BCA Scepter – El Niño Powder Ski Touring Poles

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | August 19, 2015      

This time of year, wishful predictions fly about snowfall for the coming ski touring season. For 2015-2016, scientific data may provide a more reliable forecast. The Los Angeles Times reports climatologists expect a Godzilla El Niño which could bring once-in-a-lifetime storms this winter.

For backcountry skiers, especially those in the Sierra and Rocky Mountains, those words create visions of champagne powder days — dreams of snorkel deep runs. While surfing bottomless fluff is blissful, breaking trail to get to the goods can be tough, especially when fresh snow accumulates on your skis. All of a sudden, your elegant one-kilo planks become lead two-by-fours.

BCA Scepter Carbon Alum

BCA Scepter Carbon Alum.

Backcountry Access offers a solution. Their new Scepter pole has a scraper grip, designed to push snow off skis, eliminating drag on the up so you can fly on the down.

Snow load stats from BCA.

Snow load stats from BCA.

Snow stack 5 mm thick adds about a pound of weight to a pair of skis. By comparison, the added weight of the scraper grip is minimal, especially since BCA drilled out the grip in strategic places to make it as light as possible.

I took the Scepters with me to Norway last May. We missed a big powder storm by a week so I wasn’t able to use the grips to free my topsheets of deep flakes. But I found the flat top of the scraper handy to push off while climbing steep trails.

I prefer backcountry skiing without pole grip straps. Scepters come with removable straps. With straps gone, the scraper grip helps keep the pole in hand without having to grip it too tightly. The scraper also has a utility hook, nice for releasing your tech bindings or flipping heel lifters without bending over. The upper shaft is textured for nonslip grab.

Scepters are only available as adjustable backcountry skiing poles. To shave weight and for better swing, I prefer non-adjustable poles, especially since I don’t usually change pole length while I’m touring, but the adjustable Scepters are nicely balanced so perhaps the extra weight isn’t an issue. Still, I’ll trim a small amount off the lower shaft. Every gram helps!


BCA Scepter Carbon Alum
Shaft: Carbon upper, aluminum lower
Manufacturer stated weight: 8.3 oz/235 g (single pole)
Weight of my test pole: 8.8 oz/249 g (single pole, no strap)
Sizes: Adjustable 105 cm – 145 cm
Grip: BCA scraper grip, rubber overmold
Basket: BCA concave hex basket
Tip: Carbide
MSRP: $120 USD

BCA Scepter Aluminum
Shaft: Aluminum upper and lower
Manufacturer stated weight: 8.8 oz/250 g (single pole)
Sizes: Adjustable 105 – 145 cm
Grip: BCA scraper grip, rubber overmold
Basket: BCA concave hex basket
Tip: Carbide

BCA Scepter 4s — four-piece collapsible shaft
Shaft: Aluminum
Manufacturer stated weight: 9.7 oz/275 g (single pole)
Sizes: Adjustable 110 cm – 130 cm, 40 cm collapsed
Grip: Grip sleeve but no scraper
Basket: Folding pole specific, nesting BCA concave hex basket for storage
Tip: Carbide
MSRP: $120 USD

Available from BCA.

The next best thing to scraper grips: two handsome trailbreakers.

The next best thing to scraper grips: two handsome trailbreakers to pave the way.


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31 Responses to “BCA Scepter – El Niño Powder Ski Touring Poles”

  1. Mike August 19th, 2015 5:53 pm

    Will these work in La Nina and ENSO-neutral years too, or would that break your hyper-aggressive SEO?

  2. Lou Dawson 2 August 19th, 2015 7:16 pm

    Not sure Mike, testing will need to continue! Lou

  3. Lee August 20th, 2015 7:19 am

    That’s an interesting take on the carbon ski pole. Most are carbon on the lower half-I assume for better swing weight. BCA is aluminum on the lower half-I assume for greater durability.

  4. Lou Dawson 2 August 20th, 2015 10:12 am

    One of the principles of iterative design, as I understand it, is to “reverse” things and see what you get. Nice to see BCA doing that as the ski pole is nothing less then flogged in terms of design, so doing something new is a challenge. BTW, Voile sold a scraper grip pole some time ago that we liked as well, discontinued so it appears. Lou

  5. Jim Milstein August 20th, 2015 8:11 pm

    The all alu scepters are lighter than my current alu/carbon poles, and they scrape! That’s like getting a pony for free with every purchase.

    So I did. I’ll report on the scrapings when the great blizzard of October ’15 buries southern Colorado.

    Totally agree on not using pole straps. So much less fiddling! Safer too.

  6. swissiphic August 21st, 2015 1:40 am

    Open minded but skeptical. Past experience of high use alu adjustable lowers of other brand have resulted in a few bent shafts. Carbon…zero issues with life link and black diamond poles. Handle straps? After 100+ ski touring days per season, I shudder to think of the end of season wear and tear of the wrist/forearm complex without the support of disciplined use of the strap a la x/c style… guess we’re all not born with robust carpenter’s wrists. 😉 And yeah, non adjustable poles might be perfectly fine in laser sighted planar rockies tilted pool table slopes; nw bc coastal convaluted steep sided gullies in thigh deep cementons and double poling long settled snow false flats sure like the skier to be adjusting his poles frequently enough to wear the length markings off the lowers after a high use season or two. 😉

  7. Lou Dawson 2 August 21st, 2015 5:22 am

    I’ve gone back and forth with the pole strap use. For long tours, agree with Swiss that they’re pretty much essential otherwise you’re working your hand and wrist tendons way too much. But if you’re just doing steep skinning for turns, much fewer strides and that’s when you tend to grip tighter on anyway…

  8. ptor August 21st, 2015 2:02 pm

    For long tours or anything but skating at highest speed across a frozen lake, I avoid using my arms at all..so to stand as straight as possible and walk most efficiently. Way less energy used, never wrist problems, no need for straps. Using arms is for racing.

  9. Aaron August 21st, 2015 2:42 pm

    Lou, your comment on flat face for steep skinning behind body pushing mirrors my use: I have a combo of homemade and Leki self arrest grips that mimic cork trekking pole t-handle grips. I probably skin 80% of the time in hand on top of T position, both in front on normal terrain and behind on super steep ground (awkward transitions around trees on switchbacks etc). It is so comfy and powerful, I can’t believe no one else uses or makes t–grip handles.


  10. swissiphic August 21st, 2015 4:32 pm

    Ptor; I also employ the poleless technique (stuffed in between pack and back) for a lot of the easy terrain and snow conditions sections as they permit on many touring days. There are a number of benefits; lower heart rate at same pace, aesthetic simplicity and key for me, warm hands on cold days…noticeable improvement not holding poles does for (my) circulation. Have you noticed this as well?

  11. Trent August 21st, 2015 5:01 pm

    Swiss and Ptor, my poor circulation has been greatly mitigated by adjustable poles. I know Lou isn’t a fan, but they have changed my life in cold New Hampshire. I will experiment with the poles stuffed inb/w the pack and back, as now I just drop my hands and drag the poles. Thanks for the obvious to everyone but me!

  12. ptor August 22nd, 2015 2:11 am

    I don’t not use my poles (except when compass or GPSing or changing layers on the go)…I just don’t have straps and not gripping the grips hard allows me to shift hand positions anytime up and down so adjustability is not necessary. Not relying on them for force application means I can drop my hands with my poles to the side and even swing them if my hands get cold.
    When I first started going strapless (over 20 years ago) and I was told I shouldn’t be pushing with my arms (or leaning forward onto them which compounds the force taken on your arms especially with a significant backpack load) I was astonished at how bad I walked/ski-toured without using poles meaning my balance, body position and stride going up was horrible. I don’t think we should be mimicking cross-country racers because they’re using their arms and stride to max themselves out while we’re going up to go down (multiple times or for multiple days and have a different efficiency equation with different safety margin (ski-mo racing excepted)).Shouldn’t we be able to walk balanced normally on skis without poles? Try it at home kids! Just imagine all the texts you could send while touring 😉

  13. Lou Dawson 2 August 22nd, 2015 7:27 am

    Thanks Ptor.

  14. XXX_er August 22nd, 2015 12:03 pm

    I’m with guido, I’ve snapped/seen bent or snapped a lot of aluminium lowers that stay bent so i think they got it backwards with an aluminium lower/carbon upper … aluminium upper carbon lower for me

    whether you chose to use pole straps or adj your poles is a personal choice but maybe you are missing out on some benift if you never try different combo’s

    The scraper is a good idea altho after scraping the snow off my skis tops they will remain snow free for … not very long

  15. swissiphic August 22nd, 2015 12:38 pm

    thread drift alert: Furthering the “Shouldn’t we be able to walk balanced normally on skis without poles?” concept to a different context; my geek brain was excited by the changes in fore aft balance attained by using ghetto pouches in lieu of a ‘front pack’ to distribute pack weight…I think it’s something that can be refined to find that optimum personal balance point for uphilling and downhill skiing in different snow conditions…the end result could be a load distribution ratio equation; vertically and fore aft and various combos thereof? Can’t wait to experiment this winter as I never really focused on refinement last year. And as for ski pole handle straps, no straps, adjust pole length or not, etc…; I agree it’s all personal preference and physiology,etc… I have long term hand issues and rely on handle straps to move the load to the forearm for prit near all downward force of either proper pole planting or just for balance. I never use straps for downhill skiing though, in any situation. Never had an issue with dropping poles unnecessarily.

  16. ptor August 22nd, 2015 1:16 pm

    Already developed a front mounted insulated ‘camelback’ to carry 3 liters of water to offset packweight with Dana Gleason 15 years ago but nobody could grok the idea. heavy drifting….maybe we need a plow or a really big scraper?

  17. Jim Milstein August 22nd, 2015 4:23 pm

    Icey ski top collects much more snow and ice than iceless ski top. Keeping the ice off really helps overall. Therefore, scraper. Scraper on pole handle eliminates bending down to scrape–an advantage for both time and energy.

  18. Steve August 24th, 2015 11:11 am

    Other uses for the scraper in our testing of this product:

    1. Scraping thin ice build up on ski bases if skis are left out overnight at a hut or other cold environment. Important to do before applying skins.

    2. Scraping wet, glopped snow off of skins while touring.

    3. Scratching your back.

  19. Jim Milstein August 24th, 2015 7:25 pm

    Agree, Steve with items 1 and 2, but 3 requires taking the pack off. I hate to need to take the pack off. Backs can be left unscratched while skiing. Remember what’s important.

    Until the Sceptic pole/scraper I have been keeping a small scraper tethered to my glove, wrapped around once to prevent flopping. Usually, when skiing, you’ve got a glove on hand, but almost always you’ve got a pole or two. I’m eager to like the Sceptics . . . despite the odd name.

  20. zippy the pinhead August 24th, 2015 8:02 pm

    noun: sceptre; plural noun: sceptres; noun: scepter; plural noun: scepters

    an ornamented staff carried by rulers on ceremonial occasions as a symbol of sovereignty.
    noun: sceptic

    a person inclined to question or doubt all accepted opinions.
    synonyms: cynic, doubter;

    Seems like an apt name to me, as long as you spell it correctly!

    Happy trails….


  21. Jim Milstein August 29th, 2015 2:02 pm

    Sceptic poles arrived & I’ve been pretending there’s snow. They are slightly lighter than my elderly LifeLink alu/carbon poles, but because of strong alu (instead of carbon) bottom sections they have a slightly heavier swing weight. They seem to be robust, and I am optimistic about their cam-style adjustment clamps, which are quick and easy and do not slip . . . indoors.

    The grips are comfortably grip-able, and the scraper is effectively 2 ¼” wide, suitable for the purpose. An unexpectedly effective part, though, is the handle end of the scraper. It manipulates all parts of the Vipecs, fore and aft, really well. This includes the walk/ski transitions. Without the wrist straps, using the handle is super easy.

    On the topic of walking without poles, I do it quite a lot, especially when wet snow sticks to the pole baskets. It encourages better balance. I prefer holding each pole separately near its balance point. That feels almost like no poles at all, but they are ready when needed.

  22. Wookie September 8th, 2015 1:35 am

    The whole “don’t use your poles” idea is interesting. I’m also surprised how bad my balance is when I stick my poles under my arms – and I feel as if I hardly push on them anyway.
    I’d think that the distribution of weight across four limbs would be beneficial – but that’s just an assumption.

    Since I’m an engineer geek I think it’d be super-interesting to try and measure….but how? Anybody got any ideas?

  23. Jim Milstein September 8th, 2015 7:36 am

    Wookie, my balance too is disrupted with poles stuck under an arm. I prefer, best, each pole held near its balance point horizontally, one per hand with hands swinging naturally. Almost as good: both poles held horizontally in one hand. Of course, I’m happy to use poles actively on steep or tricky stuff and for poling across flat or low angle terrain.

  24. swissiphic September 8th, 2015 9:54 am

    Wookie: what’s also super fascinating is skiing downhill in pow no using poles…only did it in the past because I had to but it was interesting to discover how not having poles for balance really highlights the nuances of balance point on skis…I found out that if things are ‘just so’, you can feel that perfect balance underfoot with the skis a natural extension of the body…if length of skis, ski dimensions, boot fit, boot ramp, forward lean, fore/aft position of binding on ski, lateral stance angles, etc… are all dialed in.

  25. Buck November 16th, 2015 6:49 pm

    Anyone know if the grips are available separately as replacement parts?

  26. Jim Milstein November 16th, 2015 10:27 pm

    Now that the Colorado ski season is well under way and I’ve had a number of days with the Sceptic poles, I can say that I like them a lot. Without the pesky wrist straps, the top of the poles with their scrapers/binding manipulators are super easy to use.

    The one thing they lack are choke grips. I will soon add my own cheap, light, sleazy choke grips: lengths of foam pipe insulation glued to the shaft below the official grips. The foam is tastefully covered with duct tape.

  27. Dan January 3rd, 2016 4:22 pm

    Scepter Ski Poles. 2 problems: 1) I am used to checking the snow-pack as I skin along by shoving the handle end into the snow…can’t do this with the Scepters…it really bugs me, but maybe I’ll get used to it. 2) I never liked adjustable poles for a few reasons, one being that no matter how tight I tried to make the connectors, they always seemed to slip at just the perfectly wrong moment. At least with the BD adjustable poles (I use the BD trekking poles for hiking), it is an easy matter to tighten the flick-lock system. Not so with the BCA Scepters. It looks like one needs to drive a pin out before attempting to tighten the BCA “flick-locking” system. Too bad, because I like the poles for all the positive reasons mentioned above, esp. for changing the heel height in the Radical bindings. Note that the tips of the Scepters do not fit well into my older Dynafit bindings with the volcanoes. I plan to consult with BCA momentarily about tightening the flick-lock mechanisms.

  28. Jim Milstein January 3rd, 2016 6:00 pm

    Dan, the Sceptic’s crossbar pops out of its seat to make the lock mechanism field adjustable.

  29. Dan January 3rd, 2016 7:51 pm

    @Jim Milstein. Thanks for that little tidbit…saves me from bugging BCA. I was tempted to play with the mechanism, but have a history of failure in that regard.

  30. hairymountainbeast January 13th, 2016 10:23 am

    I got a pair of scepter carbons and loved them, for two days. Unfortunately the upper carbon shaft broke somehow while driving home. Not sure how this happened. I’m assuming it’s from bouncing around while driving down a bumpy road, despite being intentionally placed on top of all the heavy stuff like packs and boots. Now BCA is not willing to warranty my pole. They are offering to sell me a new PAIR at a great price, but I only need one pole. I’ll probably go for it because I like these poles so much, but will make sure I wrap them in a jacket or something during transport. Seems like they’re a little fragile.

  31. Jim Milstein January 13th, 2016 10:53 am

    Don’t know BCA’s reasoning for putting the carbon shaft above. Below reduces swing weight. Above does little. I got the all alu since the weight difference is negligible and the price difference is not.

    I love them with only one criticism. The rubbery part of the handle on the top, hooky part is starting to shred. I use this part to manipulate the various Vipec modes and levels. It’s really good. Wondering what to do when the hook loses traction. Any suggestions?

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