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DIY: Resizing Fixed-Length Ski Poles

I have a quick tech tip for you today. Fixed-length poles are becoming more popular for backcountry skiing because they’re stiffer and generally lighter than adjustable poles. They are, however, not adjustable. If you get too big a size, you’ll find yourself walking around with your hands up like a mummy, feeling like an idiot with cold hands.

When we were in Salt Lake City a few weeks ago, we stopped by Skimo.co to say hi. The store is amazing. If you like skiing lots of vert on light, capable gear, you’ve got to check the place out. When we asked Jason if he would shorten Taylor’s carbon ski poles, he suggested a simple home fix: boil the handles off, cut, reglue. Perfect!

Skimo.co: all of the lightweight european kit that you can't buy anywhere else.

Skimo.co: all of the lightweight european kit that you can’t buy anywhere else.

So, if your poles are too long, or you can find a great deal on longer poles and want to cut them down, I’ve got you covered, step by step. All you need is a big pot of boiling water, a hacksaw, and some glue. Buyer beware: some poles have a tapered shaft, and if cut too short you’ll have a hard time filling the extra space to glue the handle back on.


Step 0: Planning. Think about how much shorter you want the poles. You can’t mark where you’re going to cut ahead of time because you don’t know how far the pole projects into the handle. Think in terms of how many centimeters you want to remove to get the right height. For most folks, this will be a couple of centimeters shorter than their ‘perfect’ alpine length so that you can push down on the top of the pole while climbing.

Step 1: Boil.

Step 1: Boil.

Step 1: Grab a pot big enough to submerge the handles of your poles and bring some H2O to a boil. Sink those poles in there and try to lean them against something so that the carbon is not resting on the hot pot. Probably not a problem, but hey, be careful. After a couple of minutes, pull one out and take a peek at the handle. You don’t want it to get soft and deform against the pot. The black diamond grips were more than ok at 100C, but other brands might not work.

Step 2: Check your ribs.

Step 2: Check your ribs.

Step 2: While they boil, which will take about 10 minutes, check the ribs you had in the oven. These are ready. Spice rub recipe here.

Step 3: Pull hard.

Step 3: Pull hard.

Step 3: Being careful to protect your hands from 100-degree carbon, pull the handle from the end of the pole. When the glue isn’t soft enough, this feels impossible. Resubmerge and wait. When it’s ready, it slides off like it’s held together with only thick pudding.

Step 4: Cut away

Step 4: Cut away

Step 4: Find a good step, mark the length that you want to remove from the pole, and cut that sucker. With a standard metal blade on the hacksaw, it was quick work, though the carbon definitely preferred to be cut by pulling the saw rather than pushing. If using a power saw or dremel of any kind, use a mask/respirator/eye protection to avoid breathing nasty carbon shards.

Step 5: Glue

Step 5: Glue

Step 5: Run a stripe of glue onto the end of the pole and push it into the handle with a screwing motion to spread the glue around. Use a glue that doesn’t expand much. Gorilla glue is pushing it. Two-part epoxy is probably ideal. Elmer’s would work. Super glue probably not.

Step 6: bonus!

Step 6: Bonus!

Step 6: While you’re improving those ski poles, get rid of the pesky pole strap, which is only there to hurt you and bury you in avalanches. On Black Diamond poles, push out the pin that holds the strap into the handle. On others, get out that knife and make those poles lighter.

Step 7: Ski!

Step 7: Ski!

Step 7: Get out there and ski! I’m stuck inside this month, but you don’t have to be!

Please comment with any more tips or tricks that you might have! Cheers!


 

2 Comments

  • Shazza on Feb 09, 2017 Reply

    Hi Patrick, I’m about to attempt the pole shortening. I’m a mum so there are a few things that could go wrong in my workshop, except I reckon I have ‘heating’ the pole handles in a pot on the stove covered! Can this be done with a tapered pole. If I’m only chopping off 5-8cm, I’m guessing the worst that can happen is that the pole handle doesn’t fit well at the bottom end and there is a less tight grip on the pole – but the top end should be o.k.? Any experience with this? Thank yoU!

    • Patrick Fink on Feb 15, 2017 Reply

      Hi Shazza! Without seeing the pole, I can’t be sure how viable this would be with a tapered pole. I don’t have experience with it. Just know before your proceed that it could wreck the poles, but if they don’t work for you now, who cares! If you cut off a chunk and find that the pole wobbles a lot inside the handle, then consider putting in some kind of shim before gluing the handle on. You can also consider using a glue which expands slightly when drying, like Gorilla Glue. Just make sure that when you’re finished there aren’t any gaps or the pole will eventually lever itself loose as you use it.

      Let me know how it turns out!

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