Best Ski Poles for Side Country

Published by Courtney M on

Backcountry skiing isn’t just a term for riding powder and trees anymore. It’s a massive category in the ski industry, and it includes sub-categories of terrain. One of these categories is side country. 

Side country is defined as areas of the mountain that you can access via chairlift or gondola, but they are outside of the ski area grounds and accessed through approved gates. Until recent years, it was most common to find side country skiing access at European resorts, as the U.S. was slower to adapt the category due to management and legal issues. However, Mt. Baker Ski Area in Washington has paved the way for side country skiing to become popular across North America. One stipulation is that avalanche gear is generally required if you’re going to leave resort grounds.

We’ve lined up the best side country ski poles to help you venture out of bounds. 

Leki TourStick Vario Carbon V Ski Poles

We’ve named the Leki TourStick Vario Carbon V one of the best ski poles for freeride, because it was designed using features from Leki’s trekking and downhill poles. The combination results in a pole that feels like it was made for the side country. It features a carbon and aluminum shaft, which seems to perfectly address the issues of durability and a low swing weight. 

We love that the TourStick is an excellent pole for those who like to travel to different resorts, whether around town or around the world. It features a two-piece adjustable design that can also be folded into two more sections to pack down to just 42 centimeters. The Trigger S strap system allows you to detach the strap from the pole in seconds while entering and exiting the gondola or lift. We love this pole for its lightweight, compact design and high-performance features for difficult side country terrain. 

Line Pollard’s Paint Brush Ski Poles

Side country skiing can be expensive. Avalanche gear, backcountry skis, a quality helmet, boots, and all of the other gear you need to travel out of bounds can add a bit of stress to your shopping process. Fortunately, the Line Pollard’s Paint Brush ski pole is a top-quality, affordable option for the side country. 

We praise this as one of the best ski poles for trees because of its sturdy 7075 aluminum construction. Carbon fiber models haven’t proven as reliable when colliding with obstacles in the backcountry. This pole comes with powder and hard-pack baskets, which can easily be swapped if you choose to stay in bounds on some days. The adjustment system is easy to use, even when you’re already standing in waist-deep powder. Overall, this ski pole, named for freeskier Eric Pollard, is one of the best freeride ski poles on the market. 

Black Diamond Expedition 3

You’ve heard of Black Diamond if you’ve shopped for any kind of backcountry ski gear. They’re experts in creating technical equipment designed for deep powder, trees, and other obstacles. The Black Diamond Expedition 3 is one of the best poles for freeride out there. This is a telescoping pole with three sections that can easily be adjusted to suit deep powder and climbs. The lever locks are secure, and the aluminum construction is durable enough to collide with rocks and trees. 

The Black Diamond Expedition 3 is also an affordable side country pole that has been praised for its functionality as a backpacking or trekking pole in the off-season. Four-season mountain enthusiasts really get a lot of bang for their buck with the Expedition 3. 


Courtney M

Courtney first tackled the bunny hill at age 3, and she has been skiing and snowboarding ever since. She competed in terrain park and halfpipe snowboarding competitions from the age of 10 to 18. Now, she travels the world in search of deep powder and perfect waves. Courtney enjoys sharing her years of knowledge with those looking to learn more about skiing, snowboarding, and other action sports.