Of all the pieces of backcountry gear, ski poles may be one of the ones that I care about the least, right up there with underwear and coordinated outfit colors. I mean, they are basically sticks, right? Most of the time, that is the case, and I could often care less. However, when a pole is more than just a stick, then I start to get a bit more excited. We’ve been a fan of BCA’s Scepter poles for a while here at WildSnow (see our original review). However, as with any ski gear, there were still improvements to be made. BCA recently redesigned the Scepters and came out with a 2.0 version.
By adding a seemingly small function to the grip (the snow scraper), they elevate it beyond just a pole, into something that I am excited to use. Because of that, this could very well be the most in-depth pole review to grace the pages of Wildsnow.
Just like the previous model, the Scepter’s distinctive features is the grip that is shaped to have a flat scraper on top. This is primarily intended to allow you to remove snow from the topsheets of your skis while skinning. This reduces the weight that you’re carrying uphill on the skin track (sometimes by a significant amount). The scraper grip also has some other use-cases, that I’ll get into later.
For the new version, the entire pole has been redesigned. The grip is the most significant change. The scraper has been moved so that it sticks out of the front of the grip, over your knuckles when you’re holding it, rather than backwards, over your wrist, as it was on the previous design. The top of the scraper is also slightly rounded, while the old one was completely flat. The underside of the scraper also has a small rubber bump, to assist with grabbing heel lifters, etc. Another big change to the grip is the addition of a release mechanism for the strap. The straps are attached with a simple plastic clip that snaps into place, and pops out when the strap is pulled upward (as it would be during a fall), but not when the strap is pulled downward (as it is during normal touring or skiing). The poles also feature a foam “lower grip” below the main plastic grip, for grabbing during sidehilling.
The other aspects of the pole have been redesigned as well. The cam-lock mechanism has the same function, but is designed so that it is sleeker, which looks a bit nicer, and also maybe has a bit less of a chance of snagging on things. The baskets are also a new, asymmetrical shape, featuring little nubbins to helping with hooking heel risers. The other big change is the addition of a fixed length version. While I personally still prefer adjustable poles, many prefer the simplicity, light weight, and low cost of a fixed pole, so it’s awesome that BCA’s included one in their line.
I’ve been using the poles since last season, and have quite a few days on them at this point. Over the past few years every time I see snow piled up on my skis, I found myself wishing I had an easy way to remove it, and wishing I had a pair of these poles. Now that I’ve been using a pair, I’ve found the snow removal to be just as enjoyable as I imagined.
The scraper works beautifully. Besides topsheets on the skintrack, I also use the feature in other ways. For one, I’ve stopped carrying a normal ski scraper, and simply use the Scepter handle if I need to scrape snow or ice off my bases or my skins. Another tangential use I’ve found is isolating columns in snowpits. I often dig “hasty pits” as I’m skiing or skinning, and don’t want to take the time to pull out a snow saw, so I use my pole to dig out a column and isolate it. A normal ski pole, inverted, works okay as a makeshift snow saw. However, the scraper grip works 10x better. The scraper feature acts as a “miniature hoe”, and I’ve found it significantly increases the speed at which I can dig, which makes it much more likely that I’ll stop for a minute to investigate the snow, thus increasing my safety.
The redesigned elements of the grip work well also. For an accurate comparison, I tried out an older version of the Scepter briefly. Having the scraper moved to the front certainly makes it more comfortable. The old scraper tended to dig into your wrist during an aggressive pole plant or when skinning. The new one doesn’t have this issue. The new design also still serves as a “hook” to keep the pole on your hand if your loosen your grip a bit too much. However, the old design might do this slightly better since it sits over your wrist rather than your fingers. Overall an improvement, I’d say. The scraper is also slightly rounded on top, which makes it significantly more comfortable when grabbing the grip from the top, especially with thin gloves or bare hands. The addition of the little rubbery “bump” on the underside of the scraper (see picture) is awesome. I use it to pull my toe levers into walk mode, pick up dropped items, and other miscellaneous grabby tasks. Since it’s so much bigger than the small hook included on many other touring poles, it is easier to grab onto things with it.
Although I don’t use straps often, I still found the releasable strap beneficial. It’s simple enough that I don’t think it really adds to the weight or cost of the pole, but it’s certainly nice to have if needed. I tend to not use pole straps in the winter, but in the spring I do. In addition to the releasability, it’s nice to be able to quickly and easily add or remove the straps, no tools required.
There really isn’t much I dislike about the poles. A small pet peeve of mine is the holes in pole baskets. These tend to make the pole baskets snag on branches, and have no discernible benefit (maybe air resistance? I don’t think I ski fast enough to tell). There are some baskets out there with no holes, including those made by Line skis (interestingly now under the same ownership as BCA, hint hint).
I did have one durability issue with the poles. The plastic adjuster part of the pole came unattached from the upper shaft, which made the bottom shaft separate from the upper. This happened when I was pulling up on my tech-toes to enter touring mode with the scraper grip, which involved quite a bit of force. I’ve also had this problem with several other adjustable poles in the past, from just about every other pole company. So it wasn’t too surprising (although disappointing that they haven’t solved it). I quickly shoved them back together and they seemed as good as new, and lasted for several more days of skiing, but I did eventually add a small dab of glue (epoxy) in the interface to ensure it wouldn’t happen again.
Overall I’m very happy with the poles. For the first time since perhaps I first used Whippets, a pair of ski poles has significantly improved my ski touring experience. Anyone need a pocket ski scraper? I’ve got one I’m giving away free!
A small note in the interest of full transparency. Being in the PNW, I’m friends and ski partners with many of the folks at K2 skis (owners of BCA), including the designer behind the new Scepter Poles. I tried to not let that affect my objectivity in this review, but it certainly may have. Either way, I sincerely think these poles are sweet (and the people who design them are pretty cool too)!
Aluminum weight: 10.3 oz/293 g (single pole)
Carbon weight: 10.7 oz/303 g
4 piece pole weight: 12 oz / 3338 g
Fixed pole weight: 9.3 oz 263 g