skin skis at the 2016 Birkie

Posted by Tony Mommsen on Mar 2nd 2016


How did skin skis work at the 2016 Birkie/Korte?

By Tony Mommsen


We’ve heard a lot of comments/questions about skin skis at the 2016 Birkie/Korke. We decided to dig a little deeper to see if we can reach any conclusions. This report starts with conclusions - followed by some first-hand reporting and hearsay.

If you used Skin Skis at the 2016 Birkie/Korte please let us know how they worked at

CONCLUSION FIRST -- Earlier wave skiers had better kick
Based on our skiing/asking and listening here is what we learned about skin skis at the 2016 Birkie.

  1. Birkie skiers with skin skis in the first wave had great kick, while all others had poor kick. We are concluding that the tracks were relatively dry for the first skiers and grew wetter as more skis slid over the snow. As the tracks became wetter the skins of the later wave racers became saturated - which caused the hair on the skins to lay down -- like the fur of a wet dog - and stop the skis from kicking. The tracks were fairly icey.

    Another - more upsetting - explanation as to why first wave skiers had better kick is that they are much better at kicking their skis. Bjorn Daehlie would say “I will kick the ski”. We can’t ignore that there is a quite a bit of technique to classic skiing and those with great technique require less kick.  


  2. Some of the fastest skiers used an anti Ice spray, like Start Anti Ice Glider Spray. This may have stopped the skins from becoming saturated during the race. We have also had luck reducing saturation by rubbing pure flouros and applying spray flouros into all brands of skins.

  3. Most racers on skin skis after Wave One found they could get better kick out of the track. They also found their glide was much worse and this area was rough and bumpy as well.

  4. Through all our research and conversations we saw no real difference in kick among all the brands of skin skis. It’s as simple as skis in the first wave had kick, later waves, not so much.

  5. Fishscales. We spoke with several racers who used fish scales and found and found they were all happy with their kick, and pretty happy with their glide as well. They were able to stay in the track most of the race.



Friday night before the Birkie, Kathy and I tested our skis on the Fish Hatchery Ski Trail near the southern end of the Birkie Trail. The Birkie Trail was closed to skiing for a few days so we thought this was our best options. Kathy tested her first generation Atomic Skintecs. Since her Skintecs have interchangeable kick-zones, Kathy was able to test her well-worn skins she had used all season and a brand new pair. The air temp was in the mid 30s (about what we expected for race start) and the track was glazed but not really icey. Kathy tried out several long climbs and got a good kick with both skins and chose the worn ones, in hopes of getting better glide. My Fischer Twin Skins, with very worn skins, also kicked well on these, moderate, long climbs.

Birkie 2016 - I had pretty good kick for the first 5-10km with slowly reduced to almost no kick at all. I found myself getting out of the track to get any purchase, then the glide was not nearly as good. Sorry to say, because of other issues altogether, I quit the Birkie at OO. Kathy skied the Korte and had almost no kick the entire race. She got fourth in her age group. She was very happy she signed up for the shorter race.

A year ago, on trails on the Gunflint Trail we started to learn about how very wet snow can affect skin ski kick. I was skiing The Banadad Trail on Salomon skin skis, it was a beautiful, sunny, day in the mid-forties. The track was pretty sloppy and, over time, I lost most of my kick. I removed my skis and found the skins were completely saturated with water. They were so wet that I could run my thumb down the skin and water drip out. I began to see how saturated skins would lay flat, like the hair on a wet dog, and not provide much kick. Luckily the Banadad was a very flat trail and I was able to double-pole back to the cabin. On the same outing, Kathy reported getting reasonable kick with her Atomic Skintecs. So, at least on this day, my saturation theory did not apply to all skin skis.

Back to the Birkie 2016

A few weeks before Birkie 2016 we (Gear West) created the Skin Ski Challenge at the Birkie where the fastest men and women on skin skis at the Birkie/Korte would receive awards.


Tom Anderson -- forerunner Fischer Twin - great kick all day

Birkie 3:19 - Rossignol Skins - I just with anti-ice spray before the start. My skis worked great the first 30-32 km.  They were slower than guys around me after that.  When we would jump out of the track onto the skate deck in spots, I had a tough time controlling them.  They seemed to slide all over the place.  On the lake I had excellent kick!

Birkie 3:32 - Fisher twin skins, kick rocked the whole time, glide not so much…

Birkie 3:43 - Used Salo RC Skins and flew past Lynne Cecil with good kick and glide.

Birkie 3:47 - Raced on Fischer Twin Skins and they were great.

Birkie 4:11

Birkie 5:08 - I used the skin tecs for the birkie but really had trouble getting any grip on the tracks.  Often I had to ski outside the tracks to get any kick.  I think the problem was that the tracks were just too icy for the skins. I ended up having a poor race (5:08 - which is an hour slower than my slowest birkie).

Birkie 6:16

Birkie 5:27 - Used skin Rossis started in wave 4 The skis were good for 15 k then thinks they got too wet.

Korte 1:43

Korte 1:47 - Skied on Salomon Equipe

Korte 1:53 On my Atomic skin skis I purchased last fall (and wonderfully fitted by Brian K), I won my age group (60-64)  And also won the 24k Classic on them yesterday at the River View Loppet in Brule (w/super slushy conditions).

Korte 2:02 - Fischer race skins - decent kick and great glide

Korte 2:04 - On Rossignol skins.  I am sure I was not the first, since my time wasn’t that fast, but maybe I would qualify for the oldest, at least I was first in my age group. By the way, I did not find anyone on skin skis that was happy with their choice for the conditions.  Mine only worked after our course parted from the Birkie skiers.


Korte 2:24 - I skied the Korte classic on Atomic Skin tecs. My bib # was 13803 and my time 2:24:06. I had great kick and pretty good glide, although draggy.

Korte 4:06




From Matt Liebsch

Skins worked well if they were a good fit to the skier.  AND they needed to be treated.  It was so wet that the water saturated a lot of people's skins, offering less than ideal kick.  Skiers that treated the skins with anti-ice products or even HF yellow parafin or CeraF... had much better luck.  But a skin-ski is still a classic ski and the fit is super important for the best performance.

This is really really important on any classic ski and Lynne nailed it  "My understanding is that SKI FIT is everything"

Honestly, a good classic ski should cost double?!  They are hard to find but it is why we carry so many pairs to make sure to get a correct fit.  Skate skis always glide but a not great classic ski can ruin the sport for someone... happened to me in High-school and is why it took many years for me to like classic... now I like it better than skate, I just happen to be better at skating  


From Lynne C.
I don't think the jury is back yet on these skis. There are so many models now and they are each slightly different. I wish I had had the confidence to use my Atomic Multi's for the Birke and prepared the base a little differently.


What I heard after the Birke:

Piotr used Zeroes. He had a great race

Josie and Dave Nelson used Zeroes (FIscher and Rossi, I think) and the first half was slow and the second half was awesome.

Jeff Staggs used Atomic Multis and he passed people the whole way. I did not choose these! DANG!!!!

Cole Hendrickson used Salo RC Skins and flew past me with good kick and glide.

My understanding is that SKI FIT is everything. And maybe the skier’s ability level and technique plays a bigger role? It seems to be somewhat all over the place ....

Kate Ellis was busy demoing all the waxless skis on Sunday. I'll add her to this list. And Leslie Hale who has Skintecs and really loves the Fischer Twin Skins


(If you used Skin Skis at the 2016 Birkie/Korte please let us know how they worked at

-Posted by Tony Mommsen on Mar 2nd 2016