Under the Skin...
- Types of hair (Mixed, Mohair, Synthetics)
- Types of glue (Glue, Vakuum, Hybrid)
- Look Systems
Skin Maintaining :
What to know about skins
For this blog entry we want to talk about different types of Skins, their locking system and how to maintain and store them.
It is one of the most important pieces of equipment for touring, and crucial for a successful ascent. If you don't take care of, or mount them correctly.. You could end up continuously swearing since you'll be taking one step forward and sliding two steps backwards. Equally as important, is the glue side. This is the side that makes the skin stick to your board and the lock system.There is nothing more annoying than skins coming unstuck or tonnes of snow between the skins and snowboard.
Types of Hair
- Mohair (Angora Goat)
- Synthetic (mostly Nylon)
- Mixed (70%Mohair/30%Nylon)
- Water repellant
- Lumps of snow stick less to the hair
- Flexible & Soft even with low temperatures
- Very good sliding properties in the forward movement
- Good braking effect to the rear
- Quite expensive
- Not as long lasting as Synthetic
- Can have reduced grip sideways when steep and with hard packed snow
- Relatively durable and robust
- Good grip in harsh snow conditions
- Cheaper than Mohair
- Good braking effect to the rear.
Reduced sliding properties in the forward movement
- Can absorb moisture
- Lumps of snow tend to freeze to the hair when wet
- Micro plastic in the environment
With this type of hair mix they try to combine the advantages of both types - Mohair and Synthetic.
If you are a frequently touring throughout winter, then this would be the best choice as they last longer, have a good grip to the side and braking effect to the rear. However compared to 'Mohair' it has a reduced forward gliding maneuver. They tend to soak up a little moisture as well, this is because of the nylon, and therefore the chances that snow freezes to the skins are there. I personally use mixed skins, and for the past four years have had a good experiences with them. They offer slightly more grip to the side and rear especially for the in general wider splitboards, and last slightly longer than the pure 'Mohair' ones.
Types of Glue
- Vacuum also known as Adhesion Skins
When using glue based skins, it is of upmost importance to handle the skins carefully. The glue attracts dust and dirt like a moth to lights. Before folding them together and storing them in your backpack, use the separation foil provided with the skins.
- Good efficiency at large temperature differences
- Sticks to the base if moist
- With good treatment, long-lasting and durable
- Fast contamination of the adhesive side
- Contamination reduces the adhesive effect
- A lot of work to renew the glue
When using Vacuum based skins, always make sure the base is clean and dry. To allow this there is usually a micro fibre fleece in the storage bag to wipe off the moisture. Heavy snowfall and wet conditions makes it really hard to mount the vacuum skins, so always keep this in mind.
- Easy to clean
- Simple handling
- No need for a separation foil
- Does not work properly if too cold or too warm
- Reduced adhesive effect when moist
- Almost no adhesive effect when wet
Hybrid Skins try to combine both benefits from Glue and Vacuum in one product. Easy to clean and handle like Vacuum, but also function with little moisture on the base and cold/warm temperatures. (Sounds like a dream!!)
To produce the hybrid skins there are basically more layers of certain glues placed on top of each other, finished with a smooth and easy to clean topcoat. How it works exactly is a secret and little is known about it. I tried them myself and was quite surprised how well they work. Years ago I had one of the first Vacuum based skins, after a couple of tours I was really happy to change back to glue based skins. When it was freezing cold or high humidity the vacuum skins did not really stick to the board. The biggest flow killer on the way up.
Anyhow, I did not have this problem with the Hybrid skins. They were easy to handle, meaning there is no need for a separation foil before folding or rolling them up. Super practical on a windy and cold day on the peak. If the glue side gets slightly dirty they are easy to clean. How? I'll tell later.
How well a skin sticks to the skies is mainly dependent on the glue or vacuum used. But the role of the locking system is not to be underestimated. It keeps the skin in place and on the ski's. Modern skins are mounted from the front to the rear, this usually takes the tension from the skin. However if too much tension is applied on it, due to the locking system, it will pull the skins from the ski's at some point. Especially when the glue looses its grip due to contamination, snow and moisture will get between the skin and base meaning the adhesion effect reduces drastically.
These normally have prefabricated iron brackets on the front which is placed over the ski tip. The length and the width is usually in raw shape and has to be cut by hand. To mount the tail bracket there is a rubber strap and a plastic clip included. A Stencil helps to cut both skin ends the same shape. How to do this in real life will be shown an described in a different blog entry.
Pre-shaped skins, some manufacturers have a customised locking system of their own. In this case the skins are usually pre-cut in length and width and the rear bracket is already pre-stitched.
If you use glue based skins it is essential to use a separation foil before folding or rolling the skins together, and store them in the backpack. Without this foil, you will have a hard time separating them again. Plus it is not healthy for the glue on the skins. As mentioned before, glue attracts dirt like a moth to a light. When using Vacuum or Hybride skins, the separation foil is not so important as they are easy to clean, after taking them off your ski's and storing them in your bag.
When using your skins multiple times in a day or on tour, It is recommended to fold the skins instead of rolling them. Folding them glue to glue, and then folding in quarters until you can store them away.
There are two main ways to wax and impregnate the skins. The fastest and easiest way is a liquid wax for skins, however it does not last long. It is more of an emergency solution whilst on tour to avoid ice freezing on the skins. The best way is to use spezial skins wax, wax them at the start of the season and depending on the intensity of use, once a month. The benefit of doing this is a better forward gliding quality and waterproofing the fur of the skins.
How to wax
Put the skins on the ski as you as if you would go touring, take the block of skin wax and rub it in gliding direction from tip to tail several times with some pressure. Now use a hair dryer and heat up the wax so the fur can soak it up. Do so with a little safety distance between fur and hair dryer, about 10-15cm and do not stop for too long on one spot. Let the wax cool down again. Et voila, done!!!
If you are in own Hybrid or Vacuum skins, the cleaning process of the adhesive side is easy going. Simply use a sponge, orange cleaner (one of the strongest cleaner and bio degradable) some water, and wipe till clean. For skins with glue it is not as simple, there is not really a cleaning process. If the glue is too contaminated and loses its adhesive effect you have to renew it. I will not describe here how it is done because it is simply messy and long work. Save yourself the hassle, bring them to a shop with experience and have it renewed there.
The fur side you can simply clean with a soft brush in gliding direction.
Some good to know tips:
- No direct sunlight - the UV light will only dry out the glue. If you have to dry them in the sun then put a foil on the glue side to avoid this. And only dry like this if it's absolutely the only way!!
- Not on the radiator - placing the skins directly on a radiator or a stove will have the same effect of drying out the glue.
- In room temperature - It is no problem to hang them above a radiator or stove with a distance of approximately 1m.
- After each tour - after coming home from a tour hang the skins out to dry
So which skins are best? Mixed or mohair, glue or hybrid- this is entirely personal choice. I do not need to win races up the mountain so therefore I prefer mixed skins with glue. If you take care and always use the separation foil with the right method to dry, they will last for 2-3 seasons. By the time the glue needs to be renewed, it's then time to change to whole skin because of the worn down fur. If you like the more careless version then go for mixed skins with hybrid glue.