They are used by some serious skiers on longer routes like the famous Birkebeiner when there is new snow forecast on a hard base for example, or when there is uncertainty about the ground temperature coming over +1 'C from below freezing at the start ie to avoid stopping to wax and to get predictable kick and hence a comfortable rhythm for the day.
Furthermore some serious and pro racers use a ski for these melting - freezing
conditions called a "Zero" which have a strange rubbery-leathery synthetic
kick zone built in which is rubbed up to produce tiny hairs !
However the times they are a changing again for wax-less skis and how
prominent they may become in the main sales segment "mid market" in the next five to ten years.
Nanotech which is so small you cant see the skis any more:
There is a new nano technology which is similar to some mica kick zone skis
from the 1970s. They feel rough and are more like snake skin than mohair. The
manufacturer offered to even re-sole the kick zone for a small fee if they do wear out. Some said they worked in a range of conditions but they have disappeared from all my region's shops.
I would have like to try a pair because they were reasonably priced and a light tour ski format in width and length, which is what I use in waxed skis now. Fling 'em in the car and head off into the unknown.
Have We A New Champion of Wax-Less? Step forward Atomic SkinTec
The other new system seems to offer lots, but is rather puzzelingly aimed at the high end of training skis in price. It is the Atomic ski Skintec system.
This uses the same principle as the stick on mountain skins which cover a large part of the ski and are used for walking instead of fish-boning, or kicking on hard and icy tracks. These are now a synthetic mohair which is rough when "back
combed" and smoother with the direction of travel.
Skintec is basically this same fibre technology embedded into the sole of the ski just at the centre in the kicking zone, and held in place by magnets. There are then two inserts: one with a "groove" ie two strips and a grippier one withou the partition just a single pad. The extent of this mohair insert is actually a bit shorter than an average kick wax zone!
Skintec on A Get Skinned Price
For me the only drawback is that Atomic have chosen rather oddly to sell this
ski to very serious skiers at a price tag of between 4000 and 5500 NOK,
although Coop have the 2013 model I believe for 3000 NOK .....that being WITH a good boot in a package.
The Skintec must be the R&D department getting all their stuff out at once. The ski has also a new bend technology which was used first here and
will be used in their top end 2014 skis so they say. This is supposed to be a
bend which only gives when the highest downward force is applied, otherwise it
suspends your foot area above the snow. It suddenly capitulates and allows a
very good contact between the mohair insert and the snow.
Zero Benefit For Me
As mentioned above, there is another relatively new waxless ski which is the Zero or "rubbing ski" and that has a kind of rubbery, leathery insert which is rubbed to the conditions each time, but as the name gives away it is aimed at skiing on the days when the snow is just melting around zero to 3 degrees on the ground.
Some skiers have used sprays on these or rubbed them differently and have had some good results in wider conditions but the skis are generally
expensive racing skis and you need to know a lot about it all as well as forking out a lot of cash.
Skintec May Conquer All but Maybe Not From Where it is Now ?
Skintec perform apparently or expectedly very well around zero or above when
you choose the broader mohair insert. The double insert is apparently great
What mystifies me is that you really have to work hard to sell wax less to
serious skiers who enjoy spending time waxing, often an hour per ski per day,
and who also like to use bad waxing as an excuse for a bad day. Atomic have a
team who use the skis for training and turn up in the YouTube ads showing off
the skis in good conditions ( they look pretty effective!)
The internet forums are full of scepticism about them and complaints about
softness or lack of any grip out of the tracks on the skating area, but these are comments from some serious gear bitches.
Whatever the detractors say, and that is more about the pre-bend than the skin technologcy, I reckon atomic should have rolled this out to the serious touring
skier on broader skis like mine. This is the part of the market who is likely to want to go further without waxing. Also to "mosjonist " fitness skiers, in a training ski less than half the price of the Skintecs now out. Then they would get traction in the market for sales of replacement or new and fancier mohair inserts, bringing down the price of these. After that they could / should attack the new beginners market with a top of segment ski package at under 2000 kr including binding and boot.
They also come in two different prebend kilonewton type resistance in the
spring for the same arch probably, but as a heavy man it sounds like they are
not going to be my cup of chuck even at 3000 kr including a very good pair of
boots from Coop Obs this month.
I will definetly try to get a test run on some 206cm hard spring version if I
possibly can to see if they do hold my enormous over 100kg weight without the
mohair rubbing when not kicking, but also hope the technology is run out in
lower range skis soon.
Not Forgetting Your Fantaski
A company up in Telemark run by an inventor are also doing skis with a conversion to a recessed insert which looks like the hooked sided of velcro. The other day a guy turned up with a pair of skating skis he got from Fantaski. They had this insert and he said it gave him traction up hill and he could kind of kick off on them.
Good luck to the eccentric Telemarking, last seen with a pop out spinnaker system on a ruck sack for ski-sailing with a following wind.
Anyway, I think my money is on Skintec in future as a really big market player , but maybe only after Atomic's patents run out or they see sense and launch it lower in the price ladder.