Monday, March 14, 2011

Climbing Skins for Twin Tip Skis

Twin tip skis are all the rage these days. What started off as a trick ski capable of skiing backwards is now as common in the park as they are all over the mountain. Two properties of twin tip skis also make them popular as back country ski: cost and flexibility. Most people find that a soft ski is better suited for the variable conditions encountered in the back country. Twin tipped park skis are often time priced less for park rats that tend to destroy and constantly replace skis. This fact also jives well with the cheap or broke back country skier. I have also found that the ability to ski backwards to be very helpful when side slipping steep chutes, where it is often necessary to "falling leaf" backwards in deeper or soft snow.

Though going down is not a problem, the up hill part presents a problem for twin tipped skis. Duck walking and uphill kick turns are made more difficult by a turned up tail. However the most common problem with twin tip skis is how to attach climbing skins. Traditionally climbing skins are attached to the ski via a tip loop and a tail hook. An elastic rubber tip loop is paired with a metal tail hook, or a static tip loop is paired with an elastic tail clip. The tail hook sits in a notch on a squared off tail. Cutting a notch in the tail of a TT ski is not desirable, as the tail has metal edges wrapped around. Cutting into the metal edge could expose an corner of the edge and cause it to "unravel". Without a notch to sit in, the tail hook can easily slip off to the side.

Many opt to not use a tip and tail connection. Tip loop and skin glue is all that they use. This works well if you have fresh and sticky glue, or you do not encounter icing and freezing of the glue. Trips that do not require repetitive skin on and offs, can fair well with a tip and glue only approach. I personally like both the tips and tails of my climbing skins to the fixed to the tip and tails of my skis. A good solution is to run two tip attachment devices. Here I use a standard static tip loop for the front. It is sewn into the skin for a permanent non adjustable connection. For the rear tip I used a rubber elastic tip loop. It is attached by simply folding over the skin onto itself. This give some adjustibility in length to the system. The rubber tip loop has a few special bends in it to accommodate larger tips. The skins need to be trimmed down at the fold over spot to fit the relatively small attachment loop.

Prior to coming up with this twin tip skin set up, I was sold a STS Black Diamond tail kit . These, I was told by the gear sales person, would hold on twin tip skis. Since the that since the tension was near the fixing clip, the tension would hold the clip on the curved rear tip. Not so. STS tails DO NOT work on twin tip skis. Sure they might work in the parking lot but once you started skinning and kick the heel of your ski, you would pop off the tail clip. Often times I would look back only to find that the tail clip had unhooked. It was typically not too much of a problem since my glue would continue to hold the skins on. However this was not a good long term or a long tour solution. Instead, I took some heavy wire and bent up a set of loops. These had the extra bends like the rubber elastic loops I used for the other set. The STS tail provided the tension, and I fashioned my own loop/clip. This worked pretty good. But bending the heavy wire was difficult, and it took many iterations to achieve the right tip loop shape.

A couple of seasons later G3 released a twin tip connector This connector was fashioned after the front tip connector it released the year prior. This new connector had pivoting wings, which could conform to the curvature of the rounded ski tip. The rear connector attached to the elastic tail strap of either the STS kit or the similar G3 version . In order to have a skin setup as light as possible I opted not to use the fold over technique to affix my tip loop. Instead I used a sewn in place loop. This will limit the adjustable of the skins. In fact I had to remount the tail strap twice in order to achieve the correct amount of tension. If the distance between the clip and the skins is too short than not enough tension is provided. This is made worse by the fact that when frozen the straps lose even more of its tension. For my current set up I needed a wider tip loop and had to rip the stitching from the sewn connector, swap loops, then sew the the connector back together.

So how do these three twin tip skin connectors work? Good. But I have kicked the loops off of all of them. Both the front and the rear. It all depends on the size of your ski tips and the size of the tip loop. Use the largest possible tip loops that will fit your skis. This is the key point in keeping the loops in place. With your skins fitted it is now time to do some skiing; Uphill skiing


  1. Thanks for the comparison! I've been contemplating the same style setups myself. Overall, how well do you like the G3 connector compared to the alternatives? Seems the best option to me compared to a wire-loop on the tail, but haven't tested on my skis yet.

  2. It all depends on what you already have. The rubber tip and the G3 TT connector are very close in its holding ability w/ a slight edge to the G3. If I already had a STS tails on the skins The only option is to go G3 TT. But if I was seting up a set of skins from scratch (with tip already), I'd have to get the STS kit ($20) then the G3 (+$20), I might jsut go for a rubber tip ($20~). Currently I run the G3 if that tells you anything.

  3. Yup, that's what I thought. I'm buying new skins, so prob gonna go with the G3 tail on some BD STS. I like the G3 tip too, but thinking the
    BD adj tip will be better for my purposes (and I have easy pro access to BD). Thanks again for the review.