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Volkl Universal Vacuum Skins

Paul Forward reviews the Volkl Vacuum climbing skin for Blister Gear Review

Volkl Vacuum Skin

Materials: Mohair and Nylon Hybrid

Stated Features:

  • Glueless Vacuum technology
  • Skin Pin tip attachment
  • Tail clip and strap

MSRP: $239

 

Intro

Volkl makes “glue-free” Vacuum Skins that are pre-cut for all of their BMT skis. These skins use Kohla’s “glue free” system, designed to be much easier to place and remove than traditional skins. And they certainly are — in all conditions, skin removal was the easiest we’ve ever experienced; there is practically zero resistance.

The problem we’ve experienced, however (with two different pairs of these skins, and after a year of testing) is getting them to stick to the bases of the skis.

We had struggled with the Volkl BMT 109 vacuum skins a while back in New Zealand, but that was mostly in warmer, wetter conditions. So it was worth giving them another chance when I was reviewing the Volkl BMT 122. Unfortunately, my experience with these skins throughout Alaska’s cold, wintery snow was no better.

After several days of repeatedly having one of the skins separate / slide off the base of the ski on the up track (sometimes even on my first ascent of the day), I finally cut a pair of Black Diamond’s very good Ultralite Mix STS skins for the BMT 122’s, and they have worked much better.

Performance

The Volkl skins fell off both while skinning in sun-warmed southern aspects and on cold northerly and early season powder. I’ve given them a few more chances, but after a particularly frustrating day of post-holing up a chute while my friends glided up the skin track, I’ve given up on them.

I should note that I have been using climbing skins regularly for over 20 years and am in the habit of keeping them clean of snow, drying them out every night, and typically ski down with them folded up inside my jacket against my inner layers to keep them warm and ready for the next up. Despite all of this, I’ve had poor success with my Vacuum Skins ability to stay on the skis.

This is unfortunate because the tip attachment of the skins is simple and effective, they are light, supple and easily folded, and the plush offers plenty of glide — their mohair plush provided grip and glide comparable to most other pure mohair skins.

Jonathan Ellsworth has continued to get some time on these skins with the BMT 109, and his experience echoes mine. In drier snow — and when applied to dry bases — he could get them to work. But in wetter conditions (or if the bases of the BMT 109’s got at all wet), he experienced the same issues I’ve described.

So if you are using these skins, your best bet is to meticulously wipe down and dry your bases before applying. But still, we can’t say that that has guaranteed to fix the problem.

Bottom Line

While Volkl’s precut climbing skins are extremely convenient, light, and easy to use, we’ve had too much trouble with their penchant for slipping off the ski to be able to recommend them. If that issue can be addressed, however, these would become an strong recommendation from us given their ease of use otherwise.

3 Comments

  1. Blister Member
    Michael May 20, 2017 Reply

    My experience with these skins is similar. I don’t think they are safe. I had one of these skins come off in a spot that could have been deadly if I hadn’t been able to catch myself. I can’t bring myself to throw them away, and I certainly wouldn’t sell them to anyone else. But I would only use them if I had no other choice. BD Ultralight Mix have been bomber for me.

  2. Jon Page October 5, 2017 Reply

    In NZ this week and had multiple failures of these skins in typical spring slop. Cold and dry snow had no issues but I don’t have the confidence in the product to not be thinking are they about to entirely disconnect from the ski, at least the tip connector held in place whilst the rest of it flapped around with a belly full of slush. As above I couldn’t on-sell to anybody else, they should be recalled by Volkl. Looks like I will be back to some BD skins for the sweet ride that is the BMT.

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