated Version — January 2017
According to G3, the only change to the Alpinist skins for this year in the tip hands. We saw a small price increase to $159 from the $152 we originally reported. You can see the differences here, with the new Alpinist skins on the left and the ones we originally reviewed on the right. Then, keep scrolling for a full summary of the update.
- Tip Hands — This year, G3 re-engineered the stainless steel hands that connect the skins to the ski. They reduced the profile of the hands, aiming for both a better fit and reduced tip-catch. We thought the clips were excellent before, so we're looking forward to testing these out to see how they compare.
Because we haven't tested the new skins ourselves just yet, the rest of this review reflects the original Alpinist skins.
Hands-On Review of the 2015 Alpinist
The G3 Alpinist skins are a good all-around, general purpose backcountry ski climbing skin with universal compatibility.
Black diamond and G3 skins in use. Red Mountain Pass, Colorado. February 2015.
The glide of a climbing skin does not just affect one's progress on those short little downhills we do while ascending. Every step, in good ski touring form, glides the ski ahead and up. Skis should be slid not lifted. Because of this, the gliding characteristics of skins matter to everyone in every situation. Easier gliding skins are easier to tour on, on the steep and the mellow. We found the Alpinist skins to glide as well as or better than other full nylon skis we tested. Generally, natural mohair skins glide better than nylon with blended versions somewhere in between. Our testing found this exactly true. Differentials vary depending on snow type, but overall, nylon is the slowest glider. We found the Alpinist to glide almost exactly the same as the Best Buy Black Diamond Ascension Nylon and considerably better than the G3 High Traction. All the mohair and mohair blend skins glided better.
Stripping the G3 Alpinist skins at sunrise in Mammoth Lakes, California.
At first glance, since skins are primarily used to help skis grab snow, it would seem that grip would be the most important attribute. The thing is, all skins you might attach to the bottom of your skis are likely to grip well enough. Our anatomy does best if we skin less steeply anyway. That being said, the Alpinist skins grip well enough for basically all ski touring. They are straight up average in the grip category. If you really, absolutely need way more grip, the Top Pick winning G3 High Traction is truly more powerful.
Close up view of the fabric side of the G3 Alpinist skins.
We had no problems with the glue and construction of the G3 Alpinist. The fabric is stiff enough to resist rolling and peeling, while the glue works well enough in cold and wet conditions. If your glue should become very worn or ruined, you can peel off a section of fabric known colloquially as the "wimp strip" and reveal fresh glue in the center, front portion of the skin. This strip of fabric is used to cover some of the glue to both preserve it and to make pulling the skin glue from glue easier in deploying them after storage.
Close up view of the tip attachment on G3 skins. This arrangement is elegant, effective, and fully compatible with skis of all shapes and sizes. The clips and rubber together make a tight seal that blocks snow from getting between ski and skin.
It was in this category that we had notable performance from the Alpinist skins. All skins ice up. All skins need maintenance when snow conditions are alternately warm and cold. However, we had particularly bad icing conditions with the G3 Alpinist. On one long day deep in the wilderness of Wyoming's Wind River Range our lead tester had to remove his skis and walk at one point because of excessive snow accumulation. Other skins in the party and review had no such problems under the same conditions and treatment.
All skins ice up. Here, the G3 Alpinist falls victim to fresh snow in warm conditions in Leadville Colorado.
Packability and Weight
Like all the nylon skins we tested, the Alpinist is bulkier and heavier than average. Full mohair and blends are lighter and less bulky. Nylon skins, however, are more durable. These Alpinist skins will long outlast the skis you first pair them with.
Ease of Use
With the wimp strip embedded in the glue, G3's excellent tip and tail clips, and their revolutionary trimming tool, the Alpinist and High Traction skins both are by far the easiest universally compatible skins we tested.
In our test, only G3 and Black Diamond make skins that are fully compatible with all skis on the market. The other skins we tested are built for specific make and models of skis. In comparing the compatibility of the G3 and Black Diamond, the G3 models come out slightly ahead only because of their tip clips. The metal clips are far more accommodating of ski shape than the cable loop BD provides. On super wide, rounded tips, the BD cable loop can barely hang on. G3's clips are secure, regardless of tip shape and size.
G3 Alpinist and Ascension Nylon, side by side. These two products, both being full nylon and fully universal, are close competitors. The Black Diamond is less expensive, ices up less, and grips at least a little better, but the G3 has a more elegant tip and tail attachment and is a little lighter.
We recommend these skins for all-around backcountry and ski mountaineering objectives. Other skins pull ahead in certain circumstances, but the G3 can hold their own too.
The Alpinist skins are durable and moderately priced. The BD Ascension Nylon is slightly less expensive and will last just as long.
While the Black Diamond Glidelite Mix STS skins took our Editors' Choice Award, the Alpinist is not a bad choice for many consumers. They are a little less expensive, and will last at least a little longer. The Glidelite skins truly slide forward better, which our testing team finds to be quite important. Not everyone agrees. For those consumers, the Alpinist is a good choice.