Monday, November 2, 2009

Mohair Skin Overview: Part 2 of Buy Your Way to Success

Mohair skins are faster, lighter and more compact than synthetic skins. If you’re looking to race competitively mohair skins should be considered necessary equipment. But like all other race specific equipment mohair skins can be tough to find in the US. I thought I’d compile an overview of all the mohair skins (that I know of) that are available out there.

Black Diamond and Marker offer mohair skins and also skins made of a mohair/nylon mix. I’ll skip those as they aren’t really race specific. Also, each manufacturer mentioned below makes skins with various mohair/nylon percentages designed for backcountry skiing. The idea being that the more nylon added to the blend the more durable the skin will be. Mohair skins are often described as quick to wear out. I haven’t kept track of the mileage and vertical I’ve put on two different pair of mohair skins, but it’s quite a bit. They are far from worn out.

A lot of people ask me "What is mohair, anyway?" My friend Ryan (pictured above) once asked me, "When they make mohair skins, does the Mo die?" No. The Mo is an Angora goat. The goat gets shorn for its fleece, not slaughtered.

I find racers seek out Colltex more than any other brand. I haven't yet skied a pair of these so I can't say definitively whether they are the fastest of the fast, but I do have a pair on order so I'll be able to do a review in the winter. Colltex markets the baby-blue "Special" (above) as their race specific skin.

Colltex's other 100% mohair skin is the red "Extreme." Colltex doesn't describe why they see this as non-race skin. I've talked to some people that have skied both of these two Colltex skins. They have said that the Extreme is their skin of choice for cold to very cold conditions while the Special is the skin for moderately cold to warm conditions. ROI distribution distributes the Swiss Colltex skins in North America, but finding them in stores is next to impossible. To my knowledge the Special model isn't brought in to North America at all. Here's the Colltex site. And the site of their North American distributor, ROI.

Pomoca skins are another famous race specific skin that a lot of racers seem to be into. I have never seen Pomoca skins sold in the US, but I have spoken to some Americans who have picked up a pair abroad. The reviews are always positive. Like Colltex, Pomoca produce another 100% mohair skin that they don't market towards racing. From reading the description of the two skins on their site it seems as if their "Race" skins are less densely packed with hair as compared to the "Touring" skin. Here's Pomoca's site.

I have an old pair of Dynafit skins that look identical to the ones that Pomoca produce. It's possible that Pomoca manufactured them for Dynafit. For what it's worth theses old, black Dynafit skins that I have are stellar. The hairs are remarkably short. The glue is so thin, perhaps a few hundredths of a millimeter, that along with the thin backing and short hairs, the whole skin becomes eye-poppingly compact and a bit lighter (105g for one) than any other race skin I've been able to weigh.

Thankfully Dynafit skins are easier to come by. Dynafit "Race Ready" skins feel and look as if they have far fewer hairs packed onto the skin. I imagine that makes the skin glide better. While the hairs are short and sparse the backing and glue are a bit bulkier and stiffer than the other race skins. Notably, they are slightly stiffer to handle than other race skins. Not frustratingly so, but some people have a stiff/supple preference which is usually related to air temperature. I don't have a pair of current Dynafit skins cut to race dimensions so I can't compare weight. Dynafit here.

Camp skins are definitely the most pleasant surprise I've come across. In high moisture snow, spring melt/freeze and warmer days during the winter these have proven faster than most. I was skeptical when I first purchased them because the hairs are a bit longer and are more densely packed. Plus the glue is a bit thicker (still 1/10 as thick as a typical Black Diamond skin). Surprisingly, they're only 10 grams heavier than my old Dynafit skins. And they're easy for Americans to get a hold of. Check em out.

We can't forget Ski Trab. I don't have any first-hand reviews of these, but if Trab puts their name on them odds are that they are high quality product. Info here.

Mohair skins come in all the attachment and width options that we're used to getting here in the US with synthetic skins. But the option of buying by the meter off a roll is huge benefit that isn't common in North America. You simply order the length you need in the width you need. It's less expensive without all the packaging and the tip and tail attachments which would get cut off a race skin anyhow.

Anyone know why most of these companies make their race specific skin powder blue? And if anyone out there has experience with the skins I haven't been on, I'd love some more reviews.