By Teemu Virtanen
Additional writing by Theresa Fugger
Research material by: Cross-Country Ski Headquarters & Cross-Country Skiing Planet
In today’s world, cross-country skiing has become much easier and simpler for recreational skiers as there are so many wax-free options and skin-skis to select from. The old-fashioned waxing seems to be passé and even fluor based glide waxes are becoming quite questionable due to their environmentally hazardous effect. Nordic skiing is indeed “more user friendly” than ever before, and a recreational skier can go out for a nice workout without much thinking about the conditions and waxing his/her skis. A good pair of skin-skis needs practically no maintenance except occasional quick glide waxing.
Every ski brand has their own skin-skis, which can vary from recreational options to racing ones. But how did this trend really come about? According to the Cross-Country Ski Headquarters and Cross-Country Skiing Planet sites, Atomic introduced their Skintec technology (teflon-infused synthetic mohair grip section) a few years ago, and after that every other ski company has been trying to improve upon the idea. Atomic had apparently already started testing the technology at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Initially, they were experimenting with using klister, a very sticky grip wax, to glue strips of mohair onto the kick zones of a wax ski, but they soon moved away from the glue-on approach and started actually to insert the skin strips into the ski.
But the idea of skin-skis is not a new invention or something that only Atomic has been experimenting on. Skin-skis were already popular in the late 70’s and early 80’s, but they never truly reached critical mass, primarily because ski production at the time was not quite sophisticated enough. In the past, when we were talking about waxless skis, we referred to the fish-scale skis or the zeros, which are skis with a roughened sandpaper like base and work the best at near zero temperatures. Over the years, the ski manufacturing process has developed and major advances have been made in ski construction allowing skins to return, and now all major Nordic ski makers have jumped on that bandwagon, and more skin-ski models are becoming available every year.
What really makes these skin-skis so impressive and why do they have an edge over traditional (or “fish scale” style) no-wax bases? There are two important scenarios where skin-skis are superior; the first of which is icy and/or manmade snow conditions. The synthetic mohair that makes up the skin is especially good at gripping icy snow, where a traditional no-wax base might slip. Skin-skis also excel in warmer snow temps when there is fresh snow, and when a dreaded “ice clump” might form on the bases of traditional skis. A third bonus is that they don’t make any buzzing sound, as do all fish-scaled skis, when gliding downhills or striding on flats.
So, skin-skis are certainly worth checking out if you want a carefree approach to your skiing hobby. As mentioned earlier, you can find a right model from any ski brand at any sports store near you. Additionally, you can even get skin strips inserted onto your old pair of classic skis.
Esa and Pasi Vironen from Finland started their own Custom Ski company with an idea of putting skin strips onto used skis so that people could use their old skis instead buying new ones. They say that the old pair needs to be a bit stiffer than normally so that the installed strips work well. If the skis are too soft, the strips will prevent the skis from gliding properly. According to Esa and Pasi, you can ski about 2,000 kilometers with properly installed skins. Their business is blooming at the moment as many enthusiastic recreational skiers in Finland bring their used pair of skis for repurposing, and they are certainly offering a viable alternative to branded skin-skis sold at various sports stores.
These Finnish entrepreneurs are not the only ones going against the major players in the field. Tim Tröschel, former cross-country ski professional and academic sport scientist founded his own company in 2012 in Klingenthal, a popular German ski jumping and cross-country skiing venue. First, he sold roller-skis and Nordic cross-skates until he also started selling cross-country skis in 2016. Finally, in 2017, Tröschel launched his first own roller-ski and clothing collection before he started creating his own cross-country skis produced in Klingenthal in 2018.
His newest creation for the season 2019/20 is the model NORDICX Aschberg Classic Waxfree. No kick wax is needed as the aforementioned skin technology is used and no glide wax is necessary because of a nano-base. The skis are supposed to be faster than standard skin-skis and preserve nature and environment due to not using wax at all. You only need 10 minutes to take your skis to the correct temperature and they are good for any weather. With his small local business in Germany, Tröschel sets new standards towards a more environmentally friendly approach in cross-country skiing.
As we can see, skin-skis are here to stay and there are many options for consumers to choose from. You shouldn’t have any excuses not to go out and start training for your upcoming long distance ski events – waxing certainly isn’t the problem anymore! While you are getting ready for the winter and contemplating the idea of getting skin-skis or tweaking your old pair, you can read another article of ours about the subject matter published at the dawn of the last season: