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aluminum or carbon fiber?

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  • aluminum or carbon fiber?

    I need a new pair of nordic poles, length about 150 cm, for nordic touring, mostly on groomed track, but not always. I tend to put some heavy weight on these at times, usually when extricating myself from brush or snow after attempting some off trail excursion, so need something that can flex, take the pressure, and not break or get bent. Suggestions appreciated.

  • #2
    The advantages of light stiff nordic poles cannot be overstated. But they are absurdly expensive and also somewhat fragile. On the other hand I have a pair of aluminum swix poles that are still going strong after 6 or 7 years of many-times-a-week use, including my 6 foot+ son roller skiing with them in the summers. I have had to replace the grips that completely wore out, and the tips more times than I can remember, but the shafts are still straight. So, for the use you describe, I would go with a pair of cheaper aluminum poles. Look for a pair on sale. Especially in 150, you should be able to find something. Remember, you can always cut them down.

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    • #3
      Just say no to carbon. I've seen them break in unlikely situations like whacking your ski boot to get the snow off it, or levering on it to extricate yourself from a fall in deep mushy snow.

      On the other hand i broke an aluminum pole by tripping over it in the up track (!) in a bamboo patch in Japan. Should've just made a new pole out of the bamboo.
      I'd go for stainless steel, just to be on the safe side.

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      • #4
        The most expensive thing you could buy would be the best, I think. Probably carbon....
        Yay!...(Drool)


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        • #5
          aluminum if you are taking them near metal edges

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          • #6
            I'll never buy carbon poles again. they were expensive and both broke around the same time under what seemed like regular use circumstances. REI took them back. The aluminum poles I replaced them with are still going.

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            • #7
              I loved the Exel poles I used to race with. Graphite.

              I've never snapped a carbon pole and have used two different models (first pair was stolen at Sugarbowl) for tele/AT. YMMV.

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              • #8
                I don't understand how people are always breaking poles. Do you fall on them when they are leaning up against a tree of what?

                Just kidding... I have two pairs--actually now a pair and a half--of carbon poles. I have broken exactly three lower shafts on the adjustable ones in something like 12 years. Once was levering on it to crawl out of a moat and just snapped the tip off. The other two broke at the same time when I was trying to thread the needle between two scraggly half dead subalpine fir saplings. I went in with a pole in each hand and came out with half a pole in each hand. Now I can't get the same diameter lower shafts so that pair is down to one. The other poles I use a lot are fixed length carbon, 115 cm. I use aluminum poles in spring and summer on no-fall terrain, one with a whippet and one without.

                I don't nordic ski very often at all but I'm having a hard time imagining how you could break poles doing that unless you do something incredibly spastic like tripping over your own feet with your poles between your legs. I know, I'm mean. But here's a suggestion. Don't lever on your poles to get up. Cross them and put them in one hand, lay them on the snow or snow and brush, get your feet close to your body, and pick yourself up from that position of support. You have a shorter lever arm, but it is far more stable.

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                • #9
                  If they're not for racing I'd be inclined to go for decent quality alu poles. The problem you're likely to find is that poles with decent shafts and grips are likely to have miniscule baskets, suitable for skiing on packed tracks only. Poles with more sensible baskets are likely to be heavy and/or weak. I'd consider changing the baskets on alu racing poles, assuming you can find something that will fit.

                  cesare: It's not amazingly difficult to break poles XC skiing. Some of the cheaper fibreglass poles were amazingly weak and used to break if you looked at them the wrong way, and racing poles don't get on well with ski edges if fallen on. This only has to happen once to kill a pole. Also, mass start races are death on poles when people tread on your baskets.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by cesare View Post
                    I don't nordic ski very often at all but I'm having a hard time imagining how you could break poles doing that unless you do something incredibly spastic like tripping over your own feet with your poles between your legs.
                    I don't think I'm incredibly spastic, but sometimes I'm quite sure I look that way.

                    PS nordic skiing does not have to be on a groomed track, and much of mine isn't. Ski a route three times and you have as good a striding track as you'll find anywhere. And sometimes, you just have to try some stupid descents. See note above.
                    Last edited by Baaahb; 6 November 2013, 08:31 AM.

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                    • #11
                      I get the mass start race thing, but that's not everyday use.

                      Baaahb, they have this thing called telemark. It works great for going downhill in a straight line.

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                      • #12
                        I got that straight line thing down pat. It usually ends in a thicket of underbrush.
                        Last edited by Baaahb; 6 November 2013, 09:04 AM.

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                        • #13
                          Thicketeering at its finest!

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                          • #14
                            Good point on the baskets. Also, any halfway decent racing pole will have holster grips, which are almost required for track skiing, but are not ideal for thicketeering. Thus, another reason to go the cheap aluminum pole route. Note that the normal pole straps are sometimes called "biathlon straps." The Swix touring poles here may be a good bet: http://www.nordicskater.com/swix.html.

                            As for those descents, you might try the "witch technique." Put both poles between your legs, with one hand gripping the two poles in front on your crotch and one gripping the poles behind your buttocks. Press the pole tips into the snow behind you and use them to create drag. Makes for good photos.

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                            • #15
                              Perhaps try a four pole system? Two carbon fiber poles for more tame days and two aluminium ones for your adventures into the thickets.

                              I acquired an inexpensive used pair of carbon fiber poles that I've been using for both classic and skate and must agree that they're noticeably better than aluminum. I use adjustable aluminum poles for XCD and touring. I have some Lekis that go to 150 or so.
                              Last edited by Matt J; 7 November 2013, 07:41 PM.

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