Gripping Sticks: A Snowboarder’s Tool for Backcountry Travel

As a snowboard guide working in the heli-skiing industry, the ski pole is one of the most important tools in Eric Layton’s backcountry kit. Here’s why he made the transition to gripping sticks.


In the beginning, I’d ride as long as I could, then try and slide another few hundred meters more, before breaking the poles out. Thinking they just helped propel me forward, but now I know there’s so much more they do!


Poles allow me to easily balance with my board facing down the fall line set up for success to ride away, usually just to make more turns, but also for a quick getaway in an emergency situation.


With poles in my hands I’m constantly feeling the snowpack, probing for density changes and weaknesses within the layers. This is a valuable tool for understanding and locating where avalanches could be triggered. A quick hasty can identify shear characteristics and be a great way to have a poke at the resistances in the top 50-70cm.

image2As a snowboard guide, there is no going down to my knees or sitting in the snow. This is and has always been a huge pep peeve of mine. In the backcountry or in any big mountain setting you have to be at your safe zone, but ready to move away if necessary.

For more on riding with poles, visit or Ambassador Eric Layton’s feature “Poles, Not Just for the Skin Track”



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