Update, November 2015: After extensive testing I’ve concluded that this type of skin “adhesive” is problematic in colder temperatures such as our routine winter weather in Colorado, or in places such as interior Canada. We feel High Trails has a place, but best used in warmer temps or in situations where skin failure is a non issue, such as resort uphilling or “one lap” ascents with easy exits.
Some of you might remember our several year epic with the revolutionary Gecko skins. You know, the ones that were “glueless” and had amazingly civilized behavior around dog hair and dirt — but seemed to always fall short in durability.
The same or similar “molecular adhesion” technology is in use by Swiss company High Trail. Their skins have been out in the wild for some time now, but we’ve been gun shy about testing due to previous experiences with this technology. Now it’s time to put on the ballistic vest and give these guys a good long-term try. Interestingly, the High Trails honor us with a rat tail that harkens to the tail fix method we helped refine many years ago, only this one has a nice little catch thingy so you don’t have to put a screw in the tail of your ski. Very cool.
In testing, Lisa has used the High Trail skins on her DPS Wailers for quite a few days. She’s had no problem with adhesion, and inspection for mechanical damage to the “adhesive” reveals a few small dings but nothing that compromises performance. “I don’t need shoulder surgery after taking them off my wide skis,” she says, “That’s my favorite thing. They’re also much more forgiving of contamination.”
The tip and tail attachments have held up fine. I noticed the plush along the custom-cut edges unraveling more than conventional skins after a few days of use. Cure was a quick hit with the Bic.
The flaming question with these sorts of skins is how they perform in wet or cold conditions. We’ve found the High Trail adhesive to behave about the same as conventional glue in the wet, and perhaps even better as the adhesive is extremely hydrophobic. In situations such as rain or soggy snow, you can shake the moisture off and dry the skin by rubbing against something like a cotton shirt. Care becomes more difficult when the High Trail glue gets coated with dry/cold snow. With conventional skins, you can rasp such snow off the glue by rubbing on your ski edges. Doing so with the High Trails would probably damage the adhesive. Solution, you’ve got to be more careful with getting snow on them when removing and storing.
Overall, we’re giving the High Trails a tentative thumbs up, but since durability seems to be the main challenge with “no glue glue,” we feel an extended use cycle is necessary before we start raving. We’ve got enough skiing left this spring to take care of that, so stay tuned.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.