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Skimo Tech Tip - Poles

In 2009, I started this blog to mainly record my training ideas and share sport science as it applies to mountain sports with anyone interested. I’ve included plenty of ideas on adapting light and fast skimo racing gear and techniques to general backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. Adopting these tactics allow skiers to cover more ground in less time and less effort than their peers more heavily burdened. Some of the ideas are obvious like using light boots and skis to climb and descend objectives. Other techniques are less obvious.

One such technique is adapting race-style pole grips for general ski touring and ski mountaineering. When I was racing a lot, I spent countless powder days in the Tetons lapping on race gear. Little skis and longer race poles were the norm. I felt that the best way to race effectively over varied terrain and conditions was to do so often in training. The light poles are nice for some things but the long length can be problematic when climbing and skiing steep terrain.

Adjustable poles are pretty much the rule in the backcountry and most companies make several styles. I like to shorten them up all the way for steep booters, get them just right for the down and extend them all the way for flat skin tracks back to the car. The problem is that most of the brands come with fat grips. These are nice for descending but are annoying for skinning and difficult to apply in other techniques I’ll describe below. I now can have it both ways.

Most modern adjustable poles are made from narrow diameter tubing, whether aluminum or carbon fiber. Shopping around, I was at a loss to find a Nordic grip that would accommodate these narrow poles. Initially, I was successful simply taking up the extra space with hot glue. This mostly worked. Then one day my partner and I were cutting a cornice with the Backcountry Bomb. This requires chopping a groove through the cornice, which is easily done with a ski pole. As we whacked the snow with my pole, the grip suddenly came off in my hand and the rest of the pole flew down into the couloir. Awesome. Needless to say, it took some sketchy maneuvering to retrieve it without getting slid. Go ahead and snicker.

Drill a hole

Counter sink the screw hole

Finished productClearly, the glue is not enough to count on 100%. To remedy the situation, I added a simple augment to the grip, affixing it to the pole with a single wood screw. I counter sunk it in the grip to reduce hand/glove irritation during skiing. I don’t think I’ll be launching my pole downhill anymore.

Not only do I like the feel of narrower grips for skinning, they’re lighter and way more trim than the stock fatties. This is beneficial in two applications. One, I like tucking poles behind my back or under my shoulder strap when rappelling. It’s way easy with narrow grips. Second, when transitioning on steep pitches, plunging both poles deep into firm snow can provide a quick handrail for extra security. I’ve even used them like a plunged ice axe on short traverses when I lacked a real tool.

Best of both worldsSo, if you like the feel of Nordic grips and the versatility of adjustable poles, try this simple mod to have it both ways.

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Reader Comments (4)

This is a great tip! I was just looking at the Dynafit carbon adjustable poles. I wish I could've seen the pole launch! I would've felt bad, but I would've had to laugh my ass off! I wonder if some epoxy might be good to fill the gap? Comparable weight to the glue and set-screw? Once again, great tip! Thanks!

December 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRalph Shelton

Hey Ralph,
Thanks for commenting. Of course, epoxy would work fine but it would be more or less permanent. I like having the option to change things out, for whatever reason, if need be. Lining up that screw hole will be a little trick. The weight is at the hand and not swing weight so the screw is of little consequence, I think.

December 27, 2013 | Registered CommenterBrian

One of my friend reads your every post about skiing without fail. He is now a professional ski instructor in France now. I have just started learning skiing last year , he recommended me to go through your blogs as that would help me in getting information & some useful tricks about skiing. I would love to read your all blogs , as I am very passionate about skiing. Keep posting.

September 24, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermichaelpitter

Thanks, Michael. As my move settles down, I'll get back to it. Stay tuned...

September 25, 2014 | Registered CommenterBrian

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