Colltex Skins

Author: [ smburt ]   Contact Author: smburtFri Mar 03 01:03:06 UTC 2006

Colltex has been a leading name in natural mohair adhesive climbing skins for 30 years. For the past few years, they have been focusing their market on the European community. Now they're back. (Photo courtesy of Chris O'Grady, Back Country Ski Editor)

We were directed to the Colltex product line through Jayson Faulkner, of Recreation Outfitters Inc. in BC. He was excited to be part of bringing Colltex back to the North American market. As a result, they are back in the limelight, with a terrific range of natural, synthetic, and combi adhesive climbing skins. So whether you're in competitions or out earning your turns, there's a model well suited to your needs.

Back in December and January our Western snow editors Chris O'Grady (back country skiing editor) and Trevor Helwig (snowshoe editor) put the Colltex skins through the uphill paces. Here's what Trevor had to say after he returned from his trip to Wall Lake in Waterton National Park, Alberta.

Background: Mohair skins are somewhat of a departure from conventional synthetic skins. Made from natural wool fibres, Colltex are made from South African goats wool. Its stiff wool that gives, according to the manufacturer, a better glide than synthetic skins. Natural fibre skins are not a new technology and Colltex, a family owned company, was once a major force in the back-country skins market in North America.

Colltex (mix combi) climbing skins:

New school meets old school, this predominantly mohair skin has been mixed with a small amount of synthetic fibre to improve abrasion resistance and durability. I tested them on a three day trip into Snowspider mountain, an isolated peak in the Coast Range of B.C, knowing that this would put them through all their paces.

The ski into Snowspider Mountain included large amounts of elevation gain, wet snow, dry powder, long flat logging roads, short steep sections of tight trees, and long steep ridge ascents for the mountain itself. I was on a pair of the new Movement Freeheel Telemark skis, and the skins had been precisely laser cut by Colltex to a perfect fit, a nice touch I thought.

I rubbed the skins down with some Glop Stopper wax I picked up from MEC to deal with the wet snow we started on. Despite riding on such a fat pair of skis, it was immediately noticeable how well they held a glide. We had long sections of gently climbing and rolling logging roads before the climb approach to Snowspider, and this definitely made for lighter legwork. The further in we went, the lighter, fluffier and deeper the snow got.

Once we'd dumped our gear at camp, we headed for the mountain itself. It had been snowing most of the day, and the mountain was a powder hounds paradise. We climbed up a ridge through the trees into the alpine. The skins had no problem holding onto the steep terrain, whether breaking trail or following tracks. The glue continued to stick to the skis, run after run without issue.

While I tested skins with the combi-fixing system, with a rubber bail on the tip, and a riveted hook on the heel, I would personally tend towards their new camlock fixing system. Coltex's camlock has fully stiched down, no rivets to wear at your ski bases, less weight than other setups, and, like the original classic and guides setup, it makes it very easy to remove your skins without having to take of your skis or pack first, a definite plus when you want to just stuff your skins in your jacket and escape a cold and wind blown peak in a hurry.

~ Chris O'Grady

Trailpeak backcountry ski editor

Colltex (Mohair) climbing skins:

The skins I received were 100 mm wide and long enough to fit my 185 cm long telemark skis. Trimming them with a skin-cutting tool was no different than other brands and it took me about an hour to get them fitting. Upon advice from the supplier, I left 3-4 mm on either side of the skins to expose my ski's edges. Upon first glance I could not tell any difference between Colltex skins and synthetics. The Colltex skins come supplied with a water proofing liquid, which is something new for me.

I tried these skins out on Sunday, January 15th 2006 on a ski-tour to Wall Lake in Waterton National Park, Alberta. Plans for a more ambitious outing were set aside due to considerable avalanche risk. Conditions were not ideal as a light rain from the previous day had been covered by a light dusting of powder and a hard crust layer had formed near the top of the snow pack. Skiing with blue wax to the base of Akamina Pass, I threw my skins on for the 500 ft slog up the pass. After placing the skins, I applied the waterproofing liquid which is put on with a sponge applicator. Taking a couple of glides on level ground, I immediately noticed a difference over my old skins. There was indeed a bit of glide! Conditions got better on top of the pass but things were going so well I skied with skins all the way to the lake. This is not something I would have considered with my synthetic skins. With my synthetics you might as well be snowshoeing almost no glide whatsoever.

Glide: So, just how much glide was there? I don't want to overstate the glide; it was just a small amount that is only noticeable, of course, on level or downward sloping terrain. It's not like regular skiing! But for me, it made a big difference on my leg muscles, which were kept loose by the gliding motion. I even kept the skins on for part of the trip down the pass.

Grip: There were steep inclines on the way up and I was able to go straight up. No questions there!

Durability: I am fairly certain that if the Colltex skins are used with the waterproofing agent that they should last a few years, similar to synthetics. But this remains to be seen.

Glue: Same adhesive as other skins. They stayed on.

Bottom line: Colltex Mohairs are high performance climbing skins with more glide than synthetics. Recommended.

[Note from Trevor: Since January I have used the Colltex climbing skins on back-country trips in a couple of Alberta's great parks - Banff and Waterton. These trips have included Molar Meadows, Helen/Katherine Lake, Forum Ridge. Performance has been great and I continue to be more than satisfied with the Colltex skins. Still recommended!]

~Trevor Helwig

A note from Jayson of ROI about the durability of mohair skins versus the synthetic type. Jayson really knows his stuff!

"My only addition would be that the 100% mohair skins are not quite as durable as nylon but Trevor's observation is correct, depending upon snow conditions used in. Spring frozen corn...yes wear could be perhaps 10% - 20% faster but on normal winter snow this would be less. That being said, the guides that we know say that there is no issue in their opinion with durability and given the better glide, well worth any potential trade off.

We had a tester here on the coast who when not using any treatment on the skin, claimed his tests showed a minimum of 9% better glide vs. his nylon. This was based on measuring his heart rate over a standard climb on multiple runs, same snow conditions but measuring heart rate doing the climb at the same speed/time each round. When downloading his data, his heart rate averaged 9% less with Mohair. A remarkable difference in efficiency!"

Jayson Faulkner, ROI

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