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Feb 27 2014

Review: La Sportiva Climbing Skins

 

A nice, low profile skin tip system. Look familiar? Can you say me too K2?

Along with their expansion into the ski hardware business, La Sportiva rounds out their product offering with climbing skins using a 70/30 blend of mohair and nylon for Winter 2014. In theory you could get these same skins from Pomoca, their secret source, but with the La Sportiva version you also get the K2 tip and tail kit. Combined with one of my fave recipes for managable, reliable skin glue these are worth searching a little harder for, especially if you have tip and tail holes in your skis ala the K2 brand, or Dynastar’s High Mountain Cham series. These skins come pre trimmed to La Sportiva’s ski line, which oddly enough is a good match for a number of skis in the K2 line.

Which begs the question. Why not buy the K2 skins with the same tip and tail kit and a stickier glue? Two reasons. One, you want better glide from the mohair component in the La Sportiva plush. Two, you don’t need a sticker glue, you want one that’s just sticky enough and won’t get slimy when stored warm.

The obvious question arises, did La Sportiva decide to go with the same tip and tail kit on their skis and skins for design merits, or because of convenient sourcing? Probably both. Holes in the tips and tails of the skis DO make them more utilitarian in the backcountry and the skin tip and tail kit are pretty ingenious. If you don’t have holes in the tips and tails, they’re not that hard to add to your skis.

Tip & Tail Kit

Close up of the tip and tail from the side.

The tip of these climbing skins is a small tab of bent steel the fits through a hole at the tip of the ski. It creates a low profile, leading edge that yields very little drag at the tip when breaking trail. The tail hook works best when you have a hole at the tail of the ski, allowing you to pull the rubbery tail back for extra tension, with a solid lock from a metal hook that creates double-back tension. It’s a solid system that allows you to create lengthwise tension for when the glue looses its grip.

The tip hook took a bit of adjustment when ripping the hide with my skis still on. With a tip loop over the shovel the skin flys off the end. With the K2 tip hook you need to rip to the end, then let the skin go slack and let gravity cause the tip hook to drop out. I really like how the tail hook doubles back on itself and the tail clip locks it in place.

Glue

Out of the box the glue provides plenty of adhesion, a bit stickier than the current generation Black Diamond skins, but thankfully less than BCA’s Magic Carpets. When ripping the hide at the top of the climb, they pulled off with a slow steady pull, but not as easy as year old Ascensions.

Grip & Glide

I’ve taken the skins on half a dozen tours so far. Grip wise the La Sportiva’s 70/30 blend of mohair and nylon are as good as any other skin on the market. Solid hold up to 25° on a packed or smooth surface, but not if it’s polished. Experience and technique matter more at those angles anyway. Glide wise they didn’t set any records, nor were they at the back of the pack. Downhill friction was on par with other blended skins – a skoosh slower than mohair.

Icing Up

The tendency for these skins to ice up was about average for a blended plush — better than mohair, about the same as nylon. In the right conditions they can and will ice up. Waxing them prior to a tour is recommended, even if it is only rubbing some wax on at the trailhead.

Conclusion

Simply by virtue of the tip and tail kit, if you have skis with holes at the tips alone these skins are worth considering. If you have holes in the tips and tails, or you’re willing to put them there, these seem like a decent pair of skins to have. Too soon to tell how long the glue lasts before changing, but with proper care these ought to last at least five years.

La Sportiva
HiGlide Climbing Skins
MSRP: $190 – $230
These skins come in predefined lengths and trimmed to fit La Sportiva brand skis. The similarity to other skis on the market should make them usable for other brands and models that have similar dimensions and shapes.

© 2014