Monday, December 4, 2023

Gear Review: Grass Sticks Bamboo Ski Poles

Last winter I had a blast skiing all over the Sierra Nevada (Mammoth Lakes and Tahoe) and in the Cascade Range with a trusty pair of Grass Sticks ski poles. The ski poles are simple, but sometimes for the equipment you rely on greatly to get up and down a mountain, simpler is better.

Most people probably know the Grass Sticks from their distinctive look. You can choose from a range of fun, bright colors for the grip and the powder baskets, and the natural look of the bamboo pole stands out in a sea of aluminum and carbon at the ski resort or on the skin track.

But where this pole stood out for me was the little details that added comfort. The grip is comfortable in gloved or mittened hands. It doesn’t have ridges for your individual fingers or for your forefinger, which was something that I appreciated after having a bad experience with the ridges on the Moment Freeride pole fitting my hand (I’m normally a HUGE Moment fan, especially for skis that work well in the Sierra, but was disappointed in this particular item). So the grip, like a lot of things on the Grass Sticks, was simple and just worked.

The author with a pair of Grass Sticks Ski Poles in Mammoth Lakes, California. Photo by Caitlin Brown.

I also liked the wrist strap. I chose to get it without a buckle, and found that I didn’t really miss it and appreciate having one less thing that can break on a piece of gear. When touring up Mt. Tumalo in the Oregon Cascades, or out at Red Cone Bowl on the Mammoth Crest, it was comfortable for going uphill as well as down without needing any adjustment.

For the pole itself, the benefits of bamboo as the material for the shaft go beyond aesthetics. Because bamboo has natural flex, it’s less likely to bend or break than your average aluminum pole. It may not be ski-mountaineering-racing light (they weigh about 18oz on average - depending on the length of your pole and accessories, of course). But I expect my pair to be a reliable workhorse. And - continuing in the theme of customizability - while the ski poles aren’t height-adjustable, you can order the exact length pole in centimeters that works for you.

I was fortunate enough to receive a pair of ski poles from Grass Sticks for this review. But if they were ever to break – which doesn’t seem likely – I’d buy another pair.
--Shelby Carpenter, AAI guide alum

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