Are climbing skin cutters are as controversial as ski helmets? I kind of hope not but who knows. So, with trembling keyboard and hesitant finger tips I file this report:
Cutting skins to fit ski sidecut used to be a hassle. It still is unless you get everything right. Trad style was you did a simple sounding process of offsetting the skin to one side on the ski, cutting, then moving to the other side, cutting, and so on. In theory it worked, but moving the skin from one side of ski base to the other tends to get tedious, and the skin can end up uncentered or with a built-in curve once it’s cut. Key to making things easier is leaving the skin stuck to the ski and using a cutter that “automatically” offsets your cut from the ski edge. G3 was the first to come up with such a cutter. Now K2 will sell one as well.
For my test, I acquired a nice fresh pair of Black Diamond 100% mohair furs for my sweet new pair of k2 Coombacks. Not thinking through past experience, I ordered a fairly skinny pair of skins, my mistake but a good way to see the limits of skin trimmers. In their stock width, the skins were slightly narrower than the ski at tip and tail, while overhanging more and more towards the middle. Using the traditional razor method of trimming the skin, I easily got a good cut in this configuration.
But problems arose with the G3 and K2 cutters in that they have trouble starting a cut on the edge of the skin, rather than coming in from the end. In other words, because my skins were already narrow enough at tip and tail, the cut needed to be started on the edge of the skin, away from the ends. Turned out, the only way I could do this with G3 and K2 was to start the cut by first hacking in with a razor blade to make a start notch. Not ideal, as this resulted in a less than smooth curve to my cut.
So first lesson here is when you order skins, get them a centimeter or so wider than your skis AT BOTH TIP AND TAIL so you can start your skin cutter cuts at the end of the skin, and have plenty of off-cut material to work with.
Winner of the skin cutter street duel? I’ll take the G3 for kitchen counter work, k2 when I’ve got a ski vise available or want less base exposed — and I’ll still keep a razor blade handy. Again, remember it’s easiest to purchase skins that are around a centimeter wider than your ski at tip and tail, so you can start the G3 or K2 cutter at the front or rear end of the skin. But with stiffer skin backing, as with most nylon skins, you’ll get a smoother starting cut than you will with fabric backed mohair skins, so starting with nylon skins wider than the ski is not as important as with mohair.
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.