Ever found your skins to be too hard to pull apart after storing glue-to-glue, or for that matter, so welded to your skis you fall over when you get fancy and try a transition with your skis still clipped to your boots? Count me in on both demographics. And know that these two pain-points are why the Contour Hybrid glue was invented just a few short years ago.
Contour’s Hybrid met the promise, albeit with a few growing pains you can read about in previous posts. Now, I’m delighted to report our testing of two pair Hybrids has gone without a hitch. Read on.
We’ve covered Contour’s proprietary glue in quite a few blog posts, but here it is in a nutshell. Hybrid is a two-layer system. One layer bonds to the skin fabric and creates a substrate the actual “skin glue” adheres to. This system eliminates the need for a glue that will stick to your ski base, and the skin fabric. As these are two very different materials, single-layer glue tends to be sticky so it’ll bond to the skin, which often makes it cling excessively during handling.
The Hybrid system allows Contour to use any level of glue-stickiness. And in the case of Hybrid skins, they choose to provide tackiness that’s an intentional compromise between stick-to-the-ski-ness along with easy handling. It’s on about the same level as what has come to be called “European” tack, often said to be better for warmer temperatures (though that might be a myth) but most definitly easier to handle than some of the more sticky carpets I’ve encountered — the ones that nearly ripped my expensive rebuilt shoulder apart during removal from my skis. (Do note that for extreme cold or wet conditions, you should experiment and figure what works best for your needs, as to hot-melt vs. Hybrid glues, as well as brands.)
Other important aspect of Hybrid glue: It’s somewhat inert compared to your average skin glue. You can clean it with ski wax cleaner, and scrub it with soap and water under a running faucet.
In our experience the latest Hybrid glue version has been plenty durable. Ours has not separated like the first installment did several years ago, and we’ve had no problems with it chemically deteriorating. That said, good hygiene is still important. Like any climbing skin, Contour Hybrids should be kept out of direct sunlight, and long-term stored with liners and no sharp folds (roll them up). Incidentally, while the earlier Hybrid skin glue-side was a light tan color, these are black.
We used our Contour testers for quite a bit of resort uphilling this past winter, often on re-frozen abrasive snow. Lisa’s mixers show zero wear. My mohairs show a little balding on the edges, but nothing I’m concerned about. Main point with skin durability is to remember they’re like lightweight efficient bicycle tires, they wear, that’s part of the deal. If you don’t ski much you can probably use a set of climbing skins until the glue gets weird. But if you’re active, buying a new set every season or two is not excessive.
Important. This version of Hybrid is definitly tackier and thicker than earlier iterations. I found it to work fine in colder temps, and require less care as to water and snow contamination during re-skins.
I most often run 100% mohair skins. I’m addicted to glide. Contour’s orange, contour-line patterned Hybrid Pure plush did not disappoint in that regard. They slid as well as most mohairs, and better than some. Lisa tested the Hybrid mohair/nylon Mix. Nothing surprising here either. A bit less glide than full mohair, and noticeably more uphill grip. If I could only have one type of plush, I’d go with the mixed version in any brand, as it’s a proven solution for general touring.
Our tested hardware is covered above. Know that Contour also sells four removable tip-fix systems, as well as the riveted version in kit form. I’ve not used their hook/loop solution but it looks promising. I have used their “Varioclip,” it’s excellent but takes care to get right. Their fold-through rubber tip-fix is the old standard and in my experience not the most ideal, though it’s good to keep a pair or two around for quickly re-purposing skins. They also sell a race-tip for notched tip skis.
Hybrid skins are sold with an effective cutter, and the backing is split so you can stick the center portion of the skin to your ski, while cutting the shape without fighting the skin glue. Overall, I’ve found DIY skin cutting to be learned behavior despite industry efforts to make it easier. If in doubt, just get a retailer to do it, as a scalpel in inexperienced hands can lead to unfortunate outcomes.
Contour’s quest at being the masters of plush continues to pay dividends. While their tail fix buckle requires widening the ski tail notch for best performance, in my opinion it’s the best out there. Their variety of hardware tip/tail fixes is unmatched in the industry. And most of all, their Hybrid adhesive is now in a mature state of development — we love it. Based on my experience this winter, thumbs up.
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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.