By: randosteve|Posted on: January 1, 2010|Posted in: Gear, Gear Reviews | 19 comments

Leave your mark in the snow with Black Diamond Split Skins.

I’ve got about 20-25 days on the new Black Diamond Split Skins so far and I’m not sure why anyone would use other types of skins for their ultra-fat skis anymore. For those not up to speed, BD introduced the Split Skin this season. Basically, it’s two strips of their Ascension version of skin material, connected by a piece of nylon in the middle. The theory is that since your skis are so wide, and you have so much plush in contact with the snow, you don’t really need the whole base of the ski covered in skin material.

I was a little concerned with durability of the Split Skins in the beginning. I’m pretty hard on skins because a lot of the times I’m lazy and don’t take my skis off to walk over rocks and deadfall, and I wondered how well the nylon would hold up, especially this year with the current low snowpack. I also wondered how well the stitching which held the nylon to the skin material would hold up, thinking it would be very easy for a hard snow surface to wear through the simple tread material with miles and miles on the skin track.

Stitching sit below (and protected) the running surface of the skins.

black-diamond-split-skins-are-strongIn both cases, I’ve been very happy with the results. The threads show no sign of wear. They actually sit under surface of the plush of the skin material, so they are protected by the plush and I think rarely even make contact with the snow. Nice benefit there. Also, I’ve been tackling some pretty good skills courses out there this year while skinning.  Balancing over deadfall, negotiating exposed rocks, skinning directly over both, and the nylon section of the Split Skins show no signs of tearing. I think that since the nylon is so slippery, it tends to deflect rocks and what not, instead of letting them bite into the material and rip it. The nylon section doesn’t always sit totally flat on the ski, but this doesn’t seem to be a problem.

The nylon section doesn’t always sit completely flat…but it doesn’t seem to be a problem.

As you can imagine, the Split Skins run about 30% lighter than an Ascension skin of similar width. They also pack up smaller, which is always nice since there is nothing worse than skiing with a bulky, overstuffed backpack. With the decreased amount of skin material, they are also supple,fold-and-pack-up-better-that-regular-skins which makes folding them easier than a lot of the other skins I own…even though they are so much wider. I feel like I also get better gliding performance with the split skins. Not only as far as stride/glide distance goes, but relating to the tracking of the ski as well. Sounds logical enough…right? The Split Skins also leave a cool track in the snow for those that follow to ponder. (Hey, skinning is often kind of monotonous and boring…so every little bit helps.)

As far as the actual skinning uphill performance goes, I think there is a small loss of grip with the Split Skins compared to a similar width Ascension model skin. However, usually this evident on only the steepest/slickest/uneven sections of skin track and is easily remedied by transferring some weight to the edges of the ski. Also, since the Ascension version of skin material grips so well, it doesn’t take much for it to bite into the smallest feature on the snow surface. I think the weight loss, gliding advantages and increased packability of the Split Skins greatly outweighs any decreased grip, since you can usually reposition the ski/skin, stomp it harder into the snow surface or transfer weight to the outside of the ski if you start to loose grip.

New adjustable tip loops holding up well too!

If your thinking about getting a pair of Split Skins, note that the waist of your skis needs to be over 110mm…or there just isn’t enough plush left after trimming. no-frayed-cables-with-black-diamond-split-skinsAlso, I recommend trimming them wall-to-wall…with little or no edge really exposed. Why? Because they climb better this way. On a side note…the new BD adjustable tip loops also are holding up well and show literally zero signs of wear. There are no frayed wires, gouges in the metal cable protectors or problems with tip loop/skin attachment point. Two thumbs up!!!