Splitboarders can only travel uphill to the top of their line on the mountain if they are using skins. If you tried touring up a mountain without splitboard skins, you wouldn’t make it very far. The base of your board is designed to slide over snow and not grab, or dig into it. So if you are trying to splitboard up an incline without skins you will simply slide back down. If you splitboard up the same incline with skins you will keep going up.
How they work
Splitboard skins are strips of soft, rubbery material that have adhesive on one side and hydrophobic nylon mohair on the other side. The strips are cut to the outline of each half of your splitboard using a trimming tool (included with the skins package). The adhesive is specially formulated to grip to the p-tex on the bottom of your board in extreme cold and wet conditions. When you’re ready to transition over to riding mode, you simply pull the skins off, fold them up, and put them away in the skins bag. When you are ready to use them again just unfold and separate them, and re-stick them to your board.
The nylon mohair is a very fine and short thread that is woven into the core of the skin. It sits flat against the snow when moving forward and provides very little resistance. As soon you begin to move back the hairs stand up and grab into the snow, preventing the splitboard from sliding back. This is how you are able to travel up the mountain without sliding back down every time you move forward.
How they attach
Splitboard skins have a tenacious (reusable) glue backing that sticks to the base of your splitboard. They also attach to the tips of the board using either a stainless steel loop or bracket clips. You can also buy tail clips, which anchor the other end of the skin to the tails of your splitboard so that they do not move off of your board if snow or debris gets ledged between the skin and your base. Some splitboard skins, like the Spark R&D G3 Skins come with tail clips already attached.
After a certain amount of use your splitboard skins will need some attention. The nylon mohair is inherently hydrophobic but moisture still settles into the spaces between the hairs. So the skins are treated with a DWR waterproofing agent to help shed and repel this excess moisture. Over time the DWR coating wears off and the skins begin to hold more and more water and become mushy and heavy. When this happens the mohair will start to lose its ability to stand up and grab the snow, hence you may feel like you are losing some grip and sliding back more and more often. You can find a variety of DWR sprays at your local sports shop that will solve this problem. When you’re transitioning from touring to ride mode make sure you have brushed all the snow off the skin before folding it up and putting it back in the bag.
Packing and unpacking your skins
Your skins fold in half, glue side to glue side, and then once again before being put away. When it is really cold it will be harder to pull your skins apart. Some people keep their folded skins in a pocket on the inside of their jacket. Your body heat will warm the glue and make it easier to pull apart later when you are ready to transition to touring mode.
Cheat sheets are another way that you can make it easier to pull your skins apart. They are basically strips of Teflon coated nylon mesh that you put over the glue side of your skin. They prevent the skins from sticking together and when you’re ready to use them you simply pull the cheat sheet off and attach them to your board.
There are a few different companies out there making splitboard skins- Voile, G3 and Gecko. Voile skins are a little heavier but have longer hairs that provide really good traction. G3 Skins are a little lighter in weight, and the ones that Spark R&D sell come with adjustable tail clips. Gecko is a lesser know brand that make a glue-less skin so there is no grappling when getting them apart and they don’t pick up dirt and other debris. For more information on splitboard skins and how use and maintain them go to your local snowboard shop and find out which ones are best for you!