Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ah, new skins, pretty in pink!
OK, there are other folks (like Brad Schalles / Westcoastskimo and Brian Harder / Getstrongergolonger ) who have gone over this already but I wanted to add a few thoughts from my experience after having made two sets of race skins over the past year plus using one ready-made set. Specifically, I wanted to cover why to make your own, buying the material, the "best practices" (I guess???) for making them and some maintenance thoughts.

Warning: This is my trial and error experience stuff as I dont live near a strong skimo scene (or one that I can access without sacrificing my kid, wife and job stuff all of which I kinda like! So, you SLCers, Front Rangers, I70ers, CBers etc, you probably have hears all this stuff before from someone who knows WAY more than me so dont say I didnt warn you! That being said, I have included a skin tip/tail template you might find useful.

Why make em?

Short answer- it cuts the cost in half with no real performance sacrifices and maybe some improvements. Seriously, manufactured race skins typically cost about $139 from most manufacturers.

Now, dont get me wrong, these are great skins and you save about an hour of messing around. Im guessing most of the manufactured tips are super durable and if you get them from your ski manufacturer you get a perfect interface. I have one pair of Dynafit Race Ready Skins (really Pomoca skins with Dynafit tip attachments) with the rubber tip thingys and they are great skins with 1.5 seasons on them using the original glue which has given me no problems.

All that being said, however, after shelling out a few grand in skimo gear saving that $70 (3.5% of your total gear purchase price for perspective) at least makes you feel a little better!

Also, dont forget that you really MUST have at least one spare skin, preferably a spare set. I have seen some poor guys limping up the skin track with one skin flapping and no spare. You dont want to be that guy! Interestingly, Ive never seen a gal with that problem.  Probably one of the may reminders of how women are apparently more responsible than men? You make the call.

My buddy was at this year's COSMIC race clinic with Pete Swenson where Pete emphasized this. Well, not the point about women but the point about 2 pairs of skins! With no tail attachments, there is always bad luck or slacking on glue maintenance that can wreak havoc not to mention botched skin rips when tired. Also, no matter how water repellent your skin manufacturers claim they are, mohair gets wet then icy in warm snow and that is very literally a drag. Swapping out skins for any of these reasons saves the day.

So, if you need 2 pairs, you could really get 2 sets for the retail price of one if you make your own! Nuf said.

Where to buy?

Im sure I will miss a few options here but if you want to buy some mohair race skin material there are a few choices in the US. If you still need convincing about mohair, just accept the fact that its the only choice on your path to enlightenment- thrust me!
I use 270 cm for my skins which run from tip to about 12 inches shy of the tail of a pair of 161 race skis (Dynafit PDGs). I have found that while Im a big guy relative to most skimo racers (6'4" and 183 lbs - they call me Lurch!) I have no noticeable skin slippage in the skin track except when I am exhausted and sprinting in fresh powder at the finish line to beat the guy who keeps crushing me on the downhills but Im not bitter. Really.

Im betting smaller folks could get by with even 6" less and be fine. The shorter the skin the easier it is to rip so go for it!

Also, I have to say Ive found almost no discernible performance difference between the CAMP 62mm width and the Pomoca 59mm width. My conclusion is that there is no reason not to go with the skinnier skin. Also, Ive found the water repellency and glue to be better on the Pomoca skins. A reglue with Black Diamond Gold Label fixed the glue issue. The CAMP skins continue to get used regularly by my wife and I and it looks like lots of others last season were using them to win races so who am I to knock em?

One other thing, from my experience and all anecdotal evidence from others I have talked to, all three sources above are run/managed by super cool folks who will totally help you out if you have any questions.

My "best practices" (hard knocks and distilled internet wisdom)

So there I was, kids in bed, fire going, sink piled with dishes, floor in need of cleaning (etc, etc, etc...) and I pull out a roll of pink Pomoca skin material and start taking pictures. My wife, wrapping up work on her computer, is like, "OK, weirdo, what is it now?"so I hope these pictures are useful to someone out there!

First, and foremost, make sure you ID the glide direction of the skin before cutting them up. Ive never messed it up but I can totally see myself doing it so, just sayin!

Second, the tools:

  • Skin cutting template
  • High quality scissors
  • Hole punch, rivets and rivet tool of some kind OR needle and thread (leather awl work best)
  • Bungee cords (2 ten in cords of about 1/8 in diameter or 2 12 in cords of about 1/4 in diameter)
Here is the skin cutting template for download if you want it.
You may want the tip tab a few mm wider but this should work well.

Cut out the template and trace the shape on to the front of the skin using a extra fine point sharpie or a ball point pen. Double check this is in fact the right end of the skin roll for the front!
Next, cut along the lines.Then fold the tab over so you get MOHAIR ON MOHAIR. This is is important I think. On my CAMP skins from lat year I folded glue on glue thinking the extra stickiness was important but I get a little snow caking under the tip which is probably no huge deal for races of a few hours but for longer efforts on sunny days, that snow melts and gets water in the skin material faster. By folding the tab out and down, you get no snow pockets behind the tip.

The next 2 pictures show the "mo to mo" method (pink skins) and the "glue to glue" (grey skins).

The glue side view of my first skin endeavor- note the exposed glue "snow pockets" on either side of where the tab is sewn.

Next, you tie 2 overhand knots in your bungees, one very close to the middle (~3/4 in shy or so) and one joining the tips. Slip the skin tip tab through the loop of the bungee and fold it over. Next, you have to fasten the tip tab. I have tried both sewing and riveting and riveting is MUCH quicker. Its also the method used by Pomoca on their manufactured skins and in their skin tip kits. It probably isnt as durable as sewing but Im guessing its durable enough? Time will tell.

If you rivet, punch holes through the doubled tip material and install two rivets. I used cap rivets I scrounged up and the big C clamp you see in the pictures to attach the cap to the rivet. My dad, a mechanical engineer, thinks copper rivets you hammer down over the washer is the ticket. Im guessing that with the forces involved any kind with a broad enough base so as not to rip through the material will do.
One rivet down, one to go!
If you sew, sew a few rows or a box pattern with super durable thread (I love the wax coated stuff that comes in a sewing awl). As an extra paranoid step, I hit the sewing with a hot glue gun. Looks like OCD skimo people and Martha Stewart have something in common- who woulda known?

One thing I am mildly concerned about is nylon on nylon wear between the bungee and the tip tab loop. I know in other settings such wear can saw through fabric over time, especially in tension. I wonder if that could be the case with skins? Ive just made the pink ones which have a smaller diameter bungee material which is something Ill be keeping an eye on. One way to mitigate this would be to sleeve the bungee with some plastic tubing inside the skin tip loop (possibly secured with more hot glue). We will see if that is necessary. Worst case it gets trashed and I whack off a few centimeters and give it another go.

One final note on tips. There are a lot of different variations on the method of fastening the bungee to the ski tip. Most folks have a plastic disk below the stopper knot. My all time favorite was a dude with upturned beer bottle caps (probably PBR to be ultra rad?).  I have Dynafit PDG skis and the 1/4 inch tip slot works fine with just a knot which is about the size of the Dynafit skin rubber tip thingy. This obviously would not work on skis like the Ski Trab Race Aero though. Also, the tip knot makes ripping them easier that with the Dynafit rubber thingy since you get a great grip. Kind of subtle but I feel there is a difference.

OK, on to tails. Hook the tip on your ski and lay the skin along the bottom. Measure 12 inches in from the tail and mark.  Then, just fold the tip tab out of the way on the template and trace the tail at the mark and cut.
Now you have a custom race skin which you will quickly come to view as superior to all other skins on the planet. Now settle down and repeat to make a pair.
The clean tip/tail alignment resulting from using the same template front and back plus the "mo-to-mo" tip method.
Finished skin on the ski.


Skin maintenance is pretty simple and here is my favorite how-to courtesy of Brian Harder / Getstrongergolonger. Id add that a small tube of Gold Label goes a long way with this technique of keeping tails in good glue shape. Use an old credit card to spread it and be pretty stingy with the glue. Finally, if you go to rehab your whole skin, remove old glue in short segments or it will set up on the paper and make an awful mess.


Well, thats it. I hope this is a useful little how-to for some folks and keeps you in running smooth on the uphills for 50% off the retail price! Just don't dwell on the fact that its only really a 7% savings on your whole skimo rig. Just want to part by giving you justification to go either way on this whole thing!


  1. I think I'm the beer bottle cap guy. I did it because they were around (necessary whenever working on skis), but also because I can keep track of similar looking skins by the color of the bottle caps. I don't really need them on my PDGs, but another ski I regularly use has a monster tip slot and requires bigger stoppers. As for the brand, PBR isn't fast enough - I think those were New Belgium. ;)

    1. Andy, that is awesome! The caps definitely made an impression on me at the start line prior to you leaving me in the dust! Maybe I should invest in New Belgium caps for my skins. I like the idea of getting the bottles empty more than I do interval training. Seriously though, the skin recognition is a great idea and pretty unique!

  2. Hi!
    Straight 60mm wide skins will be enough for Atmoic Ultimate Tour skis (65mm underfoot)?

  3. yes for for the Ultimate 65 a straight skin (they come in either 62 or 59) will be fine.
    On an other note I thought by that logic a straight 70mm wide skin should be fine for a 75 mm wide Hagan Cirrus ski as well. As it turned out in a lot of situations (like traverses on firm snow) it really wasn't and resulted in me sliding backwards. Now I use a 95mm wide skin cut to shape for most stuff and the 70 only for shallow approaches or new sticky snow. I would also imagine that the 70 wide pomoca race skins would be amazing on race skies for spring touring since they will have just a bit better coverage near the tips.