We hiked a well-packed gradual trail in New England (Mt. Moosilauke in NH) and debated what would be faster - skinning up on AT skis or just boots with skis on your back.

Argument for skis on the back is the idea that 1 pound on your foot is equal to 5-6 pounds in your back.

Trail was gradual and the snow was quite packed.

  • 2
    That said I like the poundage fact...:)
    – user2766
    Mar 2, 2015 at 11:39
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    @Liam So why not take those variables in perspective in an general/overview answer? We often have questions like this and I think they are fine. In outdoor topics we typically don't have a definite true or false. If someone wants to know more in a narrower scope, then just go for it too. Overlapping isn't a problem I think.
    – Wills
    Mar 2, 2015 at 20:58

1 Answer 1


6 of one, half dozen of another. A lot comes down to how easy it is to hike in the ski boots you are using.

The problem with hiking is that it only takes a short stretch of unpacked trail to lose any gain in time and you can't take advantage of any brief downhill stretches. Even with skins you can get a bit of glide.

On the other hand, if the trail has been boot packed, skinning can be difficult and in hard crusty conditions, boots and crampons are generally faster.

I'm not sure I buy the 1lb on the feet vs 6 on the back argument. If you're moving your skis up and down that much, you need to work on your skinning technique. Also half the time, half the weight of skis is just resting on the ground vs you having to support it.

  • Weight on your feet spends half its time stationary, the other half speeding up and slowing down - think exercising on a smaller scale- constant run vs sprint circuits. Not sure I agree with the factor - I have always use a multiplier of 3.
    – user5330
    Mar 3, 2015 at 19:21
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    But with skins, as opposed to hiking, you can use the drag of the ski to stop, so the only effort is moving the ski. It would depend on the slope angle of course, but my intuition is that the majority of the work is done against gravity, not momentum. Effective skinning does take practice. Mar 3, 2015 at 20:22

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