Frontcountry Freedom


The innovative cross-country ski technology that takes you faster and farther along the winter trails, letting you climb hills with ease and explore more challenging paths.

Be the first to experience SkiClaws by supporting our crowdfunding campaign. Your backing will help bring them into production.

Imagine you are skiing through a winter wonderland, easily gliding over gently rolling terrain. Suddenly, you are faced with a climb that interrupts the flow, requiring herringboning, side-stepping, or even removing the skis and walking up.

Your outdoor adventure of freedom and mindfulness can be turned into one of frustration. Beginners can be challenged by rises that advanced skiers take in their stride. Experienced skiers can face impossible climbs in the rougher frontcountry.

Until now.

From the Yukon in northern Canada, SkiClaws let you easily and quickly climb straight up steep slopes without using a herring-bone or side-stepping manoeuvre. The claws shine best on steep inclines and in icy conditions where other traction methods fail. Providing confidence-inspiring grip, they make skiing uphill a pleasure! 

Quick and effortless to activate, SkiClaws engage and disengage on the go. There is no stopping to deal with skins or crampons. Simply put the SkiClaws on your skis and get ready to run up one side – no matter how steep or icy – and glide down the other, all without stopping.

Whether you’re looking to break free of the groomed trail, go on expeditions with a pulk, get into the back country, or even just enjoy your daily ski even more, SkiClaws will help you discover a whole new world on your cross-country skis.

Ready to make the winter world your playground?

Our crowdfunding campaign is on now!
Be among the first to experience SkiClaws.


doug hitch skiclaws cross country skiing uphill

The SkiClaws Story

As a long-time cross-country enthusiast, I prided myself on getting up any hill, no matter how difficult.

Then in Yellowknife, I faced an impossible climb. 

The trail went up a cleft in the rock on Tincan Hill that was too steep and narrow for anything but removing the skis and walking up. It was a short uphill section, with great skiing below and above, and it frustrated me that such a short climb interrupted the flow.

I thought there had to be a way to get up without taking off the skis.

I puzzled over this for a long time.

In Whitehorse I tested some ideas, one time literally falling on my face.  

Then the idea came to me: have the binding slide a bit along the ski and use that motion to engage traction.

The idea of SkiClaws was born.

SkiClaws FAQ

No. Maybe the best way to think of this new paradigm in skiing, is that it replaces herringboning. That is, where until now you would ski to a hill, herringbone up, then ski down the other side, now you can ski to a hill, run straight up (even narrow, icy, steep hills), and glide down the other side. The other traction systems still have their place. Skins don’t replace wax.
The claws are naturally always disengaged as you stride and glide. You don't notice they are there. You consciously engage them as you are skiing when you need more traction on the uphill. There is no stopping. To engage the claws you lift the ski, move it forward, and as you stop your foot’s forward motion the ski continues on and the Claws slidably rotate down. The technique is easy to learn and quickly feels natural. Some newbies can run uphill in minutes.
Someone who skis mostly in the frontcountry which is everything between the set tracks of classic and skate skiing, and the enormous elevation gains of AT (alpine touring). In a sense it is a return to original skiing, before track setting and before technological innovations in equipment. We hope to use the basic technology on in-track and skate skis later.
SkiClaws represent a new paradigm in skiing, with new techniques. In the 70's the development of skating changed the sport, and divided cross-country into two categories, Classic and Open (skating). Recently there has been a shift in classic competition to double-poling. Both skating and double poling are at odds with the traditional stride and glide technique. With SkiClaws you stride and glide but at a hill, instead of switching to herringboning, you claw straight up. You can also do a scooter or skateboard technique for more speed in some circumstances.
SkiClaws improve the winter outdoor experience for most people. Many cross-country beginners have issues with going uphill. Frontcountry skiers can ascend hills which are not possible to herringbone or side-step. Folks with injured ankles or hips who cannot herringbone can still ski.
Add SkiClaws to perfect technique and waxing and pass your friends going uphill. And in the bush, on the impossible uphill, your friends dismount and walk up, while you claw up and wait for them at the top.
If you are breaking trail in really deep snow, essentially you are on snowshoes and the SkiClaws will not help. But most of the time in the frontcountry you are on old snow, shallow fresh snow, or packed snow where the claws shine.
It is hard to tell if SkiClaws have passed along a groomed track. A pole on the edge of the track or a ski sliding in or out or a dog paw print are all more noticeable. It would be only on the uphills where you might notice, and generally in those spots most track skiers resort to herringboning and there are no tracks. Also, this particular frontcountry model, for 60-62mm waist skis, is meant to excel on ungroomed trails. 60-62mm waist skis will fit in tracks but tip and tail will grind in sharp corners. At a resort, one would get a better experience skiing mostly on the skate area and, like skaters, stepping into the track on the straighter downhlls. On old, well-worn groomed classic tracks the wider skis can work very well.
Skins are great for long, continuous uphill sections where stopping to put them on and then to take them off makes sense. But in most cases for most people SkiClaws are a better option. With SkiClaws you don't need to stop, dismount, clean bases, apply skins, mount, ski up, stop, dismount, remove skins, and mount. You just ski, ski, ski up and down most hills.
If you ski mostly in professionally groomed classic tracks then the SkiClaws FC model is not for you. It is intended for frontcountry skiers. Future models may be designed to excel in tracks. The FC is for 60-62mm waist skis, which technically will fit in tracks, but skinny cross-country skis work best in tracks. You could use SkiClaws FC at a resort but you would find that much of the time you would get better results skiing in the skate-skiing zone.
Theoretically, the technology can be useful on any ski which goes uphill. The current prototype and the first manufactured model will be the FC which is designed for skis 60-62mm at the waist. Once this model has proven itself in the market, we intend to develop models for in-track classic and skate skis. It is possible also to make models for wider skis, and we can if there is demand, but generally speaking, wider skis are intended for deeper, fresher snow where the claws may not be effective. Of course, those versions could also have wider claws.
The very first, very ugly but working prototype used 3-pin bindings. It was a tough decision to go with NNN-BC compatibility in the first production model. If this initial use of the technology finds market acceptance, then a future 3-pin version is guaranteed.
The FrontCountry prototype shown in the photos and on the video at has to be angled at more than 40º for the claw to contact the snow. Most skiers, most of the time, edge without noticing the claws. The first production version will have a steeper angle.
The ski has to be unweighted and moved forward relative to the foot in order to engage. The SkiClaws cannot unintentionally engage with usual classic-style skiing. In theory, they could unintentionally engage with skiing backwards or aerial maneuvers but almost no one attempts those tricks on cross-country skis.
There will be written and video instructions. Roughly: Mount the rail on the ski with screws. Slide on the binding-platform. Mount the front bumper and the rear bumper-heelpad on the ski with screws . Mount the claws with a screw through the axle hole in the binding-platform and a screw through the hole in the rail.
Details are still being worked out. Some parts may be made in Yukon. Unique fasteners and bumpers are sourced in the US. Some parts like the claws and wire spring are likely to be made in India.
The technology can work on any free-heel uphill ski. We started with classic prototypes, then switched to frontcountry (light backcountry) as that market seemed to be more open-minded about innovation in gear. The crowdfunding campaign should prove market viability which can then be leveraged to support the design and manufacture of other models. Start small and build up.
I have had NNN, SNS, and NNN-BC bindings freeze in those conditions so the binding which will come with SkiClaws may face that possibility. The other moving parts of SkiClaws have not yet seized up under those conditions. Those parts move a little with each step, even on the flats, so ice does not have as much chance to set up while you are skiing a does a binding. But if you remove a wet ski and allow it to freeze you may have to warm it to get the platform to slide again.
At an entrepreneurial bootcamp, one speaker from a successful startup said, “Pricing is a dark art.” We are a small start-up, not a huge corporation. Pricing depends on a lot of factors that take time and work to sort out. The highly tentative target retail price is US $350 but note that this includes a binding which retails at $100. Also, when the crowdfunding campaign starts, early committers will receive a steep discount.
Several folks with leg issues report that SkiClaws make a big difference in their outdoor experience. One person could not ski for a season with a bad ankle, so she borrowed a prototype and skied happily for a season. It seems that going straight up a hill with skis parallel is easier on the body than the herringbone.


     “The sturdy, claw drops down and engages with a little kick to provide the uphill kick then tucks away for the glide. I tried the claws on a local rough, ungroomed route and was impressed with the ease in ascending moderate gradients. Plus, there was the glide on the descent, without having to adjust the skis in any way.”
     — Afan Jones, 30+ years nordic skiing experience

     “I have always enjoyed skiing but found going uphill the most challenging part. I was very impressed that I was able to effortlessly master the use of SKiClaws within seconds, and I could run up hills easily. I can tell you it works! I now feel a lot more confident and comfortable skiing outside of the beaten path, which I love!”
     — Lana Selbee, Executive Director, Yukonstruct

     “A great new product that tackles two cross country ski challenges – uphill traction and transitions. It doesn’t take long to adjust to their use and once you get the hang of it, the grip on packed snow, going up the steepest incline, is impressive. What makes it extra special is I don’t need to stop and put on skins if I’m pulling a pulk on a narrow trail. I look forward to trying SkiClaws again in the future.”
     — Geoff Stone, owner Stoneworks Solutions and experienced backcountry skier

     “I really like your invention.  I believe that it will make cross country skiing a more enjoyable sport.  People will be willing to pay a good price for it.  One of those people will be me if I end up returning to the sport  — and your invention motivates me to get back into the sport.  In fact, Marie was discussing how ebikes were smoothing out the hills, causing people to get more exercise from their bikes.  Well, your device does the same for cross country skiing.”
     — Bruce and Marie Fast, Tech Innovators

     “Kudos to you (Doug) for skiing without poles! Bad on the rest of us for not bringing poles. You put on a good demonstration of what knowing how to use the product can achieve, when used as intended. Running up the hills also proved to be a good option for me.”
     — Ian McMahon, 10+ years Ski Industry Professional

     “It took my brain a little time to master the use of the SkiClaws and when it did, a whole new world opened up for me. I can effortlessly climb up steep slopes. On narrow uphill trails where there is no room for herring-bone, I go up with my skis pointing straight ahead. This device increases my freedom of mobility 10-fold and extends my season as I can still ski uphill even when the snow turns to ice.”
     — Itai Katz, two seasons of cross-country experience.

     “Thank you for introducing me to the Ski Claws! I have a weak ankle due to an old injury which means herring boning up a hill could be painful and cause harm. But thanks to the SkiClaws, I’ve been able to enjoy the skiing season after all. I can keep my ankles straight and just claw up those hills. I look forward to many more busy ski-seasons, thanks to those claws.”
     — Chantal Frances, three seasons of SkiClaws experience.

     “As an experienced Nordic skier, I was intrigued by the SkiClaws right away. Upon trying them, I was impressed at how easy they are to deploy and activate, how well they grip the surface of the trail, and how quickly they retract when no longer needed. I imagine it wouldn’t take long to become quite proficient in their use, thus opening up a whole new world of winter exploration, right out your door!”
— Kalin Pallet, Outdoor Retail Industry Professional with over 20 years experience.

     “Downhill skiing has been my go to winter sport. Two winters ago I tried cross-country skiing which I enjoyed at first. Here in Northern Canada there are lots of free trails and I was pulling my hair out for not having found out about this sport earlier. But soon going uphill on the skis was disenchanting and in the end a deal-breaker. I gave it up. Last winter I tried SkiClaws and it made all the difference. I am going to get back to cross-country skiing this year. In my opinion, SkiClaws are a must have for cross-country. What a great innovation!”
     — William Lechuga, Tech Entrepreneur, beginning cross-country skier

     “I’m a novice X-country skier and have always struggled with the terrain. One day I was invited by Doug to test his new prototype of SkiClaws. I was surprised that in a matter of minutes I figured out how to use them properly and then climbed easily on the terrain which was a challenge for me in the past. I highly recommend trying Ski Claws. Surprise yourself! It’s so much fun!!!”
     — Nicky Rosenberg, Electrical Engineer

     “SkiClaws work great for climbing slopes on packed or icy snow. The climbing technique is to put the foot further forward than most people are used to but we were able to climb right away. As ski coaches, we can see how using SkiClaws can help improve hill climbing learning on waxed skis on groomed runs! The system is not too heavy. It’s a bit noisy but seems fixable. In our touring business we use the wider Scarpa 75mm system and we would like to adapt SkiClaws to this. It would be easier than stopping to put on and take off the skins.”
    — Raphaelle & Fabien, Yu’Ski Expeditions owners and guides.

     “Les SkiClaws sont parfaits pour grimper des pentes sur neige tassée ou verglacée. La technique pour monter consiste à mettre le pied plus en avant que la plupart des gens ne sont habitués, mais nous avons pu grimper rapidement. En tant que moniteurs de ski, nous pouvons voir comment l’utilisation de SkiClaws peut aider à améliorer l’apprentissage des montées avec des skis à farter sur des pistes damées ! Le système n’est pas trop lourd. C’est un peu bruyant mais cela semble améliorable. Pour notre activité de ski de randonnée nordique, nous utilisons le système Scarpa 75 mm plus large et nous aimerions adapter le système SkiClaws. Ce serait plus facile que de s’arrêter pour mettre et enlever les peaux pour monter les pentes raides.”
    — Raphaelle & Fabien, propriétaires et guides de Yu’Ski Expeditions.