The few leathernecks I ran in to in the trade show aisles all recalled Voile’s Snake Skins, plastic, strap-on, climbing skins with no glide. Just looking at the Fischer ProFoil there’s no question these skins glide well.
Nor is there any question the plastic crown pattern works for climbing, but is typically found to only cover the zone under your feet. Thus, there are limits to how steep you can climb. With ProFoil skins, Fischer’s crown pattern extends for the entire length of the base. Thus, it isn’t too much of a stretch to imagine they can climb a lot steeper than waxless, metal edged skis allow.
One Run ViewTo find out what the limit might be I did a short skin up the slopes of Copper Mountain during SIA’s on-snow demo day. An inch of fresh had fallen at dawn, and temps were in the high teens; cold enough that fish scaled skis have a hard time maintain a reliable grip above a 10° track. For comparison, one ski was outfitted with a Pomoca mohair skin, the other, with Fischer’s new ProFoil skin.
As luck would have it, there was a short run roped off by ski patrol that provided 3 inches of untracked snow on old packed and refrozen snow; classic dust on crust that can be difficult to skin steeply. Indeed the limit of how steep I was able to skin and maintain grip was more due to the lack of adhesion from the surface to the firm base. Both the mohair and ProFoil patterned skin held steady and secure to 25°, occasionally 28°. Around 30° they gripped the snow, but the snow couldn’t hold to itself.
I’m sure that some skins can out climb the ProFoils, but 25° is sufficient, even respectable in a macho way. Where Fischer made claims was about the superior glide of Profoil skins compared to traditional skins. In my short comparison tour there was little discernable difference in the glide between the mohair or patterned base. The snow was cold and dry, not the best conditions to maximize glide. I have little doubt that with warmer, wetter snow the Profoils will put even the glide of mohair to shame.
That’s another advantage of the Profoil concept. Being made of plastic, they won’t absorb moisture which causes traditional climbing skins to stretch, ice-up, and gain weight. They attached to the base of your ski with a tradition adhesive, but because of their rigid nature, they are stored by folding in a Z-pattern, and then slide inside a plastic storage box. Or, instead of storing glue-to-glue, you can fold them up with glue-to-pattern without worrying about fibers sticking to the glue.It will take a bit of time to sort out what the real limits of Fischer’s Profoil climbing skins are. For the moment, their advantages appear to outweigh any disadvantages. They will be available pretrimmed with a Z-style tip clip for use with Fischer’s backcountry ski line, or with a universal tip loop and a width of 110mm to be trimmed to your skis profile.