Guest Contributors: Emma Walker and Jeremy Benson
I can’t think of anything that can ruin an otherwise-lovely ski tour like ski skins that aren’t doing their job.
Ironically, I also can’t think of a piece of gear that’s more mistreated and misunderstood. It’s funny that this piece of gear that we rely on so heavily to deliver us to perfect powder turns often ends up being so neglected.
I’m guilty of it, too. How many times have I returned home from a big touring day and left my skins on my skis in the back of my truck? Or, worse yet, balled up in my pack?
Spoiler alert: The answer is “More than I care to admit..."
Despite all their use and abuse, there is one good thing I do for my skins: I treat them with Nikwax Ski Skin Proof. I generally kick off the season with an initial application then re-apply whenever I notice my skins are icing up again.
Here’s what I like about Ski Skin Proof...
I can apply it inside. I live in an apartment, so I don’t have access to much outdoor work space. Unlike aerosol-based waterproofing products, I’m not inhaling a bunch of fumes when I waterproof my skins.
It’s truly impossible to mess up. Put skins on skis. Shake bottle. Press sponge on skin. Go with the fibers. It’s really that easy.
I don’t have to worry about what I’m leaving behind on the snow. These days, responsible skiers are thinking about our impact on the environment. Ski Skin Proof is water-based and biodegradable, so I know I’m not poisoning the snowpack with what I’ve got on my skins.
When my skins repel water and keep ice at bay, I can get to some of my favorite places: to the tops of snowy peaks in South-central Alaska, up remote Rocky Mountain trails, and to quiet backcountry huts with my friends.
Because of that, I’ll commit to working a little harder on taking care of my skins.
As an avid backcountry skier, it’s essential for me to have my gear performing at the highest level possible. Your gear works as hard as you do out there, so taking good care of it not only helps keep it in good condition and last longer, but it also improves your experience when it functions as intended.
Of course, simple routine maintenance tasks can sometimes get overlooked and slip through the cracks, only to be noticed when your gear starts performing poorly, typically when you most need it to work best…
Fortunately, Nikwax makes a variety of products to keep your backcountry ski gear in tip top shape, and using it couldn’t be easier.
Case in point: I got brand new skins for my fattest pair of touring skis mid-winter of last season. Last winter just happened to be the wettest winter in recorded history for the Tahoe area where I live, and those skins got used and abused in the skin track for months on end, as the snow just kept falling into late-Spring. As the season tapered off, my mind quickly turned to mountain biking, and my skins got folded, and [without a second thought] thrown into my backcountry pack, where they sat all summer long.
After a long Summer and Fall of shredding singletrack, snow finally blanketed the higher peaks in the area, and just like that we were back out there chasing powder turns. The first ten days of the season went by in a blur of low-tide, cold powder skiing, with my tired and neglected skins dutifully doing their job. Then one day it warmed up, the trees started dripping and I experienced the dreaded first skin-glop of the season. I suffered through it till the end of the day, but vowed to remedy the situation before heading out for the next tour. Fortunately, Nikwax Ski Skin Proof couldn’t be easier to apply, and treating my skins took all of five minutes.
With the skins on my skis, all I had to do was press the applicator sponge into the skin and rub it in, with the grain, until I’d hit the entire length and width of the skins. Since that application, I’ve had no skin glop issues, and when I get them in the future, I’m prepared to fight back!
Quick & routine maintenance like this can seriously prolong the life of your gear, save you money, and improve your experience, helping you do more out in the mountains.
Emma Walker is an avid outdoorswoman who holds a Master’s Degree in Outdoor & Environmental Education, actively studies avalanche behavior, and lives in Colorado.
Jeremy Benson is a sponsored backcountry ski athlete, mountain bike racer, and freelance writer, who lives in the Lake Tahoe area.