Whoever was the first person to say, “Winter hiking is nice, but I bet having five-foot-long feet that weigh eight pounds each and only move well in one direction would make it even better” was a real jerk.

In my younger days—when I was more concerned with “looking cool” than “being happy”—I was a snowboarder, booting uphill while my friends skinned and thinking to myself, that looks so much easier and more comfortable! Having slowly converted to skiing over the past few years, I now think to myself, my younger days were my dumb days; skinning is the worst. Here are five reasons why.

Uphilling early at the resort
Credit: Tim Peck

1. It Cuts Into Sleeping Time

If you’ve spent any time at all in outdoor sports circles, you’re likely familiar with the veneration with which outdoor athletes speak of “dawn patrol.” In theory, yes, dawn patrolling is rad AF. You get the mountain to yourself! You have a better vantage point for sunrise than you do on a typical morning! You still have the whole day ahead to do other things!

But here’s the thing: dawn—even in the winter—is EARLY. And cold (see below). And by the time I’ve skinned up a mountain and skied back down on jelly legs, I’m too tired to do anything else with the remaining 13 hours before I can go back to bed. I was also probably too tired and too busy trying to catch my breath to even properly admire the sunrise.

2. It’s So Cold (Except When it Isn’t)

Winter mornings in New Hampshire, on average, range from 5°F to 30°F (+/- 10° because *New England*). This is fine when you’re resort skiing, since you can put on as many layers as you need to stay cozy. But when you’re skinning, there’s a very fine line between “enough layers to keep you comfy when you’re not exerting a ton of effort” and “oops, too many layers and now you’re drenched in sweat because the grade got a little steeper.” Oh, and don’t forget about the transitions! Have fun stripping off your sweaty uphill shirt(s) and turning into a human popsicle in the 30 seconds it takes to pull on your dry midlayer and coat.

Striking that balance is basically impossible, and I never manage to time things well enough that I can take a shower between a morning skin and work, which means I end up in the super fun position of waiting for both my body to stop its post-workout sweating (sorry, coworkers!) and my fingers to thaw out and regain feeling.

Uphilling is fun, really
Credit: Tim Peck

3. It Gives You “‘Backcountry’ Belly”

The whole term is in quotes because it’s one I made up that definitely doesn’t mean what you’d expect (assuming you’d expect it to refer to an upset stomach caused by something like Giardia or Cryptosporidium), and backcountry is in its own quotes because, 99% of the time, I’m not actually in the backcountry (just running a single begrudging lap up the local ski hill). But the phenomenon happens all the same whether I’m skinning “for real” or simply trying to squeeze in a little bit of time on the snow before work: I will be ravenous the rest of the day.

I don’t know if it’s because uphilling burns that much extra energy, or because my body thinks food will warm it back up, or because my husband has bribed me into skinning with him with the promise of tasty après treats (like chorizo breakfast sandwiches from Abigail’s, cannoli from Mad River Coffee, or nachos from anywhere) so many times that my stomach now assumes an overabundance of food is part of the skinning process. What I do know is that my belly is guaranteed to become a bottomless pit every. single. time.

4. The Gear is Too Much

My skins are too sticky. My boots are too squeaky. My bindings are TOO LOUD, and flipping the risers up when the hill gets steep and flipping them back down when the trail evens out again takes too much effort. And there’s simply too much gear involved at all—skis, skins, boots, poles, helmet, goggles, pack, extra layers, extra gloves, hand warmers, snacks, and water (not to mention all the safety stuff you need to carry if you’re adventuring in the real backcountry)—which means I’m doomed to forget something no matter if I leisurely pack the night before or rush to pull my stuff together first thing in the morning.

5. It’s So Uncomfortable

Maneuvering up trails with planks on your feet that are nearly as long as you are tall is exactly as awkward as it sounds, and even if you have all the best gear, each ski-binding-boot combo weighs somewhere close to five poundswhich is like hiking with a two-liter bottle of soda strapped to each leg. You also start off cold, heat up quickly, probably overheat not too long after that, then get cold again at the transition; you might be a comfortable temperature on the descent, but you’ll almost certainly be damp with sweat the whole time, which is equally as unpleasant as being too hot/cold.


When going through photos at the end of a skin-and-ski day, we like to play a game called “Smile or Grimace?” in which my husband tries to convince me that I was having a good time and grinning and I maintain that I was having a not-good time and wincing while trying to remember that all my discomfort would ultimately be worthwhile. Because as much as skinning sucks, you do eventually get to do the fun part: ski! And skiing is (usually) great! If you’re uphilling at your local ski resort before work, you’ll probably have the slopes (more or less) to yourself. If you’re in the backcountry, you’ll likely be able to find a stretch of untouched pow, even if it’s a popular spot among fellow masochists enthusiasts. No matter where you’re doing it, as soon as you point your tips downhill, you forget all about how terrible you felt on the way up and start thinking about the next chance you’ll have to earn your turns.

Wait a secondhas skinning merely been the epitome of Type 2 Fun this whole time?