The New LS Tour Skins vs. the HiGlide Skins
Sportiva makes one version of climbing skin, the LS Tour, that is compatible with three different touring skis. The HiGlide skins were named after their ski companion, but since that ski is no longer in the Sportiva lineup, the name was changed to suit their current ski offerings. Along with a color change, the nose clip seems to have been updated. These skins are currently available for the Vapor Nano, Vapor Svelte, and Vapor Float skis. Depending on the skis you want to match, the new skins range in price from $210 to $230, keeping them within a few dollars of the HiGlide skins that we reviewed.
Check out a side-by-side comparison here, with the new LS Tour Skins on the left and the HiGlide Skins that was reviewed on the right.
Here's a summary of the update:
- Nose Clip — While the last round of hard-charging touring skins from Sportiva had a hole specifically for skin attachment, this is no longer the case, so the LS Tour Skins adapted a more standard nose clip, which you can see above.
Because we haven't yet tested the LS Tour Skins, the rest of this review continues to reflect the original HiGlide Skins.
Hands-On Review of the HiGlide Skins
If we drop compatibility from our scoring matrix, the La Sportiva HiGlide is the best skin we tested. It strikes the perfect balance of glide, grip, glue integrity and ease of use to offer the absolute best functionality in our review. The only catch, and it is a big one, is that these skins work best on corresponding La Sportiva skis. While they can be pressed into service on other skis with tip and tail holes, our experience in stretching their applications is greatly limited.
HiGlide skins in action on Red Mountain Number 3, San Juan Mountains, Colorado. Also shown, Editors Choice ski jacket Arc Teryx Macai.
The best gliding model is the HiGlide. Generally, this aligns with expectations. One expects that a greater percentage of natural mohair fibers is correlated with better glide. Mohair skins wear out faster, so manufacturers temper that by blending in nylon. In the case of the La Sportiva HiGlide, the blend is 70% mohair and 30% nylon. Before we proceed, it is worth pointing out that La Sportiva does not manufacture these skins. Instead of doing all of their own design and tooling, they brand skins from a company called Pomoca. Pomoca makes a dizzying array of universally compatible skins (none of which we tested) as well as specing skins for manufacturers like La Sportiva, Dynafit, and K2. We tested Pomoca skins branded by both La Sportiva and Dynafit (the Dynafit Speedskin). Dynafit does not detail the blend percentages nor do any of the companies involved (Dynafit, Pomoca, La Sportiva) provide any info that can help us compare the two before field time.
In our field time, we found the glue and grip of the Dynafit and La Sportiva skins to be quite comparable. It was in glide that we found the greatest difference. In our formalized glide testing, on consistent conditions and terrain, we were able to get repeatable and statistically significant differences between the Speedskin and the HiGlide. The HiGlide glides 14% faster than the Speedskin. This means that, with each sliding step forward and up the mountain, the skier uses up to 14% less energy with the HiGlide. Over a long day this can be quite significant.
Setting up the Vapor Nano for a day of ski testing and avalanche course instruction near Silverton, Colorado. Also shown, Top Pick La Sportiva HiGlide skins, Editors Choice Arc Teryx Macai jacket and Editors Choice Bogs Ultra Classic Mid boots.
The HiGlide skins grip well enough. For normal ski touring, all skins on the market grip well enough. Certainly, the Top Pick winning G3 High Traction grabs the snow better, but it also weighs more and glides much much more slowly. In extensive testing, including super steep ski mountaineering on a trip to the summit of the Grand Teton, the HiGlide skins gripped more than adequately.
In general, our experienced testing team preferred to compromise some in terms of grip in order to maximize touring efficiency. Other skins grip better than the HiGlide, but they also glide much more poorly. We like the balance struck by the La Sportiva product.
La Sportiva HiGlide skins in situ.
Both the Pomoca products we tested had the weakest feeling glue in our review. We could not distinguish between them, in fact. While this is a little unnerving at first, especially as compared to the considerably stickier Best Buy Black Diamond Ascension Nylon, we had no actual problems with the skins coming unglued from our tested La Sportiva Vapor Nano skis. This ultimate functionality, despite the less tacky glue, is a function of the tip attachment and stiffness of the backing fabric. The gently tapered tip, finished with a super secure and clean pin-in-hole attachment, leaves basically no gap for snow to begin to penetrate between ski and skin. It is at the tip interface that failure usually begins. Good tip attachment blocks virtually all initial failure. Additionally, stiff backing fabric is more resistant to initial peeling and rolling. The La Sportiva skins are stiff enough to stay put against the peeling forces that come with each step. As compared to the supple, almost floppy, Editors' Choice winning Black Diamond Glidelite Mix STS, the stiffness of the La Sportiva is greater. The BD skins make up for a little more peeling vulnerability with stickier glue, so both end up mostly resisting glue failure pretty well.
All skins ice up. La Sportiva makes some of the loftiest claims in resisting icing, but we found little to no difference between them and others we tried. In the right conditions, even bare ski bases ice up. It follows that all textured skin material will be at least as vulnerable to glopping. This is annoying, but is a backcountry reality and can be mitigated and treated on the go.
Keep your skis shuffling along the snow when going between cold and shady powder and sunnier and/or warmer moist snow. When anticipating these conditions, wax your skins before even leaving the trailhead. When fully iced up, thoroughly and vigorously scrape the snow and ice off of the skins. Once dry, rub some sort of hard wax on and into the fabric. Sometimes skins require multiple wax treatments per day.
Close up view of the fabric on the HiGlide skins. The darker color is saturated fabric. All skins wet out this way.
Packability and Weight
The thin fabric, partial mohair construction, and low profile tip and tail attachment make the La Sportiva skins some of the more compact in the review, despite the fact that we tested and fit them on average to above-average width skis.
The Black Diamond Ascension Nylon skins are 40% heavier, despite being cut to narrower skis. Those 200 grams, on the feet of the skier, can make a big difference at the end of the day.
Folding the HiGlide skins for stowage after removing them from the La Sportiva Vapor Nano skis.
Ease of Use
The light glue tackiness and super clean tip and tail attachment make the La Sportiva skins among the easiest to use. We give a slight nod to the otherwise close competitor, the Dynafit Speedskin because the Dynafits are set to apply and remove with the flexible attachment point at the tip, rather than the tail. Dynafit is the only manufacturer in our review that does it this way, and we appreciate this style. Mainly in removing skins, it is easier to begin the process at the tip than at the tail. All the non Dynafit skins we used, La Sportiva included, require initial disengagement at the tail.
The Dynafit and La Sportiva skins we tested all are sold with specific models of like-branded skis in mind. The Dynafit, by virtue of their tip and tail kit design, are only compatible with the like skis. La Sportiva HiGlide skins use slightly more flexible, though certainly not universal, tip and tail connections. K2 skis use the same arrangement. If you have K2 skis with similar dimensions, you can use the HiGlide skins.
Further, the tip and tail attachments on the Higlide skins require just regular round holes in tip and tail of the ski. If you are ok modifying your skis, and again, have skis with the right dimensions, you can use HiGlide skins. Most people using other than La Sportiva skis will choose something universally compatible like the G3 Alpinist rather than engage the hassle of matching dimensions and perhaps modifying their skis.
Close up view of the tip attachment of the La Sportiva HiGlide skins. On dedicated, compatible skis, the attachment is super slick. If you wish to use these skins, it is conceivable that you can modify your skis with appropriate holes.
Just realize, though, that it is possible to make the La Sportiva skins work on other skis if you so desire.
The tail attachment of the La Sportiva HiGlide skins. Hidden beneath the metal buckle is a simple hole in the ski. A hook on the buckle attaches to this hole from the top side.
These are very high performing skins for ski mountaineering and touring on La Sportiva skis. If you purchase La Sportiva skis, we recommend you also choose their proprietary skin design.
If you have La Sportiva skis, these are worth the investment and there is no hassle associated with using them. If you use other skis, you can make them work but will probably be better served by a universally compatible product.
If it were not for the compatibility issues, these would be our Editors' Choice winner. The balance of glide and grip is optimal, as is the compromise made between glue integrity and ease of use.