This ski season I resolved to attempt (key word) to join in the madness in this town that involves strapping on your skis at some ungodly hour in the morning and then trudging up Aspen Mountain, a.k.a. “skinning.”
I’m used to hauling around 30 pounds of camera gear, so I wasn’t too worried about having the latest and greatest lightweight equipment, knowing that my alpine boots and skis with Marker Baron bindings would do the trick. However, I needed to invest in a key piece of equipment to get up the mountain: skins.
I settled on the Black Diamond Ascension Nylon STS Skins, which proved to be more than adequate for making it up the steep pitches on Aspen Mountain. I’m not sure what hocus-pocus technology is involved with these things, but somehow they allow me to stand at an almost 45-degree angle on the mountain without sliding backwards. Their magical powers include the ability to glide in a forward direction, but not back — not something you want to do while headed up Little Nell. Be forewarned, if you do need to glide downhill with them still attached to your skis, do so at your own risk. In my case the results have not been pretty.
Black Diamond makes several different models of skins with varying degrees of glide-ability, and lucky for me the helpful sales person at the Ute Mountaineer talked me into purchasing the right model for my needs. I say lucky, because if I was left to my own devices I would have purchased the Glide version of the skins only because they were on sale, in which case I would have spent all my time gliding back down the mountain.
Skins in general come in varying widths, and the key is to buy a pair that is at least as wide as the fattest part of your ski that is underfoot. It took me about 30 minutes to trim the skins to match the length and width of my skis and install the attachment brackets. Alternatively, for $20 the Ute will cut them for you, in which case they will look much prettier than how mine turned out — something that appears to be the product of a drunken person who was allowed to play with a pair of scissors.
The nylon skins come with a nice small storage bag, just make sure they are dry before you put them away. The other key is to use the plastic webbing as a separator before folding the skins in half. This nifty invention prevents the glue on the backside of the skins from sticking to itself, making the process easier to separate the skins for installation on your skis. Just as important, it prolongs the life of the glue on the base of the skins.
I would much rather spend my time outside than going to the gym, and a set of alpine touring (AT) gear used for a morning workout is great way to get the heart thumping and the muscles toned. In my case I aim to make it to the bottom of Chair 3 by 9 a.m., the cutoff for uphillers on Aspen Mountain, and catch the lift to the top. Then I head over to Bonnie’s and indulge in a stack of oatmeal pancakes, knowing I’ve earned them.
Get Your Own
Black Diamond Ascension
Nylon STS Skins, 110mm
Ute Mountaineer, $159.95