When people started using ski poles thousands of years ago, there was no handle on the poles. There was no pole strap either, and the skier rarely gripped the pole by the top. Then we gradually began to make leather grips, and when two poles became the norm, pole straps also became standard. However, there are still times when no distinctive grips or straps are needed. Like when you ski deep powder and want a long seamless grip for grabbing your poles further down.
About a year ago, I saw one of my friends charging down the faces of the French Alps with a pair of poles without handles or pole straps. The sticks turned out to be from Chamonix and had a single 70 cm EVA foam (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) grip. The brand is called Les Bâtons d’Alain, and the pole has recently attracted quite a bit of attention. I immediately thought: why not make an eco-friendly and climate-smart version of that model using bamboo and reindeer leather?
Les Bâtons de Rimfors
I spoke with my friend. Checked his preferences for the length, engravings, and size and color of the baskets. I picked the longest strips of reindeer leather that I had, 118 cm, and began to ponder on how to best attach them at the top. Another friend, my fellow pole maker Axel Lehmkuhl in Switzerland, is already making an environmentally friendly version that goes by the simple name Les Bâtons. Therefore, I wanted to have my own twist for my version.
I already use bark-tanned reindeer leather as an option to make grip extensions under the regular grips, so I kept wrapping the reindeer strips up to the top. The only question was—how do I attach the reindeer leather strip to the top? My initial idea was to use a black plastic knob, but that would have been a shame on the fine reindeer skin. Nor would it be ideal when you need to push with the palm of your hand, which you do sometimes. Instead, I bought Ø37 mm birch balls, which I sawed, dowelled, drilled, and adjusted until I had two identical oval knobs. They were the crowning glory. The grip length became 33 cm. Not bad.
Finally, I treated the leather with Fat Bear’s black bear fat with tar, providing effective and natural protection against moisture. It also looks very nice. Or what do you think?
Thanks, Robert, for the inspiring pictures from Kittelfjäll!
P.S. I only use the pole straps if I go upward or need to push forward.