While guiding in the Swiss Alps last summer, I often thought to myself that I should get some lightweight poles, especially for the descents. Using hiking poles saves energy, which was confirmed by the tests I did using my Garmin heart rate monitor. After I transferred the data of my hikes to the PC, it turned out that walking with hiking poles lowered my heart rate by 6-15 %. I was monitoring most of my trainings because I was getting ready for an expedition. Studies conducted in the USA have also shown that using poles reduces the strain on hikers’ ankles, knees and hips by an average of 8 kg.
In the past, I had only rarely used poles (except for skiing). I always thought that walking poleless is a good balance exercise, and I didn’t like the excessive weight of the older models. Of course I have always used them for ski touring, and I've found that having an ice axe in one hand and a trekking pole in the other is great for travelling through glacial terrain. The trips in the high Alps are often very long and using hiking poles also saves energy.
The Leki two-section carbon poles which I’ve been using for ski touring for a while now have worked great, but they are slightly awkward when attached to a backpack while climbing steeper terrain. They often get in the way, sticking into snow, ice or rock when you least need it. That’s why I started thinking about getting folding poles which take up less space when not used. I mentioned this to our partner Matias sport, who provides us with ski poles, skis, helmets, goggles, and sunglasses. This year they stock a large collection of poles for all kinds of purposes, and the one that caught my attention was the Micro Stick Carbon, which is the lightest model that Leki makes. A single 125 cm pole weighs only 197 g, and equipped with larger, powder-friendly baskets, they weight 212 g each. They come in the following sizes: 110 cm, 115 cm, 120 cm, 125 cm and 130 cm. These poles are intended primarily for walking, trekking and mountain running, but I’m also going to use them for ski touring. I think they’ll be great on ski tours which include plenty of walking or even climbing, during which the poles can be stored in the backpack. On tours with more skiing than walking/skinning, I’m going to use the two-section Leki Carbon Vario poles with the Trigger system, which have a clip in/clip out strap that fits over your gloves, and the poles are attached to this strap via a notch in the back. This system makes it extremely easy and quick to clip in and out of your poles, which is useful if you have to grab the pole in a lower position for better balance (on steeper terrain, for example). Such poles are also very practical for resort use, where you often have to take them off when getting on ski lifts etc.
If you are thinking about getting new ski poles, be it for ski touring or resort use, I would definitely recommend carbon poles. If your ski tours involve more skinning than skiing, go for the lighter models. Leki Micro Stick Carbon poles are lighter than similar poles of comparable quality by 50-100g/pole. Each time you lift your arm, you lift an extra 100 grams; at 10,000 steps, this amounts to 500-1000 kg. If your main passion is freeriding and you’re not interested in long ski tours, weight won’t be such an issue. In this case I recommend the Leki Carbon Vario poles with the Trigger system, which are a great choice for ski resorts as well.