With their mostly simple, universal attachment systems (tip hooks and a tail clip), skins you need to trim yourself are an inexpensive and rather rewarding alternative to the “ready-made skins”, if I do say so myself. Plus, as significant as the price difference is, there’s really no difference in quality, which is definitely an added bonus. Not to mention, it’s really difficult to find ready-made skins for many older ski models, so cutting the skins to size is often your only option. Here are our detailed instructions for trimming your climbing skins:
Buying the right size and attachment system
Buying the right size and attachment system is the most important step. After all, you wouldn’t want your skins to be too small. I guarantee you’d be pretty disappointed in their performance! The length of the skins must be longer than the length of the ski, and the width of the skins wider than the widest point of the ski.
You should also consider what type of attachment system you want before purchasing. Even though virtually all manufacturers try to stick to simple and universal systems, all you freeriders out there with your extremely wide tips may have size or compatibility problems.
The easiest way to trim your skins is to have a professional do it, but that would result in costs we would save by not buying ready-made skins in the first place! Besides, the DIY method is so much better, anyway, right? The procedure doesn’t require any expert knowledge or magical powers, but merely a wee bit of patience, concentration and finesse.
Work surface and preparation
First of all, your ski must be secured so that it doesn’t shift while you’re trimming the skins. The best way to do this is to place it down on its edge and secure it using two hand-screw clamps or lay it down. I prefer the former because I feel it’s the easiest. The important thing is that the edges are freely accessible and do not move when you’re cutting. Otherwise, it’ll be pretty difficult to trim them with any precision. It is best to practise the movement you would make while cutting before actually doing it so that you don’t end up ruining the skin by cutting too much off.
Methods like drawing a template and then cutting off excess material are not recommended because, despite their apparent simplicity, they end up being rather tedious and more prone to errors.
Trimming: the tail first…
In most cases, the length of the skins have to be fine-tuned as well. To do this, attach skin to the tip of the ski and stick it on as smoothly and cleanly as possible so that one side of the skin coincides as closely as possible with one edge of the ski, while the other side of the skin sticks out over the edge.
First, cut off the excess material at the end of the ski. You don’t need a sharp knife for this – you can use a (large) pair of scissors as well. But, try not to cut off too much because it may prevent you from being able to attach the hooks.
This mechanism varies from manufacturer to manufacturer and sometimes additional tools, such as a hole punch, are required for attaching them. But don’t worry, a hammer can come in useful in such situations. Besides, how to attach the skins is usually explained in the instructions in a clear and concise way.
…Now to the sides
Now we start trimming the sides. Take a sharp knife or trimming tool and slide it along the length of the ski between the skin and base of the ski.
Trimming the skin works best when you prop the ski up, secure it and cut with a motion that goes downward and to the side. Also: if you keep the bit of material that is being cut taut as you cut, it will make trimming easier.
After the first cut, remove the skin and stick it on again, but not in the centre. Instead, place the side you’ve just trimmed about four millimetres away from the edge of the ski toward the centre.
Then trim the ski as before along the edge of the ski. This should give you about 2mm of exposed metal on each side, while the rest of the ski base that comes into contact with the snow is covered by the skin.
The trimmed skins should now have the same shape as the skis, minus the shovel and the edges. If the edges are not exposed, you will quickly notice that there’s something wrong when you’re traversing snow and ice.
Sealing and proofing your skins
Finally, the loose fibres from the cut need to be burned with a lighter to prevent fraying.
Use a small flame and slowly and carefully slide the lighter along the frayed edges. Always keep just enough distance so that the flame never touches the skins directly!
To proof your skins, take a liquid wax and apply it with a sponge. That’s it!
Now you have a freshly trimmed pair of skins! Get out there and enjoy the winter!