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Break (Or Forget) Your Climbing Skins? Here’s What To Do

Author: Jessica Baker

March 26, 2013

At one point or another, we’ve all forgotten something. Once, I had scrupulously double and triple checked my gear for a weeklong backcountry ski trip. We were headed to Alaska for a Powder Magazine story. But apparently I miscounted somewhere along the line, because after a three-hour drive and seven-hour boat ride in Prince William Sound, when we pulled our skins out for the first day of skiing, I discovered I only had one skin for one ski! Panic quickly set in. We were at least twelve hours away from any outdoor retailer where I could buy more skins. And delivery most certainly wasn’t an option.  What was I to do?  Experiences like that have helped me develop creative solutions—like the ones that follow here—to keep moving in the intended direction.

Problem: Forgot your skins

Solutions:

Problem: The glue on your skins is failing, or the clips are falling off the tip or tail

Solution: Once again, the mighty polyurethane strap comes in handy. Usually two per ski will do the trick, one strap about three quarters of the way toward the tip and one strap three quarters of the way to the tail. If you put the straps too close to the top or tail, it could slip off or create a bubble in the middle.  This should secure the failing skin and ascending your go!

Problem:  You only have one of your skins (Doh!)

Solution:  This is my favorite solution, but it depends on how long you’re in the backcountry.  If it’s just a day, then I say go for the pine bough or strap interval solutions on one ski and use the single skin on the other ski. If you are in it for a multi-day trip, your best solution is to cut your skin in half crosswise and use your polyurethane straps to   hold one half in place on each skin, directly in the center of the ski, where the bulk of your weight is focused. Of course, you’re going to need a pocketknife for this, which should also be in your fix-it kit. Think of your new setup as impromptu kicker skins, and  place additional straps at the tip and tail to gain more friction in the areas not covered by your skins, especially for steeper ascents. Ideally, you’d have four straps per ski, but three can work as well, placing two to hold the skin in place and the third toward the tip. 

A note on straps:  You can find the polyurethane ski straps at several outdoor retailers. Usually the 12- to 20-inch lengths are best. Some people prefer to bring heavy-duty zip ties in their fix-it kit, but those aren’t reusable. For the minimal extra weight, the polyurethane ski straps are your most versatile and reliable choice, and they last for years.

Jessica Baker

Jessica Baker is a professional skier, mountain guide, instructor, and founder of Ski Divas Women’s Ski Camps skidivas.com. She grew up in Sandpoint, Idaho in the Selkirk mountains. From a young age she built a successful ski-racing career and in 1999 moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming where she pursued her love for backcountry adventures, freeskiing, big mountains, climbing, and ski mountaineering. In her career she has won over five big mountain freeskiing competitions; landing such titles as 2000 North American Freeskiing Champion, 2004 US Freeskiing Nationals Champion, 3rd overall Woman on the World Freeskiing Tour both 2004 and 2005, and more. Jessica is the first female heli-ski guide for Alaska Rendezvous Guides out of Valdez, AK and works for Exum mountain guides year round. She has completed big ski descents on Denali, The Grand Teton, Mt Aspiring, Mont Blanc, and more. She has been featured in ski film and television productions including ESPN, The Ski Channel, Fox Sports, Rage films, Storm Show Studios, and NBC productions. Jessica has also been featured in magazines and publications such as Powder, Outside, Skiing, SKI, Freeskier, National Geographic Adventure, Mountain Gazette, and The New York Times. Jessica continues to inspire and support women in the sport, and has been a featured speaker at several women’s sport specific conferences.