Mar 28 2013

Review: Ascension Climbing Skins (v.12-13)

It has been a year since my first tour with the current version of Ascension climbing skins. The last pair of nylon skins from BD sported the tire tread pattern, Glidelite brand name, and lasted 5+ years before the glue went bad (serendipitously just one week after a rave review ;) ) You can tell this is a new version by the inclusion of the BD logo sprinkled about the pattern on the plush. The previous version was monochromatic burnt-orange, the current model is a visual upgrade.

Jason Layh returns to the tracks for another lap, powered by Ascension and sweat.

That’s the most obvious change until you get set to trim them to your skis. At that moment you can definitely tell that the glue is different.

New Glue
At 100mm width, or wider, it is difficult to pull most skins apart when stuck glue-to-glue these days. So difficult that most of us relent and use the standard skin saver grid. With the new glue from BD you can keep it simple and leave that excess baggage behind.

Ascension Climbing Skins – the new hide indicates new guts underneath.

For the first five tours you might be tempted to continue using it, but I didn’t, nor did I regret that decision. The skins are realistically easy to pull apart (for fat skins), and soon resemble the tackiness of a Gecko. After 30 days use, including a summer storage period (in cool temps), the glue feels undeniably weaker, but is still effective. When stored glue-to-glue they come apart disturbingly easy for a fat ski; enough to make you question if they are tacky enough to use in the field.

However, all you need to do to insure good adhesion to the ski is press them firmly on to the ski, tip-to-tail, in a sweeping motion and they will hold. Which confirms BD’s claim that the new glue is pressure sensitive. It is not a silicon based glue like Gecko’s, but works on a similar principle nonetheless.

Easy to use, easy to install/repair. $20 as a kit, or include it when you order as the STS version.

STS Tip & Tail
It helps to have the STS tip and tail kit which are still the best on the market. The tip loop is adjustable, but only once so make sure it is good and fat on the very first go round. Even if you have another brand of skin, the chances of needing a new tail will inevitably lead you to buy the STS tail someday. It’s simplicity, reliability, tension adaptability, and after-market install-ability are unbeatable. Period!

Grip & Glide
Grip is superb as expected, glide is competitive, meaning it is as good as a mohair/nylon mix, and many pure mohair skins as well. The only way to make glide better would be to use ‘em on skinner skis.

The propensity for icing up is slightly better than average, meaning less likely to happen. On a recent tour the Ascension skin did ice up, but the Magic Carpet half of the pair iced up sooner. Even the Adrenalin bindings I was using required a bit of de-icing at the top. Of course, waxing would have helped, but the stub of wax I use disappeared on that tour.

BD’s tip loop will work on just about any ski tip, but you only get one shot to get the size right.
Go fat from the start.

About the only negative thing I can think of is the skin trimmer that comes with the skins. It works like it always has and there’s nothing wrong with it, per se. However, if you’ve never trimmed skins before you would do better with a Pomoca or G3 skin trimmer that deliver a more precise cut without having to re-position the skin to have proper exposure at the edges. You don’t need the better trimmers, but you do need to remember to set the skin too far to one side first, then re-position and make the trimmed edge a few millimeters shy on the other side to get a good symmetric trim job. Not necessarily a realistic expectation with your first pair of skins. ;)

If you’re in the market for climbing skins, you can’t go wrong with these. Grip and glide are great, the glue is much easier to manage, and over time it sticks well enough. Can you do better? Are you feeling lucky with a brand you don’t know about? Well, are ya?

Black Diamond
Ascension STS Climbing Skins
MSRP: $140-170
Width’s available: 65mm, 80mm, 95mm, 110mm, 125mm, 140mm

© 2013

  • PQ

    I still haven’t played with it myself, but I keep thinking that skin manufacturers should make all skins wider than ?90mm? with a slippery glide strip down the plush side. I know that some do a non-glue strip down the middle of the glue side, but I mean the plush side. Some manufacturers do that for the super-wide skins for split boards… but even for narrower ski widths, it would improve glide and save weight. Rando racers often shave patterns into their skins for that reason.

    The key is to have 2-3cm of skin down each edge, and probably to have full skin underfoot. I would guess you could have a tapered glide strip that becomes full skin width underfoot, then flares out again as a glide strip to the tail. And as the rando-racers also demonstrate, you don’t need the skin to go all the way to the tail. And those of us who have skied for many years know that even 60mm skins provide plenty of grip!

    I’m sure that a patterned skin would be more costly to manufacture though… Time to get my razor out to try it with some old skins I guess.