Getting Ready for your Ski Tour
What Does Skinning Mean?
No, we are not talking about skinning animals here although, as the name indicates, the originals where indeed animal hides whose natural characteristics have now been copied with more modern materials.
Skinning in the context of ski touring is the action of sliding or shuffling your skis uphill and getting grip by using ‘skins’ attached to the bottom of your skis. Modern climbing skins are adhesive-backed strips of fabric which stick to the bottom of your skis (or splitboard). They have tiny rearward facing directional hairs which allow you to slide forward up a slope but grip the snow as you put downward pressure on the ski. When you brush them from tip to tail you will feel just how smooth they are but conversely when you brush them in the opposite direction you notice they provide a lot of friction.
Our first tip is to always make sure you examine the equipment in the warmth of a ski shop or your accommodation with someone who is able to show you exactly how each element works. Last thing you want is to try working it out on the side of a potentially cold mountain!
Before heading out on your ski tour adventure, your guide will make sure that your skins fit your skis properly and that they are well trimmed, that your boots fit comfortably and the touring bindings are in good working order. The guides that we pick for our holidays are all qualified and experienced so perfectly placed to explain, offer advice and top tips and help you, regardless of how amateurish you think your question might be.
The second step is to familiarise yourself with how to apply, remove and fold the skins from your skis without the adhesive backs collecting every piece of debris, flake of snow or item of clothing to and from the ski. Our top tip is to keep the skins warm before applying to the ski as this dramatically improves the stickiness of the adhesive. Keeping them close to body heat is a great way of achieving this.
You might at some point have to apply ski crampons, when snow gives way to ice, a possibility on any ascent in the back country. Ski crampons (aluminium devices with teeth like a garden rake) are applied between the ski bindings and provide that extra grip that skins are unable to provide on icy ground.
Furthermore, please take great care in how you dress. We can tell from experience that wearing multiple layers is a much better idea than wearing one or two heavy layers. Layering clothes allows you to adjust to temperature changes much easier, whether to adjust for heat from the exertion or to protect against the cold when you stop. And take it from us: ski touring can get pretty hot and sweaty and cold in a short space of time…
Of course there is much more to learn about the technique of how to ski tour, but we’re not going to give everything away just yet. The most fun and, moreover, effective way of getting a feel for it is simply to do it, and we have some fantastic ski tour holidays on offer which allow you to make that happen.
Browse our ski touring trips to get inspired or give us a call on 01243 929 121 to see how we can tailor your perfect holiday to your specific ski touring wishes.