The World's Most Awesome Ski Poles

:date: 2023-12-29 19:10 :tags:

You may not know who Johannes Høsflot Klæbo is but if you know anything about top level Nordic skiing you know he's an absurdly talented dude who not only has been winning at everything for quite a while, he's also freakishly good looking and, if you watch his YT channel, quite charming and endearing. And if you ask someone very knowledgeable about the sport of Nordic skiing to name the athlete with the most distinctive ski poles, once again Klæbo will stand on top of the podium holding his signature pink poles.

His poles are definitely very cool. But! Interestingly, mine are cooler. If he signed his poles and offered me a trade, I would have to politely decline.


I own the coolest ski poles in the world and here's the story of how that happened.


I was skiing at Wilderness Lodge, PA last season on one of the few happy days they had any snow. I started chatting with another skier and almost immediately I noticed she had the coolest ski poles in the entire world. She was British (like I almost am) and her poles had a cool Union Jack theme. OMG! I love these poles! Tell me about these poles! Whom do I throw money at to get these poles?

It turns out that these are not merely some faux Scandinavian Ikea poles made in China. Like Klæbo's Rosaskistaver. Oh no, my friends. These poles are American (like I almost am). They are so American that they are made just down the road (I-75 to be exact) from me in Cheboygan, Michigan. They are so American that they are made by the United States Ski Pole Company. Well, that all sounds great. Those lucky bastards in Norway don't need my help to evangelize the magnificent sport of Nordic skiing. But I love seeing enthusiasm in that direction here in the USA and the USSPC is doing a great job!


Ok that all sounded fantastic. Then this woman shows me that her name is printed on her poles. WTF? And she tells me, oh ya, these aren't just first class poles technically  —  they will make them look cool with custom graphics. Is this for real? OMG. Yes! Where do I sign up? Take! My!! Money!!!

Well, this was the coolest thing in the history of cool things and I realized that this was so cool that I needed to make absolutely sure I held up my end of the deal. That, of course, was to generate some awesome custom graphics. And, ya, that art project lasted all summer. The fine people who read the silly things I write here may remember that time I became weirdly obsessive about procedurally generated snowflakes. Sensible people would be right to wonder, "What the heck could be so important to justify wasting so much time on something so stupid?" Well, my friends, here is the final product and I think we can all agree that putting in the extra effort was a small price to pay for the coolest ski poles in the entire world.







I love these poles. I've already put 200km rollerskiing with them in the last month. They have a great feel and are quite a bit lighter than my brand name faux-norsk Ikea poles. I was surprised by the light swing these had too. I've now stabbed the asphalt with them around 30000 times and I think the impact feel is pretty good.

I can't say if they're more or less breakable than other poles, but unlike other poles I own, I was able to order a spare shaft at just the cost of the shaft; if I do break one, I am not waiting on a replacement.

The USSPC is happy to make a full pole from tip to grip. Although I am set in my ways with a Solomon R60 click grip system, I did get the USSPC tips and I'm quite happy with those. I really love the design of the removable baskets. This way the same set of poles can be used on light fluffy snow by clipping in a big basket, it can be used on normal packed groomed snow with the normal basket, and it can be used rollerskiing by removing the basket entirely. No tools or heat needed. While I did try this basket system out on snow a tiny bit last week, it was garbage snow (my specialty!) and it remains to be seen how well these do properly skiing at speed. I think they'll work out great. I was warned that the baskets are hard to remove when it is cold and I can confirm that is quite true! But that is just damn good design.

Today when I went out rollerskiing I had the straps clipped to the poles just as they were when I took these photos. I haven't used a pole with a strap stuck to it in years and I was astonished at how utterly awful it was just to carry my poles out my front door! With that strap dangling it's just incredibly annoying and clumsy when you're not used to it. That's why I'm 100% committed to the Solomon R60 Click system where the strap comes off at the press of a button. If you like having your pole attached to your arm with inconvenient permanence and you don't mind never changing pole sides and you like how much harder it is to pack the poles in a shipping tube, etc etc etc, definitely look into to USSPC's interesting version of the permanently attached strap. But as a late comer to the sport, I'm horrified at how clumsy and stupid that kind of system (which all pros use by the way) seems compared to a detachable system. If some awesome American ski pole manufacturer were to offer a detachable system, I'd buy it immediately and give it a try. Wink, wink.


This image also shows how the R60 Click straps can start to wear out. Still, they've been excellent for me.


This image shows how the baskets can be used to clip the poles together. I don't know how useful that really is, but it's certainly reasonable and clever to design it to give you this option.

I am absolutely delighted with these poles. Skiing, and really rollerskiing, is my main hobby these days and it is fantastic to go out with these poles that not only perform well functionally but also just make me feel extra good about the whole experience. For me it was time and money well spent. For more casual skiers, the United States Ski Pole Company makes a perfectly good stock line of poles too. Their pricing is very competitive and supporting local people who are supporting local skiing is a Good Thing.

For anyone curious I'll decode the artwork. The procedural snow just seemed a perfect exemplar of my classic idiom. UK flags always enliven anything with the striking design and act as a talisman reminding me of my natural born resistance to the harshest (roller) skiing weather  —  1C and rain. I like the appropriate contrast with the USSPC's logo, which I am more than proud to feature. While modeling this in Blender, I also discovered that two Union Jacks wrapped around a cylinder make an X. The death themes are purposefully standard tropes for me. It is my religious creed that: if there is snow which affords skiing, there must be skiing. My UDS skull is my classic personal vanitas memento mori that reminds me of this commitment  —  to never waste opportunities in life. I must never forget how limited the future really is. (Even the Bible says, "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.") The little skeleton is new for this project and was half mine (concept, coherence, integration, pro vectorization) and half Dall-E (bonkers hallucinations, nice lines). I call this character Mister Tid. If I'm lucky enough to have the opportunity to reflect on my life just before I die, I will not need to lament foregone skiing opportunities. However, thanks to global warming, I may not have to wait until I'm nearly dead. That is what Mister Tid reminds us of.

Here's the complete artwork.


Many thanks to Roger, Brady, and Andy at USSPC for being such good sports and patiently helping me to own these fantastic poles!