Switching to skin skis (Rossignol R-Skin review)
Updated: a day ago
Are you considering a pair of skin skis? In this post, I'll share my experience with classic skin skis (specifically my Rossignol R-Skins).
I started out the 2018-2019 season on a pair of Salomon S-Lab skis (traditional waxed skis), Swix Quantum One Poles, and Salomon S-Race boots. I liked the boots and the poles, but I had some trouble getting consistent kick with the skis. Some days they were fast with great kick, but other days (especially in warm or artificial snow conditions), I got the kick wax wrong and found myself frustrated on the trail. Since I don’t have much experience with classic wax, I decided to get some advice from a ski shop.
I stopped by Pioneer Midwest in Osseo, and when they heard about my plan to classic ski the City of Lakes, American Birkie, and the Norwegian Birken, the guys there said skin skis were the only way to go. I was initially skeptical, but they explained their reasoning. First, they said the conditions change so much in a ski marathon that the best wax will likely be different throughout the race (especially on the mountainous course in Norway), and skin skis can handle changing conditions better than waxed skis. Second, the Norwegian Birken is often held in warm conditions and the City of Lakes is often held on artificial snow, both of which are difficult conditions for choosing wax even if you are an expert, so having guaranteed high-performing kick with the skin skis takes away a lot of the guesswork. Finally, they said ski shops in Norway are selling about 90% skin skis this year (2019 season). Those all seemed like good reasons, but hearing that the Norwegian shops are now selling mainly skin skis really convinced me. I know the Scandinavians really value their skiing traditions, so I figure they wouldn’t switch to skin skis unless the advantages were significant.
Cory at Pioneer Midwest was extremely helpful and knowledgeable as he flex tested several different ski options for me, and I decided to go with a pair of Rossignol R-Skin Premiums. As soon as I got them home, I tried them out on my own trails, and I could tell right away they had great kick and glided well. I was still curious to see how they would perform against my S-Labs on artificial snow, so I went to Elm Creek to do a comparison. The weather conditions for the test were not great with temperatures of about 5 degrees F and strong winds, but I had the day off and the rest of the week didn’t look much better with -45F wind chills and a blizzard in the forecast. (I guess this is what it is like to be a cross-country skier in Minnesota-- we have to earn every kilometer.)
Comparing R-Skins to Traditionally Waxed S-Labs
After a 15km warm-up, I compared 5km on the R-Skins followed by 5km on the S-Labs. I waxed both skis with Start Green glide wax and applied three layers of Swix Green kick wax to the S-Labs. I tried to ski the entire 25km at a consistent effort. The results proved that the R-Skins were a good choice for me. I averaged 3:55/km with the R-Skins and 4:05/km with the S-Labs. The max speed on the R-Skins was 1:48/km and the max speed on the S-Labs was exactly the same at 1:48/km. The S-Labs did feel just a little bit faster on the downhills, but as long as I stayed in the tracks, the R-Skins’ glide was nearly as good. The big difference was the kick. I had solid kick with the R-Skins throughout the test and only slipped once or twice the entire time. Even though I think I chose the correct kick wax for my S-Labs, I had to concentrate much more while striding up hills, and I definitely slipped more often. Overall, I just felt better on the R-Skins and I will most likely use them for all my classic races this year. The hills at the Birkie and at the Birken will be longer and steeper, and from what I experienced today, I know the R-Skins will be the better choice for me in that situation.
P.S. Thanks to everyone at Pioneer Midwest for putting up with my toddler as he rearranged your wax display, almost knocked over a row of skis, ran around the clothing displays, tested your water fountain (many times), and added a few markings with the wax pen to your granite. He had a great time in your store and will likely be a future customer!