“Why I Don’t Use Ski Pole Straps”

Miles Clark | BackcountryBackcountry | AvalancheAvalanche
don't wear ski poles
Reasons to not wear ski poles.

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The past few winters, I’ve spent a lot of time with a few guys who never wear pole straps. They have their reasons, and I always assumed I understood them. During a conversation, my buddy Patrick said he had a skier’s thumb, and he was accused of wearing pole straps.

“You know what would fix that skier thumb?  Stop wearing pole straps!” – Nick

“Nick, I haven’t skied with pole straps for 14 years.” – Patrick

ski pole straps
Don’t do this, according to these guys below.

Right then, I realized how serious these guys were about not wearing pole straps, so I stopped their conversations and asked them individually why they don’t wear pole straps.  Here are their answers:

“Why Don’t You Wear Ski Pole Straps” 

Mattias:  “Because I’m a snowboarder.

Patrick:  “Because of tree branches. A tree branch can catch your pole basket as you are skiing by and easily dislocate your shoulder.  I heli skied in Revelstoke a long time ago and they gave you poles that had no straps and taught you to use them.  I’ve never gone back.”

Nick:  “When hiking or skiing my poles will get caught in holes or branches under the snow.  With no strap, it’s no problem. WIth a strap, you can get hung up or throw off balance leading to a bad fall in a bad place.

Lee:  “Avalanches.  If I get in an avalanche, I want to be able to get rid of everything I can and I want to be able to swim and fight to stay on top and easily pull my avalanche airbag handle without being impeded by a pole pulling my hand wherever it wants.  It’s also great when hiking because you can move your hand up and down the pole with ease.Even if you aren’t wearing the straps, they get in the way when changing your hand position on your pole and can even cause you to slip off if you accidentally grab the strap.”

Zach:  “For photos [Zach’s a photographer].  It’s great to not have straps when I’m shooting because I can stick my pole in the snow and let go and that’s it.  It’s one less step which gets me in position to take a photo that much quicker.”

pole flask
Here’s a good reason not to use pole straps!

There you have it.  Good reasons not to wear ski pole straps include snowboarding, tree branches (avoid dislocating shoulder), getting poles caught in holes and the like, avalanches (allows you to ditch your poles, swim, pull airbag handle), photos (allows you to get the shot quicker).

Leki does offer a system where the pole can break away from the strap.  It’s called the trigger system.  I personally ski with pole straps.  

How about you guys? Pole straps or no pole straps?


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29 thoughts on ““Why I Don’t Use Ski Pole Straps”

  1. Funny you should bring this up again, after all. these years. I haven’t been using straps for a long time, longer than 2014. First of all, they’re awkward. Second of all, I agree with the posters here, some of whom have had sucky injuries due to them. Third of all, I just have *never* lost a pole. Pick your favorite chute or tree run. No probleme.

  2. Atomic AMT Carbon SQS is a light and rigid carbon composite ski pole – featuring our SQS safety release system to prevent injuries.

  3. Way back in the 80’s my wife and I bought Kerma poles with strapless grips. They were similar to the new Scott strapless grips, but a better design in my opinion. She still uses them. I bought new poles 20 years ago but kept the Kerma grips for replacement for my wife’s poles in case they broke.
    I do not use straps for all the reasons stated here. I generally do not place my thumb on top of my grip unless I need to push when skating on the flats. The Kerma grips have a thumb rest, but it is angled so your thumb would slip off under higher pressure preventing skiers thumb injury.
    If I could buy new Kerma grips, I would do so. The grips on the poles in this Ebay listing are almost identical except ours are black and have a big embossed K on the top of the grip. https://www.ebay.com/itm/Winter-Sports-Ski-Poles-TP-50-Tecno-Pro-Strapless-Alloy-Pole-Downhill-Skiing-/183688319210?oid=183640337954

    1. I like this compromise. I have always worn straps because I got tired of hiking back up the hill to retrieve a pole when I left it behind. That remains a downside of skiing without the straps. I’ve been lucky to have had no strap related problems.

      1. I was approaching the bottom of the run within 100 yards of the lift in spring snow conditions. Skiing about 25 mph, poling and turning, my right pole hung up all of a sudden. I was using the straps. I got my head twisted towards the pole violently so I jerked with greater violence on it. The pole came loose suddenly and the head / pole alignment was just so and I hit myself in the face with the pole handle. While still moving downhill at 25 mph. Hit the ground like a sack of potatoes. Two fractures on my cheekbone, one on my orbital eye socket. Became self aware fully about four hours later in the ER. Just the ambulance was $3500. Plus my ski jacket didn’t look quite the same as they scissored it off me. I started skiing in 1959 but from now on I’m not using straps. I’ll climb back up and get the pole.

        1. I have been really lucky so far, but there must be a better way. The Leki system is one. Back in the ’90s, grips with integrated pieces that wrapped part way around the hand were popular. Do any of the manufactures still offer these? They came off easily if there was a problem.

  4. Tore my rotator cuff after a fall at Whistler last February. Still hasn’t fully healed. No more straps for me.

  5. I fell in a tree well in Jackson Hole last year, my pole straps were on and it would have been much easier to get myself out if I had not been wearing pole straps. My primary ski mate never wears pole straps, probably a smart idea.

  6. Never use pole straps when skiing. They are great for hanging your poles up at the end of the day

  7. I recently dislocated my shoulder skiing. My pole dug into the snow, my hand was stuck in the strap, and my shoulder was dislocated. I will not be using the pole straps again!

  8. Loose Straps, no need to worry about ditching a pole by accident and cab easily slip out of it. You might lose a glove, but if you are tied in tight enough to hurt yourself that’s no bueno

    1. Depending on how you fall it doesn’t matter how loose your strap is, and if you make them really loose then they’re more likely to catch on something else. Also, by your logic, if the pole just easily falls off, then what’s the point in the strap at all?

  9. No straps. I can’t remember slkiing with pole straps. I like the feeling of just being able to grab the pole with no strap in the way. Kind of reminds me of the feeling of riding a brakeless fixie.

  10. Had to hop between two trees on Alta 2 Chute in Jackson because of a rocky entrance and hooked a strap. Tore Rotator cuff and Labrum. Couldn’t hike up for my ski and had to take meat wagon down.

  11. I had straps on while hiking when the slope came down above me. when it all settled, my right hand was down by my lower back locked into place. LUCKILY, my left hand and wrist that was extended upward toward the sky creating an airhole and was free of the strap. It had slid down to my elbow. I was able to dig one handed all the way to my other arm, free it, then proceed to dig the rest of myself out. two hours later I was out and could free my other two friends from their entangled resting places in the trees. One was on top of the snow, the other punched through the trees to find an air pocket. Could have been very different that day. Yes I snowboard but I never wear straps.

  12. 30 years ago after severely spraining both thumbs twice in one season (Barrecrafters poles with
    strap with metal buckle) I got so mad I threw the poles in the trash.
    I use platform grip (not made at current time) poles with no straps ever since then.

    Have never injured a thumb since then.

  13. Might want to check the caic report on the skier rescued in a slide on Loveland pass the other day. Pole strap saved his life.

    1. Reading the CAIC report, I disagree with you. He should not have been wearing ski straps. He should have been wearing a beacon, and had a probe and shovel as well as skiing with at least one other person. This guy was really lucky actually.

    2. Lol, no, the guy who found him did. He should have been adequately prepared. The implication of your comment makes about as much sense as me saying “I’m going to wear a reeeeeally tall beanie just incase a bit of it can stick out of the snow, that way I don’t need a transceiver”.

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