What’s the thing everyone says about nylon skins? They don’t glide. To much drag. Right? The G3 Scala aims to overcome that stigma, not by using mohair, but with fish scales. Plastic fish scales.  Check out our video overview and scroll down for a huge info dump.

It may sound strange to use plastic on your skins, but it isn’t without precedent. Fisher launched their Profoil skins a few years back, to mixed reviews. But, G3 is the first company to combine traditional plush with a TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) scaled section in an effort to combine the best of both worlds. Scales win on glide, hands down. But, their traction is limited in hard or icy snow and on extremely steep pitches. The G3 Scala puts the scales on the front of the ski – the section that breaks trail – and keeps a nylon plush underfoot to maintain traction. The question is, does it work?

Construction

G3 took their regular Alpinist, nylon plush skin and bonded the TPU, scaled section to the tip. The bond looks to be the same as they’ve used to attach tip and tail connectors in the past. We’ve personally never had that bond fail over ten years with three different pairs of G3 Alpinist skins.

2017 G3 Scala Climbing Skins Review

Tail clips remain the same from last year, but tip connectors are redesigned slightly to have more contact with the ski tip in a more consistent position. Previous iterations could move around easily. The new clips, not so much. We still had to bend them open a tad to get them over the tips of our Ski Logik skis, just like we’ve had to with every pair of G3 skins, but a pair of channel-lock pliers took care of that easily. That bending doesn’t seem to fatigue the clips at all and we have yet to break one.

The TPU section has molded-in scales in a U-shaped orientation. The idea here is that they’ll provide traction no matter in what direction your skis want to slip. If you’re side-hilling, they’ll bite to the side. In theory, it’ll help keep your skis pointed in the right direction on hairy skin tracks.

Finally, G3 uses their new-for-last-year DWR treatment. It’s PFOA free and exceeds environmental standards.

2017 G3 Scala Climbing Skins Review

Performance

We’ve put over 10 uphill hours on the G3 Scalas so far in conditions ranging from packed powder to corduroy (yes, we skinned inbounds), to feet of fluffy powder love. Some conditions were warm, wet, and sloppy. Others were cold and dry.  We broke trail and followed pre-set skin tracks.  So, we think we’ve got a pretty good feel for how the Scalas will perform in just about every situation you may encounter during the typical season.

Does the TPU scaled section make a difference? Absolutely, in the right conditions.

2017 G3 Scala Climbing Skins Review

In packed powder, corduroy, and slop, we didn’t notice the scales at all. That’s a good thing. We didn’t pick up glop in slushy spring snow, which is a testament to both the advantages of partial scales and G3’s factory DWR. But, we also didn’t notice a lack of traction, which is by design. We headed up a 25° slope to see if the Scalas would lose traction. They didn’t. Chalk this up to the fact that the TPU section only covers the first 20% or so of the ski’s length – about where the rocker ends. This section generally doesn’t contribute to traction. It’s your trailbreaker section, which doesn’t do much in packed-down conditions. G3’s Alpinist plush kept us heading up the hill instead of sliding down.

Once we got a nice dump of fresh powder, we headed to Jones Pass and broke trail through about 24″ of snow with the Scalas. Here, we noticed an immediate difference. Our skis effortlessly glided through the powder, floating up and over the snowpack and then grabbing hard as we stepped down. It’s difficult to quantify how much difference the scaled section of the Scala skins made, but it was definitely there.

Packing and Folding

A pleasant side effect of having 20% of your skins made out of plastic – adhesive doesn’t bond to the scaled section of the skins like it does when you fold it on itself. When we first saw the G3 Scala at SIA (and gave it our Best in Snow Award), G3 told us to fold the skins by wrapping them around the scales. This would result in adhesive on plush folding, which we were always taught was bad juju, especially as skins get older and the plush picks up dirt. So, we instead fold the TPU section down onto the skin and then fold the remaining skin onto itself – glue side to glue side – before folding in half once again.

The Scalas can’t pack down as small as a traditional skin. You won’t be fitting these into your jacket pocket easily, if that’s your thing. The TPU section is stiff enough that it doesn’t bend well. And, if you do curve it a bit to fit inside a pack, you have to be weary. The TPU holds that curve, which can cause issues when you break the skins out again.

Problems?

The TPU section is stiff, which means it doesn’t automatically contour to your ski. You have to take the time to get the skins ready before mounting them by bending the scales to match your ski. When applying the skins, you have to make sure the TPU section is flush to the ski and that the adhesive holds them tight. A bit of laziness here results in some snow getting packed under the scales and migrating between the adhesive and ski base. This can cause problems if you’re doing laps – wet adhesive doesn’t stick. A bit of care here prevents the problem, but we wish the TPU was a bit more flexible and had less shape memory.

2017 G3 Scala Climbing Skins Review

We noticed some discoloration around the edges of the adhesive and a bit of deterioration after storing them indoors. They may have been sitting out too close to a radiant heat source.

2017 G3 Scala Climbing Skins Review

We’re on pre-production versions of the skins, so some of these may get resolved before the Scalas go on sale in September.

Available Sizes

G3 will offer the Scala Skin in three lengths and three widths. Small fits from 153cm to 169cm; medium from 168cm to 184cm; and long from 183cm to 199cm. Choose from 100mm, 115mm, or 130mm depending on your ski waist and whether you want edge-to-edge coverage or a straight cut.