Nordic skin skis have really taken off in the last few years. Convenient and simple to use, they have become a go-to ski for many people and may even be the only pair of cross country skis you own. If you're new to the concept of skin skis, check out this post.
The advantages of skin skis are what make them so popular. Used by all levels of skiers from beginners to World Cup racers, they give you the convenience of a waxless ski but performance closer to a waxable ski. In most conditions the grip is solid and the glide is excellent as long as the ski has been fitted properly.
This post is meant to help you get the best performance out of your skin skis and troubleshoot any potential issues.
The beautiful thing about skin skis is you hardly need to do anything to maintain them. Like all ptex-based skis you will need to hot wax the glide zones every 100km or so. The skin itself doesn't need anything to be functional, however there are a couple of products you can use (described below) to enhance their performance.
This is mostly an issue in warm conditions when there may be residual soft wax and klister in the track. You'll notice if your skins pick this up because you'll be getting inconsistent grip and you may be able to see some goop in the skin. The only way to remove this is to clean the skin; however it is important to only use products created specifically for skins as other solvents may erode the adhesives holding the skin to the ski. We find Swix Skin Cleaner works well, but any reputable ski wax brand will have a decent skin cleaner.
If you are having trouble with grip and you know your skis are sized properly for you, your skins are probably icing up. This also happens with waxable skis and mostly occurs when you have fresh snow around the freezing point. Snow crystals stick in your wax or skin and don't let go. This causes more crystals to adhere. The result is either clumping or a thin film of ice (that you may or may not see) caused by melting and freezing due to friction.
If you are skiing in these types of conditions it's really important to apply an anti-icing agent to your skins before you go out. We sell Swix Skin Care and Vauhti Skin Ski Care for this purpose; Swix F4 also works. Simply spray the skins and rub in gently to coat the hairs; you can also get a thinner layer by applying the liquid or paste to a lint-free cloth and rubbing it on your skins in a gentle side-to-side motion (not up and down). Let the product dry for a short while before you ski on it.
If you notice you have lost glide as well, your glide sections may also be icing. Applying Skin Care and liquid glide products to the ski tips and tails will help prevent this.
Wear and tear
After hundreds of kilometers of prudent use you may start to see some wear on your skins. This is normal and usually starts at the ends of the skins. You will still have lots of life left in them so don't worry about it. Staying off ice and debris will extend the life of your skins greatly. In the photo below Kevin shows how his skins look after more than 400km.
You will know when it is time to change your skins when you are no longer able to get grip, and you'll see a lot of the hair missing.
Skin skis are sensitive to snow conditions and if you have movable bindings you can fine-tune your grip and glide. For a little more grip, move your bindings forward. For more glide, move them back.
If you don't have adjustable bindings you can play with your kick by weighting the ski slightly forward or back (advanced skiers). Your bindings will have been mounted on the balance point and should be in optimal position; your only other option would be to re-mount the bindings forward or back of this point, but we don't normally recommend this.
As long as you have gotten skis appropriate for your skill level your technique shouldn't keep you from being able to enjoy skin skis. Racing skins may have shorter hairs and the ski will have a camber suited to a skier with more complete and aggressive weight transfer. Recreational skin skis are designed with a more forgiving camber that will enable someone less elite to compress it for grip, yet maximize glide potential.
Good technique always helps of course, but unless you are a beginner on racing skis it shouldn't be too limiting a factor in making the skis work for you.
If you have any issues or questions that haven't been answered here, please contact us! Most of us have owned skin skis for years and we are happy to help out.