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Black Diamond Glidelite Mix STS Review

Black Diamond GliteLite Mohair Mix STS Climbing Skins
Editors' Choice Award
Price:   $180 List | $179.95 at MooseJaw
Pros:  Light and versatile
Cons:  Floppy material rolls and peels, allowing some snow between ski and skin
Bottom line:  Universally compatible and high performing, these are the best skins on the market for whatever sticks you take into the backcountry.
Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
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  • 5
 
Manufacturer:  Black Diamond
Weight per pair:  540 g
Weight per skin:  270 g
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond

Our Verdict

Top performing climbing skins, even more than other categories, are not all that flashy. After all, they spend all their relevant time underfoot, literally ground into the dreary up-tracks of our otherwise gravity fueled fun fests. Even when we truly dive into all the ins and outs of climbing skins, we find that the best products are simply middle of the road. Most outdoor equipment strikes compromises. Skins, though, are the ultimate in compromise. We want them to grip well and glide well. That alone is the ultimate in contradiction. The need to balance contradicting needs leads to an inherent bias to absolute middle of the road products. In the case of our Editors' Choice, we picked a product that is a literal blend. The Black Diamond Glidelite Mix STS combines two very different materials -nylon and natural mohair- to create our top scoring product.

New Version Available — February 2017
The Glidelite Mohair Mix has been replaced with a brand new version called the Glidelite Mix STS, pictured above. The previous Mohair Mix model is not longer in production. The new skins have a different look as well as new glue. Keep reading for more information!


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Climbing Skins for Backcountry Skiing


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Jediah Porter

Last Updated:
Sunday
May 31, 2015

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The New GliteLite Mix STS vs. the Original Glitelite Mohair Mix


Still retailing at $180 and available in three lengths (110, 125, and 140 mm), the new GliteLite Mix STS skins feature a few significant updates. The glue is new alongside a different design pattern.

Check out a side-by-side comparison here, with the new skins on the left and the original version that we reviewed on the right.
Black Diamond GliteLite Mohair Mix STS Climbing Skins
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Here's a full summary of the updates:
  • Glue — Black Diamond introduced a new glue compound this year for their GliteLite skins. We thought their old glue was magical, so we're interested to see how this new stuff compares.
  • Print Design — Black Diamond updated the look of these skins with a black and white Icon print.

Because we haven't yet tested the new version of these skins, the rest of this review continues to reflect the previous version of the Glitelite Mohair Mix.

Hands-On Review of the Glidelite Mohair Mix


The Mo-Mix skins are a widely available, widely compatible product that strikes one balance after another in favor of ultimate performance. Others come very close, but the Black Diamond edges just ahead.

Performance Comparison


IFMGA Aspirant Guide Jeff Witt strips the Editors' Choice Black Diamond Mohair Mix at Rogers Pass  BC. Real world testing revealed that skins must make real compromises to optimize overall performance.
IFMGA Aspirant Guide Jeff Witt strips the Editors' Choice Black Diamond Mohair Mix at Rogers Pass, BC. Real world testing revealed that skins must make real compromises to optimize overall performance.

Glide


We want skins that glide well. At first glance, and to the uninitiated, this seems unimportant. The uphill portion of a backcountry ski day is simply plodding along slowly. Gliding is the last thing we envision. Sure, we often scoot down short hills on the way up without removing our skins, but the bulk of uphill travel is slow and cumbersome. Gliding isn't a word we'd use to describe the overall travel. Look more closely at truly efficient uphill travel, however, and you will see that each step taken by an accomplished skinner has a gliding portion. The best climbers all slide their skins ahead rather than lifting them. This slide is crucial to efficiency. We can't quite put our fingers on why, but we know it to be true.


If glide is important to each step, it is important to your whole climb. If it is important to the entire climb, it is important to 80% of your backcountry ski day. On the other hand, we need skins that stay put on the ski, and that grip the snow well enough to keep forward progress rolling along, and that last through multiple seasons. Some attributes that contribute to good glide compromise in other ways. Gliding is indeed very important, but these top scoring skins are not the best gliders. But the combination of nylon and mohair allows for the best balance of glide and grip, which is why we find them to be exceptional.

Ian McEleney removes skins for a run downhill along the Icefields Parkway in Alberta  Canada  while OGL editor McKenzie Long looks on.
Ian McEleney removes skins for a run downhill along the Icefields Parkway in Alberta, Canada, while OGL editor McKenzie Long looks on.

Grip


The grip is why we use skins. Skis are slippery on their own; we need to add traction for uphill travel. That being said, as noted above, we also need the skis to glide forward. Grip and glide are, therefore, at odds. The best gliding skins are not the best grippers, and vice versa. With glide, more is better. With grip, we only need so much. We need our skis to grab the snow at an angle that suits the most efficient rate of ascent. The steepest track, even if our skins would stick, is inefficient on our legs. Tilting the angle back is better for the rest of our bodies.


We only need skins that stick to moderate slopes. The Mo-Mix skins, used with good technique, stick just fine in any terrain you will encounter in typical backcountry skiing. Sure, you can get better grabbers. Notably, the Top Pick G3 High Traction offers truly enhanced grip. To climb the steepest terrain possible, in a straight plumb line, choose the HT. Otherwise, the Mo-Mix skins will suit you just fine.

The BD Mo Mix skins in action on Mount Cheops  BC  Canada. The mohair blend grips well enough for basically all backcountry settings while gliding better than most.
The BD Mo Mix skins in action on Mount Cheops, BC, Canada. The mohair blend grips well enough for basically all backcountry settings while gliding better than most.

Glue Integrity


Black Diamond makes excellent, magical skin glue, and plasters it onto all of their skins. It sticks when you want it to (to your skis), and lets go when you need it to (in deployment when pulling skin from skin after storage). Among our tested Black Diamond skins, though, we found variation in actual glue integrity.


It turns out that, no matter how strong the glue is, the stiffness of the backing material matters. Supple skin material rolls and peels more readily than stiff. This is true across the board, but is most apparent when comparing Black Diamond skins, as we can correct for tip attachment and for glue strength. Nylon skins are stiffer and Mohair is softer, with the blend -no surprise here- falling in the middle. The Mo-Mix skins did not stay on quite as well as the full nylon. Overall, these skins stayed stuck well enough.

Close up view of the tip attachment of the Black Diamond Mohair Mix skins. The bulky metal housing joining cable loop to skin allows for the penetration of snow  more so than on other skins we tested.
Close up view of the tip attachment of the Black Diamond Mohair Mix skins. The bulky metal housing joining cable loop to skin allows for the penetration of snow, more so than on other skins we tested.

What would a review be without some nitpicking? In other rating categories like grip or glide where the Mo-Mix skins make clear compromises, we can forgive and justify these compromises in the interest of balancing performance attributes. With glue integrity, as it relates to the fabric stiffness, we see no reason the fabric couldn't be stiffer. Other skins in our review, like the Dynafit Speedskin and La Sportiva LS Tour Skin are just as light and packable, but stiffer and therefore stay stuck on skis better. Further, other skins we used, the Dynafit in particular, have tip attachments that do a better job of locking the material down to work with the glue and fabric stiffness to keep the skin from rolling. The simple cable tip loop of the Black Diamond skins isn't the most secure attachment when it comes to slowing the penetration of snow between ski and skin. In the end, the Mo-Mix skins stayed on our skis well enough, but they could be better. We tested them without the optional tail clip and had no significant problems in the rear. A perfect product, however, would do better regarding overall glue integrity. Other products, including the full nylon G3 Alpinist , do better at the vulnerable tip interface.

Close up view of tip area of BD Mo Mix skins. The softer fabric and somewhat higher profile tip attachment allows for some snow to penetrate between ski and skin. You can see the snow in this photo.
Close up view of tip area of BD Mo Mix skins. The softer fabric and somewhat higher profile tip attachment allows for some snow to penetrate between ski and skin. You can see the snow in this photo.

Icing/Glopping Resistance


We found nothing notable regarding icing resistance on the Mo-Mix skins. All skins we have ever used ice up at least little in the right circumstances. The Editors' Choice winner is no exception. While it would be nice if there were a product that resisted icing, it seems unlikely. Even bare ski bases can ice up when the snow is variable, switching between cold and dry and moist and warm. To achieve the traction necessary from skins, they need to be textured at least a little. Because of this inherent texture, they will always be even more vulnerable to icing than smooth, bare ski bases. There are tips and tricks to minimize skin icing, and mainly it involves waxing the skins.

Close up of fabric and glue on Black Diamond Glidelite Mohair Mix skins.
Close up of fabric and glue on Black Diamond Glidelite Mohair Mix skins.

Packability and Weight


Making direct, quantitative comparisons of the weight of the skins we tested was difficult. Because each pair of skins was cut to a specific model of ski, and because each skin has different tip and tail attachments (and in the case of Black Diamond skins, different options), there is no easy direct comparison of actual weight. That being said, we could make some rough comparisons and generalizations. Once again, the Mo-Mix skins come out in the middle. The blend of materials hedges its bets with the heavier nylon and lighter mohair to find a spot in the center of the spectrum. The material itself is perhaps beefier than average blended skins, but we tested the STD model which came with no tail clip at all.


The best way to get something lighter is to leave it off entirely. In the case of skin tail clips, they are largely unnecessary. We had no problems with skin retention of the Mo-Mix that we could attribute to the lack of a tail clip. We did appreciate the smaller and lighter form we ended up with.

Close up of tail of BD Mo Mix skins. As shown here  we tested these with no tail kit. All BD skins are available this way  and there are few disadvantages of this configuration.
Close up of tail of BD Mo Mix skins. As shown here, we tested these with no tail kit. All BD skins are available this way, and there are few disadvantages of this configuration.

Ease of Use


As compared to the other skins we tested, there is little notable about the Mo-Mix and ease of use that stands out. The glue pulls from itself easily. The Top Pick La Sportiva LS Tour Skin skins pull easier. After going on and on about no need a tail kit just above, we will point out here that removing flat tail skins is a little trickier than removing those with tail kits. These flat skins require either bare hands or the tip of a ski pole to make the initial disengagement of the skin. Once you get a corner up, they remove just like any others.


Compatibility


Along with the other Black Diamond and G3 skins, the Mohair Mix product is universally compatible. All Black Diamond skins are equal in this regard, but we bumped them down from what the G3 scored because the G3 tip kit works with the absolute widest and roundest skis. The simple cable loop of the BD skins does not work very well, sometimes not at all, on the most broadly radiused ski tips.


Best Applications


We recommend the Black Diamond Glidelite Mohair Mix skins for basically all backcountry and ski mountaineering. Only those who absolutely must have more traction should consider choosing the more specialized G3 High Traction. As compared to all the other skins we tested, the Mohair Mix is superior overall. Additionally, these skins are compatible with just about any ski you may have or want.

Value


These are not the least expensive skins we tested, but they are close. As a top scoring product, they are priced very well. One caveat worth mentioning is that the mohair component of skins wears out with usage. Full mohair skins show wear in just a couple weeks of heavy use, and start to suffer in performance after a heavy season or two. It is harder to assess wear on the mixed skins, but it is surely happening. Very few tour often and hard enough to wear out skins, even pure mohair skins, faster than they wish to upgrade skis, but it does affect the value. Pure nylon skins will last longer than anything with any amount of mohair.

Conclusion


Even more than in other review categories, the dominating product is far from sexy. Climbing skins are decidedly unsexy on their own, and this top performer is outstanding for its middle-of-the-road performance across the board in our metrics. This, as outlined above, is a function of the inherent polarized attributes we ask of skins. If it has to both glide and grip, somewhere in the middle is going to be the sweet spot. If it has to drag along the ground for miles and miles, but pack down small, durability and weight are going to be carefully tuned. If the glue has to both stick and not stick… well, that's just magic. The Glidelite Mohair Mix is the best compromise, and therefore the best product, on the market. That much we can say.
Jediah Porter