We’ve done quite a bit of Contour skin coverage over the past two years, but I figured a “reminder review” would be appropriate, as we really like these things. Yes, Contour ski touring climbing skins are pricey and not as well distributed as some other brands, but keep them in mind. We think they’re particularly appropriate if you find climbing skins difficult to handle, or you’re lazy about skin “hygiene,” meaning you let your dog sleep on the glue side or you’ve dropped them in a pile of pine needles.
While the Contour adhesive is not the “silicone non-glue” that we’ve been having ups and downs with over the years, it is what Contour claims to be a much better glue: more stable, doesn’t get gooey when warm or as compromised for stickiness when cold. More, they claim their adhesive is easily washable and can even be renewed by cleaning with wax remover if myriad applications to waxed skis have left you with gutless stickum. I’ve seen this demonstrated and it works. Quite impressive.
Contour says the problem with “normal” skins is the glue has to be heat sensitive so during manufacturing it can be bonded to the fabric substrate. Result is glue that changes performance according to temperature. Perhaps too gooey for some people, or in cold temperatures loosing its adhesion to the ski base. The difference with Contour is they use a two-layer adhesive. An inner heat-sensitive bonding layer that sticks to the skin, laminated with a more stable outer layer that sticks to your ski base.
In my experience, as claimed the Contour Hybrid adhesive makes the skins easy to remove from the ski, and stays stuck when I want it stuck. Contour says just store the skins glue-to-glue during winter (and with release liners in summer). I’ve been doing just that; they come apart easily and don’t seem to be getting the pilling and balling damage that sometimes happens with other brands when they’re stored glue-to-glue.
Downsides? Contour has had a few problems with the two-part glue coming apart. This has usually happened with some small “bubbling” of the adhesive that didn’t really change the way skin worked. Nonetheless they warrantied any occurrence. Also, the Hybrid glue is perhaps not as overall tacky at super low temperatures as some North American brands optimized for Rocky Mountain type climate. It’s been working well for me in Colorado, but I’m not as demanding on my skins as some of you sub zero multi-lappers out there.
The contour 70/30 plush yields reasonable glide combined with good traction, though I’d prefer the available all-mohair version for my fatter skis. The tip connector system is a puzzle, but once you get the hang of it they’re smart. It’s like an industrial designer went mad with engineering software and 3D printer; you need three hands as you hold the end of the skin inside a white plastic clamshell, along with the wire tip-loop. You then close the clamshell and move two tiny red catches to hold it closed. Easily the most sophisticated tip fix I’ve ever seen on a skin, but I’ve installed a few now and they work well for backcountry skiing.
There you go. If you’re shopping climbing skins for this winter’s ski touring, consider Contour. They’re available from selected retailers and etailers, more so in Europe but they’re imported to North America as well. CAMP is the importer for NA and sells the skins on their website.
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.