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How to Choose the Right Size Climbing Skins


A pair of climbing skins that perfectly fit your skis or splitboard will make or break your day in the backcountry. Full wall-to-wall coverage ensures the best grip, and exposed edges help you stay on your feet traversing icy skin tracks. But there are a handful of different ways skins are sized and sold, which can make shopping for the perfect fit a bit confusing. Some climbing skins are sized by length, some by width, and some are pre-cut. No method is better than another, but it’s important to know how the skins you’re considering are being sized, and what that means for fitting them to your skis or board.
 

Choosing the Right Climbing Skin Width

For most ski climbing skins, sizing options are listed as width in millimeters. If this is the case, you’ll want to choose skins based on the width of the widest part of your ski, the tip. Ideally, you want the width of the skin to be narrower than the tip of your ski by about 5-6 mm. If you can't locate the perfect size, it's usually fine to go slightly narrower. Once you have the right width, you'll trim the climbing skin down to the length of your ski, attach the tip or tail hardware, and trim the sides of the skin to match the shape of your skis.

Example: You have the Blizzard Zero G 105 (133-105-119) in a 180 cm length, and you want to buy some Black Diamond Ascension Nylon STS skins. You'd choose the 125 mm width (the 140 mm width would also work, but with a bit of waste). After trimming them to match the length and sidecut of your skis, you'll have skins that cover all of the P-Tex base material on your skis except for a tiny 2 mm sliver at each side of the tip.
 
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Choosing the Right Climbing Skin Length

For many splitboard skins, and some ski skins, the size options are listed by their length in centimeters, and displayed as a range. For these climbing skins, the tip and tail hardware has already been attached, so you’ll need to make sure the length of your planks are within the listed size range as you won’t be able to adjust the length in the trimming process. If the width in millimeters is not listed, it’s safe to assume the climbing skins are made with a standard width that’s wide enough to work with the vast majority of boards, and can be trimmed down to match your width and sidecut.
 
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Pre-Cut Climbing Skins

Some companies make climbing skins that are pre-cut to fit a certain model and length of ski or board exactly and require no trimming. To purchase pre-cut skins, just make sure they exactly match the model and size of your ski, and you’ll be good to go. Pre-cut skins are usually laser cut and should fit perfectly right out of the box.
 

We recommend that backcountry travelers take an AIARE Level One class or equivalent and practice the skills they learn there regularly with their partners. Here are some great resources for avalanche safety education:

— American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education
— American Avalanche Association
— Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center

You should carry an avalanche beacon, shovel and probe when travelling in avalanche terrain and know how to use them. Backcountry travel requires an acceptance of the risks involved (avalanches are not the only danger) and implies a willingness to take responsibility for educating oneself about these dangers and ways to mitigate them.