What are Skins?

The History and info about Skins:

Often when I am talking to clients about ski touring which involves going uphill I am confronted with their puzzled and confused face and the question of HOW? The answer is that we put skins on and go uphill which makes the client even more confused then before.

By most accounts skis and skins have been around for thousands of years. For a long time skiing was called ‘skilaufren’ (ski walking). The term for ski riding and downhill skiing wasn’t born until the 1920’s and 30’s. With technology advancing so much during the first world war and the postwar revitalisation programs in Austria and Germany led to the first Gondolas which along with ski lifts changed the face of skiing forever and was then called ‘skifahren’ ski riding.

Before lift-assisted skiing, the masses earned their turns by attaching skins to their skis for traction. At the time mammal skins were used and the cheaper option some people strapped fur twigs under their skis. The seal skin was a popular material because it fulfilled two contradictory purposes, gliding properties to go forward and to provide as much traction as possible to stop you from gliding backwards.

Skins contain three parts: 

  • The Plush
  • The Backing
  • The Attachment

The Plush:

In these modern times in Europe we often use mohair (goat hair) daily due to tradition where as synthetic skins are used more worldwide. Synthetic skins will last longer compared to natural fibre skins. You can have a combination of both. However, mohair skins have better gliding properties in colder snow compared to the nylon skins which last longer and are better in warmer conditions.

The Backing:

The Backing is what the Plush adheres to on one side and the adhesive to on the other which is generally made of nylon. Over there last couple of year recent technology has produced vacum base skins which don’t use adhesive.

The Attachments:

For a long time a leather strap around the skis was used to secure the skins onto the skis which caused a lot of problems on the traverse. The Swiss Army come over this problem by drilling holes in the skis and bolting the skins onto the base of the ski. Nowadays we have more elaborated tail and tip attachments which secure the skins.

Step into your next adventure and experience ski touring and the backcountry:


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Categories: activities, backcountry, basi, british ski instructor, Espace Killy, fatmap, France, horsdpiste, maps, navigation, off piste, off piste courses, off piste skiing, offpiste skiing, scarpa boots, ski, ski courses, Ski guiding and teaching, ski instruction, Uncategorized

A day out with Ski Focus- Touring the Tuff de Grassaz and the 3 Cols, Tignes

Time just flies by and every winter season comes round quicker and quicker. At the end of last season I managed to spend a day in the backcountry with Stuart Bernard the Director of Ski Focus.  It was a great opportunity to show him some of the beautiful backcountry that is on our door step and a chance to catch up with him after a busy season. The day was perfect for touring with blue skies and no wind and at the end of the season there was no one around. After dropping into the Col Du Palet we only saw two people in the distance all day. Ski touring is a great opportunity to make new friends and build strong relationships as you are away from any distractions and you get the chance to really talk.

After three and half hours of uphill and two hours downhill at the end of the day we returned back to Val Claret to finish a great day with a beer.

Stuart teaches skiing all year round he is based in the Espace Killy for the winter and teaches in the snow domes in the UK in the summer. He runs a number of Gap Ski Courses throughout the year as well coaches and examines people who want to become instructors. For more information and to ski with Stuart please visit:

FREEFLO specialises in private instruction, ski courses, off piste and ski touring within the resort of Tignes, Val D’Isere and La Grave. Visit  For further information please don’t hesitate to get in contact and email:

Author: admin
Categories: backcountry, basi, british female instructor, Espace Killy, fatmap, France, la grave, maps, off piste, off piste courses, ski, ski courses, Ski guiding and teaching, skischools, Tignes, Val D'Isere, Vanoise National Park

Tignes and Val’ D’Isere’ FATMAP- The world’s most detailed 3D ski map.

Tignes and Val D’Isere FATMAP put to the Test by FREEFLO:                                                            Off Piste Tignes/Val D’Isere

I have a great passion for the off piste and backcountry. I work and live in the ski resorts of Tignes and Val D’Isere as a British Ski Teacher which is why I was very eager to put the FATMAP of the Espace Killy to test.

I put the ULTRA-HIGH RESOLUTION 3D MAPPING Fatmap through its paces and completed the ski tour Col Du Fours in the Espace Killy in poor visibility last Monday on my Samsung Galaxy S4 mini. I solely used the fat map and my friend only used the OS map for navigation so we could compare notes. Being a ski enthusiast and not a huge computer fan (I only started to use a touch screen phone last year), I found the map easy to use and it gave me further support and confidence to navigate a new route in poor conditions. One of the main advantages of the map is that it doesn’t rely on internet signal and once downloaded you can use it anywhere on the mountain.

I used the 3D Fly-Through many times to ensure I was on the right track. It would have been easier if there was a setting that you could use to pause and to re-start the 3D Fly-Through to save time and battery, instead of starting from the beginning each time. Also if the dotted line on the 3D was illustrated in a different colour showing the uphill ski touring route, it would make it clearer to see the route in a uphill and downhill version. These are comments I have already forwarded to the active FATMAP team by using the Slack app. The description of the tour then backs up the 3D Fly-Throughs so it is even harder to take the wrong route. I accessed valuable information quicker and easier using the FATMAP about the route and found out the gradient, aspect, crevasse zones etc; without getting the OS map and compass out. With that information and knowing the weather, avalanche bulletin, history and with my mountain awareness and experience, I could navigate the ski tour and ski down the route safely.

Conclusion: FATMAP is the friend that you can fit in your back pocket. It is the most detailed 3D ski map that I have seen and used. I think that this is a great tool which will support your navigation while skiing off piste. Why wouldn’t you have it in your back pocket as you carry your phone anyway?

I will look forward to putting the FATMAP through its paces further and working with the FATMAP team to add new routes and improvements.

The FATMAP Story:
Dave has had a lifelong passion for maps, he made his first 3D map at the age of eleven. A few years ago, he became obsessed with the idea of creating the ultimate map for skiing. Scholarships to Oxford and Cranfield and 15 years as a software engineer have created the perfect storm.
Misha had a mis-spent youth with computers. In between games of Elite he wrote his first computer programme on his Commodore 64 at the age of five. Since then he has been busy building and running successful technology companies in the UK and skiing in his free time. Waiting out a storm on a remote ski expedition to Albania, the idea of FATMAP was born. The idea to use the latest mobile and gaming technology to create true to life 3D models of mountains and the information you really want to know as a skier; all on a device that you can carry in your pocket.

Main features include:

For more information on FATMAP please visit

Different to any ski school FREEFLO offers intutive British Personal Ski Coaching in the snow-sure resorts of Tignes, Val D’Isere and La Grave. We specialise in all mountain and off piste skiing, plus backcountry ski touring and women specific ski courses. Fun and passionate we are highly experienced and fully qualified to work in France. With FREEFLO the quality of your experience, and safety are our priorities. With passion we help people to improve, have fun and to enjoy the freedom of the mountains. For further information please drop an email to:

Author: admin
Categories: backcountry, basi, british female instructor, british ski instructor, Espace Killy, fatmap, France, maps, navigation, off piste, off piste courses, off piste skiing, refuge du fours, ski, ski courses, Ski guiding and teaching, ski instruction, ski lessons, ski touring, Snow, Tignes, Val D'Isere, Vanoise National Park