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How to Choose Splitboard Skins for Backcountry Snowboarding

By David Reichel ⋅ Review Editor
Wednesday March 27, 2019

To test the skins in this review, we broke trail in deep powder; we muscled up overly steep skin tracks that some masochistic dawn patroller put in before starting their workday, we tested grip on frozen melt/freeze snow, and monitored how well the skins skied short downhill sections. How the skins fared in these tests resulted in their scores for grip and glide. Along with weight, these are the most important characteristics of a skin. We evaluated how easily the tip and tail connectors attached to different splitboard shapes. We made sure it was relatively easy to manipulate the skins with gloves on during cold spells.

Skins are easy to overlook. They can't be seen when you are using them since they live on the bottom of your splitboard in tour mode. The task they enable us to achieve, essentially walking uphill, is relatively slow and at least for beginners often a bit of drudgery. One of the last steps before embarking on exciting part of splitboard, shredding down the mountain, is to fold up the skins and stuff them unceremoniously into the backpack.

Yet, it would perhaps be most honest to call this activity skinning instead of splitboarding since we spend the vast majority of our time on our skins sliding one foot in front of the other up the mountain. Skins (and good skinning technique) have a tremendous influence on our experience splitboarding. It is certainly warranted to spend the time to carefully consider your skin choices and make a thoughtful purchase.

In general, folks new to skinning would likely benefit from a skin that provides more grip. These skins will help reduce the momentary terror that comes when you slip backwards on a switchback. You will still occasionally slip, but that is how you learn and improve your technique. Many folks starting out splitboarding will not be tackling huge vertical days and thus won't be overly penalized by the reduced glide and increased weight found with grippy skins.

These grippy skins come at the cost of glide and weight. More experienced skinners will properly decide to compromise a little grip to realize gains in glide and a lower weight. Once your technique and confidence improve, you no longer need the "training wheels" that grippy skins provide. Moving on to a skin with better glide will reap benefits on big days.

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