Making ski touring poles out of old cross-country poles

Vintage cross country bamboo poles converted to ski touring poles, with orange and blue handlebar tape for grip extensions.

Creating and crafting things with your own hands gives a great sensation of fulfillment. I love to figure out how to refine or restore whatever it is, be it things for our house or my kids, or a pair of ski poles. There is a strong satisfaction in attaining exactly what you desire, constructing the ultimate version with no compromises—something unique and often better. This was the main reason I started making bamboo ski poles.

Another guy who enjoys making things himself is Jacon Mayer. Growing up in Vermont in northeastern United States in the 1990s, snowboarding was the thing to do. So, he didn’t take up skiing until his early twenties. He went straight to telemark and the wonderful world of free-heel skiing, and has never looked back ever since. Jacon defines himself as a climber first, skier second.

Sometimes the New England snow offers great skiing, sometimes not, but the ice climbing is indisputably superb, according to Jacon. He doesn’t ski “frontcountry” much and doesn’t really have any home mountain. From his home in Vermont, Canada has captured his attention, where Roger’s Pass and the majestic Selkirk Mountains on the other side of the continent have been his main skiing destinations of the last few years. Next time he goes there, it will be with his reborn backcountry sticks, homemade from a used pair of vintage bamboo ski poles found on Craigslist.

How did you come up with the idea of making/modifying your own ski poles?

“I’ve always been into making my own gear. I’ve wanted bamboo poles for a while now, but they’ve always seemed too expensive. Someone gave me a gift certificate to a shop that sells Grass Sticks’ bamboo poles recently, and I thought to myself ‘Ah, perfect opportunity. I’ll get myself something I wouldn’t otherwise pay for.’ But then every time I went to do it, I was daunted by the price, so instead I would search Craigslist for old bamboo poles I could modify myself. These poles were $15,” says Jacon Mayer.

And why did you choose bamboo?

“Bamboo is the superior material, because it’s nearly as light as carbon and much tougher than aluminum, or all but the highest modulus carbon. In ski poles, tensile strength is irrelevant, compression strength matters, and bamboo is quite good, but really toughness, in the technical sense, matters most of all.”

How did you figure out how to make the tips?

“The poles came with tips! I just sawed off the directional XC ski nubs with a hacksaw to get the alpine look. That said, I don’t think it would be that hard. You can buy pre-made tips and ferrules from several manufacturers.”

Where did you get the idea of the grips? Is that because you’re a teleskier?

“Tele forever! But really, I guess because I am a backcountry skier. Poles with long grips and no straps have been becoming popular for good reason—the straps are dangerous, and really long grips are … really useful. I think there’s some trendiness happening as well, but the original design is borne from pragmatic considerations.”

Can you describe how you constructed your poles?

“Sure. I bought an old pair of bamboo cross-country poles on Craigslist. I removed the baskets, sawed off the XC ski nubs, spray painted the old nasty beige plastic tips [ferrules], and added Tehnomat’s orange 100 mm baskets I bought from Grass Sticks. Then I sawed off the handles to shorten the poles, since they were originally for Nordic XC skiing, so too long, wrapped them in handlebar tape, and connected a cork ball to the top with a glued-in wood dowel. Voilà!”

More inspiration on how to make your own ski poles

Jacon Mayer’s homemade ski touring poles, reusing the bamboo and tips from old cross-country poles.
Jacon Mayer’s homemade ski touring poles, reusing the bamboo and tips from old cross-country poles.
Backcountry touring poles with grip extensions of orange handlebar tape, crowned with cork balls via glued-in wood dowels.
Jacon crowned his poles with cork balls, using glued-in wood dowels to connect them.
Bamboo ski poles with orange 100 mm baskets from Tehnomat.
New orange 100 mm baskets from Tehnomat match the reborn poles.
Bamboo ski touring poles with orange and blue handlebar tape for grip extension.
Orange and blue handlebar tape makes an extended grip, useful for backcountry tele skiing.
Jacon Mayer’s homemade ski touring poles, reusing the bamboo and tips from old cross-country poles.
Voilà! Jacon Mayer’s homemade ski touring poles.