'Skinning' Explained




'Skinning' Explained

‘Skinning’ Explained

‘Skinning’, in the context of backcountry skiing, refers to a method of ascending uphill on skis using climbing skins attached to the base of the skis. These skins, typically made of synthetic or natural fibers, have a directional nap that allows them to glide forward on snow but prevent backward sliding, essentially providing grip and traction.

Here's how skinning works in backcountry skiing:

Preparation: Before starting the ascent, skiers attach climbing skins to the base of their skis. The skins are affixed to the ski tip with a loop or clip mechanism and to the ski tail with a secure attachment.

Ascending: With the skins in place, skiers use a technique similar to walking or hiking to ascend uphill. Instead of lifting the skis with each step, skiers slide them forward, using the grip of the skins to prevent backward sliding.

Technique: Skinning technique involves finding a balance between efficiency and traction. Skiers adjust their stride length and pace based on the terrain's steepness and snow conditions. Additionally, some touring bindings have *heel risers that can be adjusted to different heights to alleviate strain on the calf muscles during steep climbs.

Route Finding: Skiers typically follow established skin tracks or create their own routes based on terrain features, snow conditions, and safety considerations. Skin tracks are paths beaten down by previous skiers, providing a more manageable route for ascending.

Skin Removal: Once skiers reach their desired destination or the top of their ascent, they remove the climbing skins from their skis. The skins are carefully detached from the ski base, folded or rolled up, and stowed away for the descent.

Skinning enables backcountry skiers to access remote and pristine terrain that is not accessible by ski lifts or groomed trails. It requires physical exertion and technical skill but offers the reward of untracked snow and breathtaking scenery. Safety, including avalanche awareness and proper equipment, is paramount when engaging in backcountry skiing and skinning activities.

*Heel Risers

Heel risers are features commonly found on backcountry ski bindings. They serve to alleviate strain on the calf muscles and provide better leverage for ascending steep slopes during uphill sections of a ski tour.

Here's how they work:

Purpose: When ascending uphill on skis with climbing skins, you’ll often encounter varying degrees of slope steepness. Without heel risers, your boot remains at a flat angle relative to the ski, which can cause discomfort and fatigue in the calf muscles, especially on steeper terrain.

Adjustment: Most touring bindings come equipped with adjustable heel risers that offer different height settings. These settings typically range from flat (no riser engaged) to medium and high riser positions. You can manually switch between these settings using a lever or rotating mechanism on the binding.

Functionality: Engaging a heel riser raises the boot heel above the ski surface, tilting the boot forward and creating a more ergonomic angle for uphill travel. This reduces strain on the calf muscles by allowing you to stand more upright, distributing weight more evenly over the ski and climbing skin.

Terrain Adaptation: you’ll adjust the height of the heel riser based on the steepness of the terrain you encounter. On gentler slopes, you may use a lower riser setting or keep the riser disengaged for a flatter stance. As the slope steepens, switch to higher riser settings to maintain a comfortable and efficient posture.

Efficiency: Proper use of heel risers enhances efficiency and endurance during uphill travel, allowing for more fluid movement and conserving energy over long ascents. By reducing muscle fatigue and strain, heel risers contribute to a more enjoyable and sustainable backcountry skiing experience.

Heel risers are essential tools for backcountry skiers, providing improved comfort, efficiency, and performance during uphill sections of ski tours. Familiarize yourself with the binding's heel riser system and adjust it accordingly to optimize your uphill travel experience.

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