[Click here for our first Contour climbing skins factory visit report.]
We love being in Austria and visiting our friends the Barthels in the village of Bad Haering — the now hallowed vector of tech binding innovation. Beyond the Tyrolean hospitality (we owe them major thanks for helping us stay sane during three weeks of rain) and typical Austrian network of tourism friendly restaurants and trails, we like the proximity of various ski equipment companies. All due to the industrial artery of the Inn valley motorway combined with a strong regional ski touring tradition (regions of the alps around Innsbruck and Kitzbühel, and so on).
One such gear maker of the Tirol is Koch Alpine, producer of Contour climbing skins. While owner Werner Koch didn’t have much new gear to show-and-tell during our visit this spring, we did have a nice discussion about ski touring demographics and the skin business.
Of interest, the German and Austrian armies will be trying a few thousand pair of the Contour Hybrid skins. We like hearing that sort of thing, as we’re certain that with business riding on military sales, a bug-free product will ensue. Speaking of which, it’s known that some of the Hybrid skins last winter had a problem with delamination of the two “hybrid” glue layers. It was nothing drastic, more cosmetic than anything else and of course honored by warranty. Werner said the delam was caused by poor temperature control in the out-of-house manufacturing of the skins. Solution: Contour Hybrid skins will have the high tech bonding adhesive layer and the ski-base glue laminated at Werner’s factory in Austria, where he can keep a closer eye on things.
But the real reason we visited Werner (beyond having an espresso) was to get the word on cleaning the Contour Hybrid skins. According to Werner, any skin with ultra-sticky glue is going to pick up a lot of contamination over a season of use. If nothing else, the skin glue is going to pull wax off the ski base every time you strip fur. This is part of the reason, perhaps the major reason, that skin glue stops working. Advantage of the Contour Hybrid glue is it’s chemically stable — you can simply scrub it with wax remover and end up with like-new performance. No need for messy and fiddly glue re-application.
So, while visiting Koch we got a good demonstration on just how well some work a can of wax remover can take a Hybrid skin from frustrating contamination to sticking like new. To help, Contour will sell their own branded Hybrid skin glue cleaner in an aerosol can. You can actually use any wax remover on Contour Hybrid skins, but Werner picked out the most effective he could find and bottled it.
In other Contour Hybrid skin news, a good test is a mega-slog in sub zero temperatures. To that end, Contour Hybrid skins were used for a south-to-north crossing of Norway last winter. Did I say mega-slog? Yes. But how about a mega-mega-slog? Contour did that to, on the skis of a guy who trekked to the South Pole in temperatures reaching negative 30 centigrade (-20 F). That seems warm for the pole, but certainly cold enough for a skin glue test. Both trekkers used Werner’s glide prone mohair formulation for obvious reasons.
Also developing at Countour is a complete series of tip and tail fixes that take it to the next level. Check out a few more photos.
Getting beyond skins, I was curious how Werner’s binding adapter for kid’s touring has sold. He said about 1,000 units went out last winter. Since the adapter is adjustable and can be used for several kids, as well as passed along, 1,000 is a significant number.
In all, I’ve still got high hopes for what Werner is doing with the Hybrid skins, as well as his other innovations.
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.