38mm wide mohair sections of skin material bonded to a slick(uhmwpe?) strip of plastic with a narrow, metal tip 'loop'. The rectangular tip loop is 30mm wide, inside to inside. The skin portion is 18 3/4" or 21 1/2" long, depending on the version you get. They come in short(185) and long(200), both intended to fit a wide range of skis.
From Madshus' website:
"Madshus’ innovative Intelligrip Skin provides the legendary all-terrain grip of a Mohair skin with the maximum glide performance needed for classic skiing, touring, and Nordic Cruising."
here's a Finish(?) video to give you a better look at them in use.
What they are meant for:
They are designed to work about as well as a decent fishscale pattern. This allows you to take waxable skis out and not have to worry about bringing and trying to use klister when it's abrasive or above freezing or struggling with wax around the freezing point. They also allow skate skiers to shuffle along if the trail gets too narrow or they get too tired to skate. They are intended for in track, trail and/or firm off trail.
I had first heard of them from another skier that was participating in the White Mountains 100, a 100 mile snowmachine trail race in the White Mountains Recreation Area north of Fairbanks, AK. Hilly with some sections of wet overflow and frozen overflow, bare ice, drifted in trail, etc.Skiers use either short skate skis, full length skate skis, classic skis or touring skis. I was on my 210cm Madshus Pellestovas(62-52-57, full metal edges) and had brought Black Diamond kicker skins in case my klister wouldn't hold. Conditions that year were warm and abrasive. The trail was back and forth between mushy, churned up mashed potatoes over hardpack to bumpy abrasive ice. Klister was lasting about 8-10 miles or so for me. I used the BD kickers on a couple of the hills, including leaving them on for short portions where there was a dip or the hill leveled out. This was the worst of the usable applications for the BD kickers. The metal tab was constantly grinding into the snow and the skins seemed overly heavy for on trail use. I found out after the race from one of the competitors that they were using kicker skins with plastic in the front on their skate skis for a 30+ mile section that was too narrow to be worth trying to skate. She raved about how they allowed her to k&g pretty efficiently on her skate skis.
I've been using long(200) Intelligrip skins all this season. I've test fit them on my groomed track skis(classic and skate), Pellestovas, Glittertinds(my gf's), all of which they fit well, and tried putting them on Eons, which they're just too narrow for. I've only used them on the Pellestovas, and they work great on skis in that range. I imagine they would be useful for anything from Glittertind dimensions on down. I don't think the tip loops are wide enough to fit much wider skis. I've used them when the conditions made waxing difficult or impossible.
Compared to a properly waxed ski:
They're slow but grip about the same.
Compared to a fishscale pattern:
They're about the same speed, maybe a little faster or slower depending on conditions. Climbing is not like Fischer's offtrack crown, but a little better than Madshus' fishscaled skis. They do better on firm conditions and ice than fishscales.
Compared to Black Diamond Kicker Skins:
Much faster, not nearly as much grip.
They're very light, come with a handy little carrying case, and I can't see myself going out on skis they fit without bringing them. The conditions they're designed for are miserable without them, but with them, those conditions are a pleasant experience. They can be difficult to find in the US for some reason. I'm lucky in that a local shop stocks them. I bought two more pairs to keep around in case they decide to stop making them.
The search for the Holy Grail, or going fast on the flat
Ever since starting with backcountry skiing and telemarking in the early 90´s, I have been searching for the ”Holy grail”, and for you who are familiar with the expression from the good old days at TelemarkTips the ”Holy grail” for me is not about telemark bindings, but about a ski that can rule it all. Going fast on the flat, climbing steep as a mountain gout and going downhill with pleasure in any condition, whether it is breaking crush, powder or ice. Using skins I was never troubled finding a decent ski for the ups and downs, but going flat was always an issue. Living in northern Scandinavia, where we often have lots of flat areas between the mountains this was a real issue. Waxing skis was never a solution for me, although it work for grip, I never had good glide on the flats due to the lack of double chamber, and the grip wax messed with the skins for the uphills and the glide when going downhill. I did try the short kicker skins that arrived in the late 90´s, but the metal front attachment of the skin efficiently killed any attempt of gliding. Ski fabricator Åsnes attempt of short skins, the fellelås skins had similar problems - a big chunk of metal at the front of the skin that killed the glide. The best compromise I found was actually the S-bounds series from Fischer, the fishscale pattern did offer grip for kick´n glide on the flat, although I never was fully happy with the glide. And the drag of the fish scale always messed up with the fun of skiing on the downhills. I was almost giving up on my search for the holy grail, when I came across the Madshus Intelligrip skins. Perhaps it was not the skis I should be looking for, but the skins. The Madshus skins, 38mm wide, have a long p-tex glide section and a short mohair section under the mid of the ski. Thereby, they seemed to offer the grip, as well as the glide (or at least some glide) of the fish scale pattern skis - but they can be removed for the downhills and replaced when needing fullwidth skins for going steeper uphill.
I ordered a pair and was surprised by their small package size, but was even more surprised by their performance when testing them. They glide far better than the fish scaled skis I have tried so far, and they can be removed when going downhill (or for switching skins for steeper uphill). Furthermore, they can be fitted to almost any ski (although I had to do a minor Macgyver hack to make them fit securely on my Völkl Qaniks). The only disadvantage I have found is that they have a tendency to pack snow and ice-up under the front p-tex section during side-slanted sections, so I usually have some sort of spare skins when going for longer tours (which anyway is a good idea on longer tours). Due to the narrow width of the skins, they will provide less grip with wider skis on softer snow. So the grip and usefulness of them might be less favorable on fatter skis. Testing in a semi-scientific way, in similar snow conditions and at similar physical effort (about -10 degree celsius, 10-15mm fresh cold snow on hardpack/groomed lightly rolling track, gps-based speed reading and physical effort assessed by bluetooth heart rate monitoring), revealed that the intelligrip skins with lo-fat (114/76/102mm) Völkl Qanik skis were at least 10% faster than the skinnier fish scaled Fischer Rebounds (88/60/78mm) , and about 50% faster than using 50 or 70mm nylon skins on the Qaniks as well as Åsnes Fellelås fitted on the very much skinnier Nansen skis (76/56/66mm). Used on Fischer E99 (66/54/61mm) they provided a cross-country skiing experience and performed equally to the propriority Fischer Easyskins, which also provide a short mohair grip section under the mid of the ski.
To conclude, the narrow intelligrip skins provide a neat solution for going easy and decently fast on the flat with lo- to midfat skis and they provide almost a cross-country ski-like experience on packed snow. On fatter skis and when tracking in soft snow the grip might be inadequate, but with their small package volume they might still be a useful addition in the backcountry backpack even in those conditions. The only other product that provide a smilar experience that I have tested is the Fischer EasySkin, which performs equally well and have less problem icing up - but unfortunately is only compatible with selected Fischer skis - of whom the fatter skis unfortunately also is fish scaled, thereby providing a less good downhill experience.
I wonder if the snow build up is due to the metal tip loop not being held tight to the ski. I don't experience that problem with mine. Could also be the higher tips on the Pellestovas help in that regard.
These skins allow you to use any waxing ski in springtime or on icy snow. I tried to order a pair through Amazon last year, when they came it was apparent they were 5+ years old. The glue had turned to cement, the skins ripped apart when I tried to peel them back. Will have to look for another source this winter.
In particular I think of my Kazama flat-camber skis from the 90's. This would enable them to be used for covering ground on the flats in springtime, and for mellow climbs.