After four years of comparing various climbing skins side by side it was time to settle on my fave pair. The choice was easy. Black Diamond’s Glidelite nylon climbing skins had excellent grip, decent glide, weren’t immune to icing but were less prone to it than G3’s Expedition skins, Colltex’ nylon skins, and especially Low-Fat skins from the 2005 era.Out of the box the glue was too sticky to be easily managed. They took a lot of effort to pull apart when stuck glue-to-glue, even despite their moderate width of a straight 80mm. I prefer straight skins because they are easier to line up edge to edge when storing, and since they are symmetric along their length, there is no exposed glue to be easily contaminated. Thus, barring a drop in the dirt or being baked on the dashboard they tend to last longer.
Within seven tours the glue was well balanced, with strong adhesion to the base of my skis, but not so tacky that I couldn’t rip the hide in a single yank. It still required using your skis or thighs to pull them apart, but it was doable, thanks in part to a strip of tape down the center to cover some of the glue. After more than 50 tours the glue has definitely faded. They come apart easily after storing glue-to-glue. If they didn’t come with the STS tail they would easily come off. However, combined with a Colltex Deepwire tip loop, they still hold well on cold powder days and the snow creeps in at the edges only rarely.
The only time I ever have a problem with grip is when following a steep, icy skin track. They still hold well up to 25° when the snow provides good texture for purchase, but I need to use every ounce of technique to hold that angle for a polished Neanderthal switchback. You wouldn’t want to maintain that effort for any sustained period of time with these, but there’s little problem with holding a relentless 20° line up untracked snow. With my usual 15°-17° meandering skin track I never give my skins a thought. In my experience, they just work, and work well.
Are the current incarnations of BD’s Glidelite line as good? As long as you get a pair with good glue I’d say yes. Nobody has a flawless record there but BD’s glue has been arguably among the best for the past decade. Others are stickier, but for use in the Sierra, or Wasatch that is not necessarily a good thing – especially with obese planks. BD’s glue seems to have a good balance between tackiness and it’s ability to be easily removed and it has a good range of temperatures it operates over. Just don’t dry ‘em warm, and store them in a cool, dry, dark place for the summer.
Starting this Ten-11 season BD’s Glidelite line goes natural by offering skins with a mohair and mohair-mixed plush. The glue remains the same, as does the STS tail and the adjustable tip loop is now standard. Though I haven’t tested them, mohair tends to yield better glide than nylon but can be more prone to icing and are historically less durable. After another five years I hope to report back. In the meantime, if you have experience with Glidelite climbing skins please share your experience in the comments below.