The Skin Revolution
Forget everything you thought you knew about wax-less skis. Madshus Terrasonic IntelliGrip Classic redefines the industry.
Madshus Terrasonic IntelliGrip Classic make classic skiing easy as pie, and perform well enough for 150th place overall at the Vasaloppet, an event that attracts 15800 participants every year.
But more important: The Terrasonic IntelliGrip Classic lets you spend ess time in the wax room, which means more time on the trail, and it’s almost as simple as putting on running shoes. In a time-crunched world, these skis might just be the difference between completing the weeknight classic workout on skis rather than alternate training methods or skipping it all together.
Classic racing skis with skins in the kick zone entered the market with a bang last season, and instantly became a hit with World Cup level skiers as well as masters and beginners. These skis are clearly not your traditional variety of wax-less skis. Skin skis are constructed with replaceable skins in the kick zone, rather than wax base or fish scales.
The skin skis work in almost all kinds of snow and temperature conditions, from cold and dry to wet klister, on rock hard and icy tracks as well as velvety smooth. And as opposed to traditional wax-less skis, there is no rattling noise and excellent glide.
All the major manufacturers have their proprietary skin technologies, but all of them are based on the same basic construction: The kick zone has a skin instead of wax or fish scales.
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Top 150 in Vasaloppet on training skis with skins
At the tail end of the 2014-15 season, Madshus launched the skin ski model Terrasonic IntelliGrip Base, and Vidar Igeltjoern placed 152nd in Vasaloppet on those. He finished the 90-kilometer classic race in 4:56, only 55 minutes behind the Petter Eliassen (NOR), who won the race in 4:01:48. Eliassen raced entirely without kick wax, a growing trend among the elite long-distance skiers.
“I was challenged to race on the skin skis by Per Wiik at Madshus, and I must admit that I was highly skeptical of the idea. Vasaloppet is a fairly flat race with lots of double-poling, so I was concerned that I would have too much suction with the skin skis. But they performed surprisingly well,” Igeltjoern said.
The 42-year-old master skier works full-time at Madshus as an engineering specializing in fine-tuning cambers and flex profiles for classic skis, and was therefore particularly curious how they would perform.
“Not in my wildest dreams did I imagine that the skin skis would perform so well, especially considering that Vasaloppet is so double-pole-intensive. I had killer kick and outstanding glide for 90 kilometers, while I noticed that the skis of those skiing around me deteriorated significantly over time. At the beginning, I had no worse glide than those skiing on traditional classic skis with klister, but their klister started picking up dirt from the snow which accumulated throughout the course, making their glide even worse,” Igeltjoern says, adding that the skins were in great condition and practically dirt-free after the race.
Igeltjoern reports significantly better glide over the course of the race compared to those skiing on klister, and having kick (rather than going with no kick wax at all), he was able to stride on any up hill terrain, thus saving his arms and allowing him to hit the double-pole sections harder.
And when a master skier with a full-time job can push through the Vasaloppet in sub-five hours, less than an hour behind the overall elite winner, then the wax-less options are starting to look quite attractive.
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The common denominator for all the skin ski models on the market, is that the base material in the kick zone has been swapped with a glued-on skin made from some sort of proprietary material mix.
The Madshus Terrasonic IntelliGrip Classic stands out from the others in a couple of areas. For starters, the ski features a progressive skin, which is thicker in the middle and tapers towards the ends, just like you would normally apply kick wax. Furthermore, the skins are set down into the base, rather than attached onto the base, which reduces the weight of the ski significantly compared to its competitors.
The Terrasonic Intelligrip Classic weighs 1060 grams per pair (190cm), while the Rossignol R-Skin weighs 1200 grams per pair (183cm) and Salomon Equipe RC Skin weighs 1300 grams per pair. Fischer weighs 1190 grams per pair, while Atomic don’t list a weight for their skin ski models.
“We removed the base material in the kick zone, making the ski lighter, and the skin feels more like normal kick wax. That feeling is further enhanced by the progressive construction of the skin,” says Per Wiik, global marketing manager at Madshus.
“Madshus also uses a unique blend of mohair and nylon for the skins, which make them extremely durable and enhances the glide. Mohair also prevents the skins from icing up in the tricky conditions just above and below freezing,” Wiik adds.
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Easy maintenance: None
If the skins get dirty, you can clean them using regular base cleaner, just as you would with regular kick wax. Wipe the skins, brush them with a regular nylon brush, and the skis are ready to roll again.
If the skins get damaged or worn out after extensive use, they are easily replaced. They are attached with regular hot glue, so just heat gently with a heat gun, pull the skin off and replace with a new skin.
However, the skins are developed to handle several hundred hours of skiing, and even after two seasons with extensive use, Igeltjoern’s skins are still going strong.
What about the Zeros?
Zero-skis were introduced several years ago for the tricky conditions on either side of freezing. They come with a rubberized base material in the kick zone, which has to be sanded and fine-tuned to provide optimal grip and glide for the conditions of the day, and are generally slightly faster than the skin skis. That is important for those racing at the elite level.
But unlike the Zeros, the new skin skis work in a much wider range of temperatures and conditions, from cold and dry to wet and warm. And you don’t have to do a thing to them. For Igeltjoern, this translates to a lot more ski workouts during the week.
“The skin skis perform beyond expectations in almost all conditions,” says Igeltjoern, who has skied on the Terrasonic IntelliGrip Classic for the past two seasons.
In his opinion, the skin skis do well in everything from cold powder snow to wet, saturated slush, but they really shine when conditions are icy, hard tracks at high humidity. However, when the mercury drops down into the blue and green wax range with cold, new and fluffy snow, Igeltjoern argues that traditional wax outperforms the skins. However, those are also the conditions that are the least tricky to wax for.
“But in cold conditions with firm tracks, the skin skis don’t have any problems,” he adds.
“I really believe the skin skis are a revolution for classic skiing. I’ve skied on them a lot the last two seasons, and I find that I grab the skin skis eight out of ten times, simply because they ski so well and are so easy to use,” Igeltjoern says.
Bottom line: Get yourself a pair. If you are buying an additional classic pair, the skin skis are the specialty skis that really could contribute to increase your training base. Simply because you probably will ski more. And that’s really what it’s all about.