Ski Poles for backcountry work

Discussion in 'Backcountry' started by ScottB, Sep 11, 2018.

  1. ScottB

    ScottB Getting on the lift Skier

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    I am getting my first set of AT skis soon and wonder if I need adjustable poles as well. I have downhill poles and longer cross country poles. Not sure what is desired for AT?

    Advice please?

    I downhill a lot, and cross country a fair amount as well. I am tall and use a 135cm pole for down hill and a 155 cm for xcountry. I wonder if I can just use my xcountry poles if doing a back country day. Also thinking I can use my downhill poles for a side country day.
     
  2. Ken_R

    Ken_R Living the Dream Skier

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    It depends, I like adjustable poles for the varying degree of steepness I encounter while skinning up. The adjustability is specially useful while traversing steep slopes. Its also best to have the option to being able to stash them or strap them to the pack as well.

    The less weight the better. Powder baskets are a must!
     
  3. Pequenita

    Pequenita Getting off the lift Skier

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    If you’re looking to cut costs and your downhill poles have powder baskets, you are probably fine with the downhill ones and choking up on them when on steeper terrain. I would also take into consideration the type of grip you have, and whether you want to hold your hands that way for a while. I don’t think you’d want to use the XC ones unless you’re doing more flattish touring than downhill skiing after a climb. The XC poles would be way too long, i.e., would you downhill ski with your XC poles?
     
  4. ScottB

    ScottB Getting on the lift Skier

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    I am not sure whether I want longer or shorter poles when skinning. Maybe both? depending on the steepness of the terrain? I like the extra lenght of my xcountry poles when on flat terrain. I tend to choke up on them when going downhill. I also get into a low crouch when going downhill on my xcrountry skis, so I choke up.

    Are you saying you want them shorter when skinning up a steep slope? I feel comfortable with my downhill poles going downhill, obviously. I did find a pair that went shorter than my down hill poles and as long as my xcountry. Guess that covers all the bases?

    Skinning is mostly uphill unless in flat terrain getting to the uphill or rolling hills. So what length do you want for uphill and does steepness matter?
     
  5. Rod9301

    Rod9301 Getting off the lift Skier

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    I have carbon adjustable press, but I can't remember the last time I actually adjusted them.
     


  6. Rod9301

    Rod9301 Getting off the lift Skier

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    I have carbon adjustable press, but I can't remember the last time I actually adjusted them.
     
  7. ScottB

    ScottB Getting on the lift Skier

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    Do you skin with them? and if you do, are they longer, same , shorter than your down hill poles?
     
  8. Pequenita

    Pequenita Getting off the lift Skier

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    Yeah, people often like shorter poles when going uphill on steeper terrain - it’s more comfortable. For instance, you’ll find when cutting switchbacks that the uphill arm will need to be lower on the pole shaft to be not awkwardly above your shoulder/head. This will be apparent when hiking up anything that you want to ski down.

    How much shorter is a matter of preference, hence the adjustable.
     
  9. davjr96

    davjr96 Putting on skis Skier

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    I really like my G3 adjustable poles. https://www.genuineguidegear.com/explore/poles
    The adjust-ability is nice for sizing depending on the steepness of terrain, but also to collapse them down and attach them to my pack if not needed or using an ice axe. The little extension on the handle is great for hitting heel risers on my bindings without bending over.
     
  10. jmeb

    jmeb Stereotypical Front Range Weekend Warrior Skier

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    If you're looking for inexpensive adjustable poles -- Costco typically carries some. They are <$50, are carbon (not super lightweight, but nice flex) and have both hiking and powder baskets.
     
  11. MattSmith

    MattSmith Putting on skis Skier

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    Hi Scott! Neat to hear you are getting into some AT gear. For back country skiing I presume? Fair question to ask about poles. If the choice is between using your alpine poles vs xc poles, go with the alpine poles. East coast back country is generally climbing or descending. I haven't run into a lot of long flat treks where longer poles might be required. I don't have a lot of experience with xc poles, but I'm guessing they're more fragile than alpine poles. You'll want that extra strength when climbing. You're looking at some serious bucks to get into an AT setup. Poles are one of the last pieces of equipment I'm concerned about. For what it's worth I'm using Leki carbon fiber adjustable poles with my AT set up.

    With that as a starting point, here are three other things to consider:
    1) Fixed Vs. Adjustable. Unless strength is your highest priority consider adjustable poles. That way you can extend them out for flats and pull them back for steeps, That said, I rarely adjust my poles during a climb or reset them in transition.

    2) Extended grips. This compensates for the adjustable poles. You mention you grip down on your xc poles. Same idea except there's a grip on the pole. I use this on just about every excursion. Skinning a traverse will result in an uneven pole plant. It's nice to be able to grip down on the uphill pole and it's especially nice in steep, technical sections.

    3) Material. Light is nice, but not if it's going to break. While not a disaster, a broken pole is no fun in the back country. If you feel like you are going to put a lot of stress on the pole (you shouldn't, poles and arms don't get you uphill), go with a metal over carbon.

    I see you are in the Boston area. Hit me up if you'd like to join on an excursion. I am a member of and highly endorse RASTA. https://www.rastavt.org/
     
  12. ScottB

    ScottB Getting on the lift Skier

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    Thanks for the info all. I watched some video's and read some online. Seems adjustable is good, but not used as often as just grabbing low on the pole. A lower grip feature seems to used more.

    I understand now, and will probably give it a try with my regular downhill poles and see how it goes.

    MattSmith, I am up in Gloucester and will be in touch with you this winter for some backcountry outings.

    davjr96, those G3 poles look nice, thanks
     
    Analisa, Pequenita and davjr96 like this.
  13. BC.

    BC. NEPA ShopRat/Skier Skier

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    Black Diamond Traverse......
     
  14. Nobody

    Nobody Putting on skis Skier

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    I skied off piste for years using my regular skiing poles switching between baskets (which had the advantage to be able to carry the extra baskets in the backpack and be able to replace them at a whim's notice)
    It helped that were light (hybrid carbon/alu construction)
    When I broke those, I was too undecided, I first tried my summer trekking carbon adjustable poles (which have alos powder baskets and regular ones). Good enough but had the disadvantage that one had to tighten carefully the sections at the desired adjustment, otherwise, the section could give way and shorten itself during a pole plant in a turn (it actually occurred to me). I then purchased a pair of fixed carbon poles , specific for off piste and steep skiing. I am very satisfied even if the poles are a bit on the tad-too-long side...
     
  15. clong83

    clong83 Stauffenberg! Skier

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    I do a lot of skinning in-bounds and some backcountry skiing. I only have an old pair of fixed length carbon downhill poles. They are light, and they will do fine in the backcountry if you have powder baskets.

    The chief drawbacks are:
    1) Non-adjustable. I'd like to be able to shorten them for steeper ascents, and it does bother me after awhile, but it's not been enough to make me go out and buy adjustable ones. Yet.
    2) Not very portable. I have to be using them 100% of the time, because I can't really strap them to my pack very easily.

    I'd say there is no reason to buy new poles if you are just getting into it. If you really like it, but find yourself cursing your poles often, then you can buy new ones at that point. I probably will get some adjustable ones myself in the next year or two, but I keep finding better ways to spend my money.
     
  16. Nobody

    Nobody Putting on skis Skier

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    The advantage of the extra length lies not only in the extra help when steep skiing, but also provides extra leverage when pushing (skinning uphill or on flat sections).
    As for the fixed length, the poles I use have an extended foamy grip down from the handle, so to allow to put my hands in the more comfortable position when traversing or on steeps ascents.
    Never felt the need to strap my poles to the backpack, so can't really comment on this point (even though I think it would not be a problem to strap them on my backpack).
     

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