The art of skinning: A step-by-step guide

Avoid getting dog fur on the insanely sticky part of the skin that acts as a dog fur magnet. Dog fur, lint, hair, dust, will all reduce the stickiness of the skin. It’s obviously too late to prevent this.


Pull as hard as you can on the tail of the skin to clip it around the end of the ski (or in your case, the two “skis” of your splitboard). Realize spending $120 a month on CrossFit has had no effect on improving your grip strength. Give up. Ask boyfriend to complete this task.

Strap in and away you go!

Forget everything you’ve ever learned about cross-country skiing; those rules don’t apply. This is skinning. And it’s dumb.

Don’t bother digging in your edges; they won’t help you here. Instead, counterintuitively make sure as much surface area of the skin as possible is in constant contact with the snow. Trust the skin will hold you.

Don’t lean too far forward or you will fall on your face.

The skin track will invariably be too steep and icy. Curse the Ophirites who put it in.

When you come to a switchback, there are two ways of changing direction: one huge ski-ballet-like turn, which requires unhinging your joints to perform successfully or a bunch of really little tiny steps, slowly turning your body from 9 o’clock to 3 o’clock or from 3 o’clock to 9 o’clock. Neither of these methods work.

Fall off the skin track three or four times for no discernable reason.

Put your risers up on steep parts. This actually helps.

When you come to a tiny downhill section and remember you can’t actually ski, do a snowplow for life while leaning forward, knock-kneed, legs shaky and splayed like a newborn baby giraffe learning how to stand up. Realize you should have put those once-helpful risers down before skiing downhill.

Use those ski poles! Your upper body should be screaming in pain and exhaustion even more than your legs at this point.

When a voice from a fellow skinner above you comes over the radio: “It’s sketchy up here,” realize it’s impossible to turn back where you are and that you are probably about to die.

Try not to cry on the skin track.

Don’t think about avalanches. Definitely don’t verbalize your concern about avalanches. It will only anger the boyfriend.

When the sketchy part comes (a knife-edge ridge with a gaping abyss on either side) make boyfriend walk below you so all 120 lbs. of him can hopefully prevent you from falling to your death should you slip. (HA!)

Remember: There are no metal edges.

When boyfriend promises you dinner, margaritas and that he will even kiss your dog (who he is not fond of) if you just stop crying and keep moving toward the top, the kissing-the-dog-part of the bribe gives you pause about the gravity of the situation. This is probably how people die. But you keep moving. Slowly.

Make it to the top! Collapse in a sweaty heap, not caring that it’s on top of yellow snow and the corpse of a rodent-like animal. Decide later it was a shrew. Ew.


Take in the amazing views while having a snack. It’s a perfect bluebird day with no wind. There are mountains for miles and couloirs in the distance with the tracks of other skiers. Marvel at their skinning skills. How did they get up there?

Rip off the dog-fur-covered skins and put them in your pack. Reassemble the evil skis back into a magnificent snowboard, a beautifully crafted, elegant pow-slaying device you know and love and on which you feel ever-so-comfortable and natural.

Point it and let it run. The fluffy powder rolls over your head as you glide down the untouched, rolling hillside. Each turn is smooth and the pitch is perfect: steep enough to gain speed but not so steep that it’s scary. Not yet used to your new board, you tumble and fall, and cold, wet snow gets stuffed into every crevice. Now you’re stuck in the deep snow and can’t get up, but you don’t care because this is pure joy as only people who love powder days can understand. A huge grin spreads over your face as the rest of the group welcomes you to the ranks of the initiated. This is earning your turns. This is why you got up early. This is freedom. This is independence. This is solitude. This is endless possibility. This is backcountry snowboarding. This is magic. This is why (in spite of, and also thanks to, the art of skinning) you will be back tomorrow.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s