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.


  1. Hi there. Firstly I would like to say what a great site. In the last few weeks I have discovered, ski theory, skin track and today your site. I am British and living in the French Alpes, it is easy to find lots of info on gear here but very hard to get info on training.

    As for the skins, I do have some information to pass on. I have used mohair skins from both dynafit and trab. The dynafit were cut for race skis and as you pointed out are super fast, they have also proved to be the least durable of all the skins i've used, so unless you've a big wallet then only use them in the best conditions they really don't like rock and branches for too long.
    The glue used was the least sticky of any I had used but did stick well with no contamination and came off really fast too at transitions. The problem I did find with them was that once contaminated by snow they quickly became usless and the tails would become unstuck very easily. At the end of last season I re-glued them with gold label and they do stick much better. It is very important to take great care when scraping off the old glue, the waterproof backing of the mohair is super light compared to most and proved to be very delicate.

    I picked up some trab mohair off the roll from Italy and they have so far proved to be more durable. On the few outings I had with them the glue proved almost too grippy, taking an enourmous effort to remove whilst wearing the skis. For this reason I have not yet raced on them. After being stored for the summer, I tried them out the other day and the glue seems to have improved greatly. I also use a pomoca 70/30 mixed skin and this has proved the most reliable all round skin I have used for a whole season.

    Keep up the training reports, great reading,


  2. Thanks for kind words Simon! Great to get some more first hand reports.

    I have also used Gold Label to touch up skins that had lost their glue. One pair I followed the directions to apply a second layer and they came out with a layer of glue way thicker than necessary. The second time I did a re-glue I kept the layer very thin and I found the results were near perfect- just the right amount of stickiness and no unnecessary bulk.

  3. Hey Jon,
    I am 99% sure that Pomoca is making the skins for Dynafit and Coltex makes Trabs...
    I have used coltex mostly and trabs a little. Apparently the same, but my trabs were better than the many coltex skins I have. I think that it might just be different years?
    I have used my new dynafit (pomoca's) a few times and they rocked! Almost every top euro I have asked prefers the pomocas over coltex, even the ones that get coltex for free.
    I have heard the pomoca glue is better than the coltex (gold label is great for touch ups). Also heard that which skins depends on what the snow conditions are like.
    I have a few different skins on the go. 2 training pair, 2 racing pair. The racing one's are older (faster), but it depends on the course and the snow as to what skins I use. On the snow yet??

  4. I’ve stroked those Trab 100% mohair skins – beautiful!

    My Dynafit Manaslu skis have the mohair speed skins. Glide is great, relatively low bulk, and the glue although seemingly minimal never failed me last year, even with many long days and multiple laps in temps near 0F. (No experience with them in really warm wet conditions though.)

    My rando race skins are BD. Very fast (or so they seem to be) . . . because they are super worn down. I bought them way back in Spring 2003, when BD was leaving the mohair skin business and hence clearing them out cheaply. I used them for all conditions, and at first they seemed to be holding up just fine. But then after a certain point – and after lots of late spring skinning in your area, plus up in Shasta in the early summer – the plush fibers underneath the foot just started disappearing entirely.

    So the mohair skins got transferred over and trimed down to my Atomic TM:11 race skis, and then eventually to my MX:20 race skis. They’re strictly race-day only since they probably have only a few dozen uses left in them before they shed even more.

    I see that BD’s new 100% mohair skins are 80mm at the narrowest, so they’re not quite going for the real race crowd there.

    I also have two other pairs of mohair skins that I got for cheap used. I’ve been experimenting with one pair as a skinny approach setup on the Manaslu. Both pairs seem fine, although unfortunately I’m not sure of the brands.

    And finally, I have a pair of quite wide BD mohair skins. I swapped a pair of Ascensions for them, since a friend had bought them on clearance used ago, and I advised him they wouldn’t last long for spring use based on my experience. I haven’t used those yet (or figured out what I’m going to do with them really).

    Be advised that some of those Euro skins can have really weak glue. Lots of high-level rando race stories seem to include catastrophic glue failures and switching to backup skins...

    BTW, this is a great tip attachment method:
    My Atomic race skis have a tip hole that I made into a notch – attachment system works very well that way.

  5. Grant, no I'm not on snow yet. We're still pretty dry here. There are some couloirs that can be had, but by all accounts they are extremely scary right now. I'd rather stay injury free.

    Thanks for all the info guys. Grant, do you know ahead of time which skins are going to be best for the race day conditions based on experience with their performance on cold or warm snow? Or do you bring both and test them out on race day like I do?

  6. Hey, really cool blog. I was googling "Pomoca Race Skins" and found this site. I'm looking for another pair. I'm a rando racer and have used Dynafits, Coltex, and Pomoca. I picked up some Pomoca Race Skins at the Pierra Menta last year, and they are by far my favorite. Super fast glide and thin backing material = light. And the hairs are shiny, which I think prevents buildup. Maybe that's just in my head. . . . They seemed to be the hot ticket in Europe.

    Anyway, I put up a link to your blog on my blog