9 Beginner Tips for Splitboard / Ski Skinning
Whether you’re skinning up a mountain on a tour with skis or a splitboard, the techniques are similar. This article gives you beginner tips for skinning on either.
Learning a new sport can be challenging and fun all in the same day. Splitboarding has its ups and downs, literally and figuratively. Riding down is usually a good time, so let's look at the climbing up portion, splitboard and ski skinning. Here are 9 beginner tips to help you successfully skin up the mountain.
1. Practice Skinning on Flat Ground
Take an afternoon on some flat ground and get a comfortable feel for what skinning feels like.
Have you ever worn flippers for snorkelling and tried to walk down the beach? You may feel like you are going to trip over your feet at first. So take some time before you head out and go for a casual walk with your skins.
2. Stride length
Taking the right stride length while splitboard / ski skinning is important so you don’t waste energy on the way up the mountain. I always remind myself that I’m going for a “walk.”
Walking involves a steady comfortable stride. Smaller steps equal a greater multitude of energy output, while long lunges require a greater strength output. Find a happy stride that keeps your body from over exertion.
3. Stride Width
The width of a splitboarder / skier's stride while skinning is narrow. We aren’t wearing wide snowshoes that force us into a wide stance. The ideal width fits the nose width into the side cut of the board with each step
You want the “ski” to slide through and over the top of the snow. This saves energy. A common mistake is when folks act like they're wearing a set of snowshoes! Think more along the lines of cross country skiing, slide the ski forward. Just remember not to lunge.
5. Using your Heels
I ain’t talking high heels. The key to successful splitboard / ski skinning, especially uphill, is body posture. Slide forward, and plant your heel. Then pull your whole body forward over that foot, keep your chest up and your hips forward.
A massive common mistake here is people lean forward. They treat skinning as if it were hiking. Stand up proud.
6. Don’t Go Straight Up Hill
This isn’t a twisted version of king of the hill. Take your time to weave your way on a steady climb up hill when splitboard / ski touring. Don’t use your risers to set the grade of the trail. You will only make it more tiring on yourself and others if they’re following you.
7. Use your Poles to Engage Your Risers
As slope increases it’s easier to climb uphill with your risers engaged while splitboard / ski skinning. Use the handle of your poles to lift or drop the riser into place. As you practice you’ll become efficient. As time goes on you’ll barely need to take a break from your stride while climbing uphill effectively.
8. Use Old Skin Tracks
Use old skin tracks whenever splitboard / ski touring, it will save you plenty of energy. But beware – sometimes old skin tracks can be set horribly. Skin tracks with lots of kick turns, and on slopes so steep you’re using your risers more often than not, can use more energy than they’re worth.
Most importantly, don’t follow a skin track into the line of fire. Some skin tracks are set by people that don’t understand the danger in avalanche terrain. Be aware that a skin track could lead you into unsafe areas and put you at a higher avalanche risk. Always assess the conditions and never blindly follow someone else’s line.
9. Momentary Stops
While splitboard / ski skinning, some folks need to stop to adjust a pack, take a layer off, grab a quick sip of water or change trail leaders. None of these should be done on the skin track. Take a few steps away from it. This leaves room for other groups to pass, and your friends to keep their pace.
Splitboard / Ski Skinning Beginner Tips Summary
Being new to the backcountry and splitboarding will have some challenges. Hopefully these tips help keep you splitboard / ski skinning with a bit more ease and direction. If you want some instruction, be sure to check out our courses. And as always, if you have more questions please feel free to contact us below or reach out to us in store!
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Advanced and River 1 SUP Instructor Paddle Canada
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