(Last Updated On: April 2, 2010)
We’ve entered that time of year when the dreaded “skin glop” begins to make its appearance. Frozen snow sticking to your skins can make for an incredibly tiring and frustrating day. For the past couple of seasons, I’ve been able to largely avoid skin glopping, even when my partners have been having trouble, which I can partly attribute to some hard work refining my skin technique. (Having said that, Murphy’s Law states that I’ll be suffering through glopping of epic proportions the next time I head out.) For those of you who have never experienced the joys of glopped up skins, it looks something like this (photo found off the internet):
Glopping occurs when skins go from a warmer, moist environment to a colder and drier one. Glopping is often a problem in the springtime because a skintrack may go from a sunny slushy slope to a shaded powdery slope (such as in the shade of a tree or on a more northerly aspect). Other ways glopping may become a problem include getting skins wet while crossing a creek, which is easy to avoid, and downhill skinning, which may warm the skins enough due to friction to cause glopping as well. To avoid glopping after a downhill skin section, simply keep moving, which will let your skins gradually readjust to a colder temperature and thereby avoid glopping.
Avoiding glopping in the sunny/shady springtime snowpack is the hardest glop scenario to avoid, but there are still a few things to do that make it less likely.
1- Stride and Glide. Like many skiers, I learned how to skin using Alpine Trekkers. Trekkers are both heavy and awkward, and they promote poor skinning technique more suited to snowshoeing than skinning. The correct skin technique leaves the skis on the snow surface, shuffling your way up the hill. Bad skin technique involves picking the ski up every step, more like walking than skinning. Leaving the ski on the snow not only takes much less energy because you don’t pick up the weight of your skis/boots/bindings/skins with every step, but it also helps avoid glopping. Every stride on the snow surface acts like a squeegee- the snow tries to stick to your skins, but it gets wiped off with every stride. Like I said, proper skin technique takes a lot less energy anyway, so it’s not a bad thing to constantly work on.
2- Don’t. Stop. Until you reach the top. [Sing it Fleetwood Mac style] This is similar to the first tip, Stride and Glide. Stopping allows time for cold snow to bond to your skins and glop up. If you continue moving, the snow simply may not have time to freeze up on your skins. If you want to talk to your partner or eat something, consider slowing to a crawl rather than coming to a complete stop. If you must take a break, choose your spot carefully- stopping right after a sunny slope enters a shady one is a near guarantee of major gloppage. Think of it as nature’s cruel personal trainer, much like the flies and mosquitos of summertime hiking and biking.
3- Choose your skintrack wisely. As I mentioned before, glopping occurs when you skin from warm areas to cool ones. If you can stay entirely in either shaded snow or sunny snow, you can avoid glopping problems. Sometimes, there simply isn’t a route choice that doesn’t go from shade to sun to shade again, as in a dense forest. However, in a sparsely treed area you might want to stay on sunny snow the entire time, putting in the occasional extra switchback to avoid the shade of a tree and the powdery snow that may lie in wait there, ready to glop up on your skins. Of course, other considerations, like choosing an avalanche-safe route, take precedence over choosing a glop-friendly route, but it’s still something to keep in mind while skinning in the springtime.
4- Use Glop Stopper. This product from Black Diamond will help stop glopping from starting, just as the name implies. It is best applied at the start of the day, rather than after glopping has started, although it is still beneficial even after glopping has started. It’s basically just wax for your skins. This product stays in my pack year-round, you never know when you’ll need it, and it also increases the glide of your skins. Weight weenies split the block in half in order to save a few grams. Here it is:
Finally, it may be time for new skins. We recommend Black Diamond skins, and would also recommend staying away from G3 skins which have been problem-prone over the years. They’re on sale right now, so springtime might be a good time to buy a new set.
Climbing skins from backcountry.com, on sale now. Free Shipping over $50.00
Anyone else have some helpful hints to avoid glopping up in the springtime? Let’s hear them…