For backcountry skiers, adjustable length ski poles are a must. Adjustable poles let a skier extend the pole for additional stability while climbing uphill, when they will often be in a standing position, and shorten the pole length for downhill skiing, when they will be in a crouched position. Even regular alpine skiers can benefit from adjustable poles, using longer lengths on easy and moderate terrain and flat traverses, and shortening them for steeps and bumps.
Black Diamond FlickLock Carbon Probe
The Black Diamond FlickLock Carbon Probe ($119, 2010 prices) is perhaps the ultimate adjustable ski pole. Black Diamond's FlickLock mechanism makes changing the length of the poles quick and easy, so that you can lengthen them for uphill travel and shorten them on the downhill in a couple of seconds. The pole is a two piece, and the lower shafts of each pole can screw together to create a 71.5 inch avalanche probe pole. The Carbon Probes come with 100mm powder baskets. The poles weigh a mere 21 oz. per pair and come in two useable sizes: 100cm-125cm, and 115cm-140cm.
Leki Aergon 3
The Leki Aergon 3 ($179, 2010 prices), is a super-compact, three-section adjustable pole that has adjustable lengths of 71cm to 150cm. With its length and carbide tip, the Aergon has the added advantage of being able to double as a trekking pole in summer. The three sections of the Aergon 3 are 18cm, 16cm, and 14cm long, respectively. The torque lock system is a twist lock that is very effective. The Aergon 3 comes with spinner baskets integrated into the pole, which rotate 360 degrees so that they don't get locked up while planting the pole.
K2 LockJaw Carbon Ski Pole
The K2 LockJaw Carbon Ski Pole ($139, 2010 prices) has several benefits for the weight-conscious backcountry skier. First, the poles, available in 100cm-130cm and 115cm-145cm versions, is very lightweight and can be turned into either a 188cm or 218cm probe pole, depending on which version you buy. The LockJaw clamping system uses a cam to provide great locking power and ease of adjustability. The pole also has a built in inclinometer and snow depth measuring tool to help figure out if the slope is likely to avalanche. The poles come with K2's powder baskets.