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Get Up to Get Down: 6 Skinning Tips From Pros That Know

Thursday, February 9, 2017
Spend enough time in the skin track and you’re guaranteed to come across that awkward, seemingly insurmountable switchback, and think … am I missing something? The deal is, skinning, though simple on the surface, actually involves a few crucial skills.

You bend your knees, steady yourself and eye the exit one last time. It’s really not that steep, you think. Taking a couple of deep breaths, you count to three and then spring into action! But as soon as you straighten your legs … you start sliding backwards?

Unfortunately you’re not trying to hit a sick 10-foot booter in the backcountry. In fact, you’re just trying to make it up the skin track. As your friends fade into the distance after gracefully dispatching the last steep switchback with a move akin to a half pirouette, you’re forced to call out that pride-killing four-letter word: Help!

Don’t worry. Anyone who’s ventured into the backcountry has likely had a similar experience. Skinning looks a lot easier than it really is. In truth, there are crucial skills to learn that make it way easier. We reached out to three BD Athletes to hear their hard-earned tips on skinning efficiently in the backcountry.

Image: Scott Markewitz

Tobin Seagel:

Hailing from Vancouver, BC, BD Athlete Tobin Seagel grew up on the ski hill. He’s ticked big lines in far-flung ranges, from Kashmir to Alaska, but he’s still passionate about exploring the backcountry near his hometown of Whistler.

1. AstroGlide

Your mother always told you not to drag your feet, right? Well, in this case, she was wrong (sorry Mom!). Skinning is not a march. It's a graceful shuffle. Lifting your ski every step will put strain on your hip flexor throughout the day as you lift the weight of your ski, boot and binding thousands of times. Be lazy... er, I mean efficient. Slide your skis and feel the glide.

2. Stay low, Yo

How often do you switch your heel risers from low to high, and back to low? That takes a lot of time and energy! Try to set your skin track at a consistent, moderate angle so you can sit in the low heel riser position and motor. You might travel slightly farther throughout the day, but you'll end up moving faster and your legs will thank you.

3. Cunning Kick Turns

Steep switchbacks can be tricky, even if you've been doing them for years. The key is patience. Getting the first foot around is easy. Then you've got to set that first leg. Moving the second leg is the crux. I often see people go full ballerina as they lean forward to kick their second leg backwards so they can get it far enough way from the slope to complete the turn. Instead of joining the cast of the Nutcracker, try pausing just slightly as you lift your second leg and let your ski tip pivot upward. Once the ski is more vertical, it will come around parallel to your first ski easily and you'll look like a pro.





Kim Havell:

BD Athlete Kim Havell has skied on all seven continents, with first descents on four, and has skied big mountains in the Himalayas and Karakorum. She works as an EXUM Ski guide in the Tetons and can be found roaming the Wyoming backcountry.

4. Pace Yourself

Listen to your body—don’t follow the fast car. Start slow and warm up your diesel engine. If you have lots of energy near the top, you can sprint at the tail end of the outing. In the backcountry, it’s important to have gas in the tank for the downhill, if the day does not go as planned, and/or if you want to do multiple laps.

5. Cheat Your Turn

Sometimes a kick turn can be an inefficient use of energy in tough spots with tricky angles. Take the path of least resistance and work with the topography. You can make a 3 to 10 point turn in some of these cases. Keep the turn comfortable so you aren’t burning unnecessary energy.

Image: Mark Fisher

Jordan White:

Born and raised in Denver, Colorado, BD Athlete Jordan White started venturing in the mountains as soon as he could walk. Currently residing in Aspen, Colorado, Jordan has climbed and skied every 14er in Colorado. Oh, and he tends a mean bar too.

6. Stab Your Ski In Pow

Watching people switch-backing in pow can be rough. When doing a kick turn, if you take the first ski you turn and stab the back of it under the ski you are standing on, you can slide your feet closer together and not feel like you are struggling through an uncomfortable yoga pose. This obviously works best in soft snow and without twin tips.

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