G3 Skins: Alpinist vs Minimist
For a few years now our favourite G3 skins have come in two attachment styles. The Alpinist features the prominent plastic tip and a durable tail, while the Minimist features a (you guessed it) minimal tip attachment design and an ultralight tail. They are priced similarly with the same nylon-mohair skin options available for each. So which is best for who? I’ve spent over 30 days on each of these last year and found a somewhat surprising preference.
This is the surprise advantage that I really came to notice a big difference with. Because the glue ends ~9” from the tip clips, that is 9” of skin which doesn’t need to be forcibly pulled off the ski. And that last bit is usually the hardest to pull off because it's when the most skin is exposed and your pulling arm is generally the most extended. Its the type of thing one might never think of if thats all you know; but using these skins back to back for comparison gave me a small wow-factor in how noticeably easier the Alpinist were to remove and stow compared to the Minimist. But the benefit doesn’t end there: the lesser glued area also means that folding the skin (with or without skin-savers) is easier, as there is less glue to catch nearby snow or flail in the wind, and there is less area to pull apart when re-applying if skin-savers are not used.
Given that the front portion of any skin is largely useless, I’d like to try a model with an even more extended and lightweight non skin/glue material in the front. I can imagine using a thin dyneema webbing for the first ~12” from the clips.
Robust Tail Clip
The Alpinist tail is fool-proof to adjust and stays in that adjustment permanently. The Minimist tail clip on the other hand, I found to be very annoying to adjust and requires re-adjustment every second day of use because it slips slightly. And when it loosens even slightly, it becomes prone to falling off the ski during use. While this is not a major pitfall, it's a nuisance I simply never have to worry about with the Alpinist.
The large plastic tip piece is advertised to mitigate snow accumulation under the skin, which is a common effect of all skins at the sides of the very front part. In my experience, the plastic tip is only partially helpful with this. I actually got roughly equal snow buildup with both skin types, though the Alpinist tip moved that buildup further back on the skin which I preferred because it made the added swing weight less noticeable. So I give only a partial nod to the Alpinist in this category.
This is the main and most obvious advantage of the Minimist models. They can roll neatly into a small volume and stuff into a pack pocket or jacket chest cavity. In the Coastal BC area it is very uncommon to carry skins in ones jacket, instead they are typically stowed in the backpack main compartment (or “wet compartment” if available). However, cold and dry ski areas more commonly see the need to warm the glue during descent, usually stuffing them in an internal jacket pocket or simply the cavity above the backpack waist belt. For these users, there may indeed be a defining advantage in the Minimist option.
By contrast, the Alpinist has effectively the worst packability (taking a large packed volume) of any skins on the market. While this felt cumbersome at first use, provided you have the real estate for it (backpack space), I quickly got used to this drawback and happily accommodated it especially once observing the usable benefits of the Alpinist.
The Minimist are lighter than the Alpinist by ~10%, or 20-70g depending on your ski size. And the notion of weight being more impactful on your feet (as opposed to carried on your back for example) is remarkably true. But even so, I don’t find the weight savings to be significant. And because the Alpinist saves ~200cm2 of skin which can no longer get wet (and thus heavy), the weight savings are negligible or even reversed in spring conditions.
If you value packability above all else, the decision is clear with the Minimist. For everyone else, I recommend the Alpinist. I simply found its functions to be noticeably easier to use in the field, while its primary drawback can be easily overcome for most use-cases.
Last updated or reviewed 2022-12-28