Brought to you by LEKI USA
Backcountry-specific ski poles are one of the most useful and often overlooked pieces of gear you should have in your quiver. At the resort, just about anything will suffice, but on the skin track the right set of poles can make or break your day. I’ve tried a lot of options over the years and there are some features I can’t live without. If you’re in the market for new poles, LEKI USA just released a well-designed lineup of eight backcountry-specific poles that are worth checking out.
Have you ever noticed that all the seasoned backcountry skiers have adjustable poles? Are they just fashion statements? Or maybe it’s some antiquated trend from the days of leather boots, avalanche cords, and 3-pin bindings? In practice, adjustable poles have lots of benefits for those earning their turns. At the ski area, I prefer poles in the 115-120 cm range, which is pretty short for my height (6’2″). They’re great for my ski style, but not the best for pushing across the flats or in deep snow. In bounds, it’s a minor inconvenience but in the backcountry, where most of the day is spent walking uphill, short poles are useless.
The solution? Adjustable poles! When I’m ski touring, I stretch out my poles to 130-135 cm for most of the day. The extra length is great for double polling across flats, staying balanced in deep powder, and is super handy while switch-backing up steep skin tracks. In the latter case, it can often feel like you want two different length poles – a long one in your downhill hand and a short one on the uphill side. LEKI designers clearly had this scenario in mind and incorporated extra-long foam grips to provide a variety of hand positions for all situations. Adjustable poles are also extremely versatile for building shelters and rescue sleds when your backcountry day doesn’t go to plan.
Another absolute must-have for any good backcountry pole is a feature for flipping heel risers. Some super-light models I’ve used in the past have skimped on this feature and it gets annoying fast. LEKI’s new poles come spec’d with their proprietary “Big Mountain Binding Basket” designed exactly for this purpose, as well as occasionally scraping ice off of your skis, skins, or wherever it might be built up. The wrist straps are also super easy to adjust to fit your preference for pole straps in the backcountry. When it’s finally time to ski, flip open the Speed Lock, shorten everything up to your preferred length, rip skins, and make turns without compromise.
Now that I have you sold on some new poles, look at the LEKI Helicon lite for an affordable, workhorse of a pole that checks all the boxes. It has a durable aluminum build and won’t break the bank. The Guide Lite 2 costs a few extra bucks but upgrades you to LEKI’s super ergonomic Aergon Air grips, and they even have a model, the Bernia Lite 2, built specifically for ladies and other shorter skiers out there. If you’re into Skimo racing, ditch the cross-country poles and get the Guide Lite 2 Carbon, with carbon lowers and low-profile baskets for moving fast uphill. Lastly, for the split boarders and mountaineers, the Sherpa FX Carbon Max is a fully featured, fully collapsible pole that will get you to summits and back year-round. With eight new models to choose from, you really can’t go wrong.