only trouble was when I came to a baby downhill and forgot I was free heeling and did an immediate face plant.
Heh - on my very first downhill stretch on skins (and it was more embryonic than baby) last season, both my ski buddy and I did exactly the same thing. As we picked ourselves up we observed that learning to skin really puts you back in that same place as a brand-new skier, where you have these enormous great planks on your feet and are trying to figure out how the hell to make them do what you want. Fortunately when you already know how to ski it's more of an adaptation than a new skill, and therefore much faster - by your third or fourth time out you'll be cruising the downhills in rolling terrain. :)
Based on our learning curve last year, the other thing that will make you feel like a total gaper is the steep or iced up stretches where you slip back and then fall on your face. Resist the urge to lean forward, even though it's what your body naturally wants to do. Keep your weight back and plant the ski solidly and the skin will grip even in places where you don't believe that it will.
Very few skiers are dexterous enough to change skins without removing skis. Seriously, how many can do a kick turn easily
I have to disagree with this. I'm insanely inflexible - it's a running joke with my physiotherapist - and have additional difficulty with my left leg due to some residual hamstring weakness from ACL surgery. It's taken a bit of time and practice, but I can now (very inelegantly on the left side) rip my skins off both skis without taking them off. It's much more down to technique, practice and the smoothness of the skin pull than overall flexibility. My ski buddy, who is even less flexible than I am, has also been practicing and is very close on both sides.
I've toured extensively since 1983 and I can't ever recall a real need to remove skins without taking off the ski
Ah, but I do have a need - I have bad circulation problems (Raynaud's) and last season I had horrible problems with my fingers turning into blocks of ice when I was dealing with the transitions. Not having to handle cold skis, brush snow out of the tracks (which ALWAYS iced up on the Markers) and flip the switch has made a huge difference for me during transitions. I realize this probably sounds wussy, but with the circulation issues it was a huge issue for me. For this reason alone, I personally consider the Guardians have been well worth the extra $$. I can still pause and enjoy the scenery, fuel up and hydrate, but without a guaranteed case of the screaming barfies in my immediate future.
I realise this may have given me a bit of a bias toward the Guardians, but when I think about it there's just a level of ease with them that was missing with the Markers. Each aspect of getting set up, skinning uphill, transitioning - it all seems just a little bit quicker and easier. That said, the Markers did me proud for my first season in the backcountry and they're a really solid choice. I didn't make the switch because I was dissatisfied with the Barons in any way; I got offered a killer deal on the Guardians when I bought my current skis that made more financial sense (selling previous skis and bindings as a package) than hanging onto the old bindings.
You'll eventually turn into a weight weenie, though... ounces = pounds = pain in the backcountry
Truth. I actually don't mind the weight at all - I have a strange love for uphill suffering that probably comes from cycling - but it makes it hard to keep up with my backcountry buddy, who switched to a Dynafit setup that weighs over 5lbs less than my rig. He has his skis drilled for both alpine and Dynafit bindings, so I'll probably do the same on mine next season. NOT changing the skis, though - the Rocker 2 108s are the bomb.