Skinning is crucial in the side- or backcountry because it’s more efficient and less tiring than hiking in deep snow. The fur-like surface of skins flattens as you move uphill, allowing your skis to glide, but it grips to keep you from sliding back after each step.
Don’t be afraid. Skinning isn’t as painful as it sounds. In fact, it’s the most efficient way to propel yourself uphill. It’s a crucial skill for ski touring in the back- or sidecountry, where you don’t have the aid of a chairlift to get you to the top of a peak. Pete Swenson, Director of the U.S. Ski Mountaineering Association, says that almost anyone can do it. “If you’re capable of a slow jog, you can skin up the side of the hill,” he says. But before you venture out on your first sidecountry adventure, you’ll need the right gear and some sound advice.
All the skis we tested are light enough for even big ascents, but if you want to win a randonnée race, or outpace that partner with the Goodyear-blimp lungs, you've got to geek out and get weight-conscious.