8kpeak.com is super excited to have obtained one of the 6 pair of the new Fischer ProFoil climbing skins this spring. This is a new technology that replaces the standard mole hair skins for AT ski touring. After a week of testing, these are off the chart good.
The skin is the result of Fischer’s world leading and patented technology developed over the decades with their cross country skis. It’s basically a plastic skin that adheres to the base of your skis that brings their fish scale design to an AT ski. The benefits per the company are first and foremost that the skin glides like a ski, but also that it doesn’t absorb moisture and will eliminate “glopping up”.
I have been testing the product on the local ski hill here in Aspen on a trail that I have used for years for my AT training, so the terrain was familiar; I know what I can get away with on certain pitches with standard skins, so I was curious to see what these skins would allow me to get away with. The particular slope is a great place for an after-work training run in that it is the world cup alpine venue on Aspen Mountain’s infamous 1A hill. It has steep aspects, but more importantly for training and here testing, it is iced down for the November world cup races here in Aspen. For the rest of the year, it is a steep ice skating rink. For my testing, the lower slopes had a base of ice with a good amount of granular slush on the lower slopes, but higher up, I found the true test, expected glass smooth boiler plate snow.
At first step, the security of the skin gripping the snow was apparent. I couldn’t believe how solid the skin held to the snow. Step by step I encountered steeper slopes. The first conditions, the deep granular slush, I normally would have to resort to a zigzag of turns across the slope in that normal skins have slip in this type of snow. The ProFoil also had slip, but by stamping the ski through the slush to the hard base, I was amazed that I could go straight up.
As I approached the higher slopes, the sun had set, and the smooth hard snow was cold and smooth. These slopes normally are steep enough to where there is no possible way I can take them on straight up. I normally go as high as I can, then cut off the hard snow to the powder in the trees where I again zigzag past the steep. I headed straight up not knowing what to expect. The ProFoil at first slipped and that got my attention. So I played with this a bit. With my old skins, my technique of straight on steep ascending is to bend over at the waist sticking my butt out to spread my weight more evenly for the skin, along with using a ton of arm strength to help take pressure off the skin. What I found with the ProFoil was that if I actually used my poles less, stood straighter up, it placed the scales of the skin directly into the smooth snow, and it HELD. It held like crazy. By taking shorter steps, relaxing, and letting my body weight fall into the skin, I would liken it to riding a mt bike on the Slick Rock trail at Moab and how rubber tires hold going up. It’s utterly amazing how steep you can ascend with the ProFoil, even on super smooth hard snow.
The next test would be yet higher on the mountain, where the slope steepens to 35 degrees to 40 degrees, the infamous Aztec run. On slopes this steep, it’s impossible to climb with skis straight up no matter, so I figured it would be a good test to make some kick turns and see how the ProFoil handles cross skinning on steep slopes. One big difference between ProFoil and a standard skin is how it fits on the ski. Standard skins are offset to leave the edge slightly clear. ProFoil has the scale technology to compensate for any need of edge, and they are fit edge to edge.
I had some significant concerns that this might be the downfall of the technology. I can understand how the sharp pattern on the whole would hold, but what about just a fraction of the skin on a steep cross climb. After making a handful of z’s up the slope, the ProFoil worked incredibly well. The discrepancy with this application compared to a standard skin was close, but what I found was that the ProFoil had one significant advantage. With standard skins, there is a point toward the end of a kick turn on a steep slope that exposes the slight bit of edge to the snow in the unweighting of the base ski. This often leads to a complete release of the skin, and allows the ski for an instant to slide. It’s the harbinger of steep skinning for a lot of entry level AT skiers, and it takes a lot of practice to overcome the issue. With the ProFoil, there is NO slip at all. Even when a single small line of the scales is in the snow, your ski is totally stable. The kick turn on steep slopes is extremely efficient and easy with ProFoil; it’s was extremely evident as a major plus for me.
Further up the slope, I came to a catwalk and the glide of the ProFoil is just a dream. I found myself gliding effortlessly up the flat catwalk, a welcomed benefit after the exertion of the steeper slopes below.
Over all, I did not know what to expect with the ProFoil, and out of the box, I had a bit of skepticism. For the first few runs, I kept my guard up high, waiting for the slide. Gradually, I learned that I could totally rely on the ProFoil, and with that confidence, I relaxed and the more I did, the more my body weight fell into the grip of the skin, and I found them to be a significant improvement over standard skins. This will without question be a massive enhancement to the AT ski touring game. There is no grey area comparing them to standard skins. They are better in every aspect. The ProFoil will be a Fischer specific product available here at 8kpeak.com later this Fall. We are super excited.