Equipment Closet: Ski Poles

February 19th, 2015 by Team OAM NOW / Athletic Mentors

By Daniel Yankus, Team OAM Now Multi-sport Athlete

As a professional and an athlete, not to be confused with a Professional Athlete, I balance my ambitions in life between my career and being an athlete. Along the way, I have had the luxury of some wonderful sponsors in my athletic endeavors.

On a return trip from a training weekend, I stopped by the United States Ski Pole Company in Cheyboygan, MI. They were one of the important relationships we sought out when developing our program (race team). What I thought was going to be a quick stop to pick up some poles I had purchased later revealed itself as, instead, a witnessing of the “American Dream.”

I met the owner, Andy Liebner, a handful of times and we had the opportunity to talk about some of the overlooked details of skiing, not just poles. Those little details, we agreed, often separate us from many things in life, not just skiing. For Andy and the USSPC, those little details are the foundation of the dream he started 2 years ago. I spent over an hour with Andy recently and he showed me all the work he has done, including the manufacturing process from start to end, which ended with the completion of my very own poles made by Andy and his crew.

One of the key pieces of this journey is an intense R & D process that includes testing against competitors and knowing the strengths and weaknesses of other poles available on the market. Each pole is tested. Each piece is tested. For every station in the process, the step must have been on Rev L (for non-engineers, Rev L only comes after a dozen or so changes), those changes reflect the perfection in every movement the shop seems to have. The sins of the past are discarded, but that is how manufacturing works: those who wait or become complacent are also often discarded; the manufacturing world waits for no one.

factory_wide2It’s also worth noting that all the pieces used to create these top of line poles are made in the USA. At a time when most carbon products, from bikes to hockey sticks, are made overseas, United States Ski Pole Company has built relationships with suppliers to build something rarely seen in the manufacturing world these days: a product made completely in the USA that can compete with the big players on the market. You can learn more about their production here.

ski poleThroughout the tour, Andy showed me features most of us with a ski pole consider an afterthought. Most of us grab a set of poles, lean on them and test for stiffness and weight. That’s all. However, as Andy showed me, there are many details we overlook when we buy ski poles. Each detail, from the basket to the grip, has been redesigned over and over until Andy has exactly what he wants. For example, the United States Ski Pole Company offers a strap that’s not just comfortable, but also has thermal properties. It’s a small detail most of us couldn’t imagine, but after experiencing we don’t know how we did without it. This is probably the best thing about Andy and his company: they’ve thought of all the things we didn’t and then make them a reality. In the same way that we progress as athletes, each piece of each pole has a story. Each piece had a journey from start to finish.

So, as I get ready to ski with my new poles, I know I’m holding something in my hands that is not just some cool lightweight shiny object. It’s easy to get caught up with the “bling” factor, especially as new products hit the market pretty rapidly.  That said, nothing beats the confidence I have, as a skier, in a product that’s had so much attention paid to the details…and nothing beats the performance. These poles are, in many ways, a reflection of who we are as athletes, and certainly who Andy is as a businessman: built from the ground up. As you prepare to hit the plentiful snow we’ve had this week, make sure your equipment reflects who you are, and works for you, not just the manufacturer.

To find United States Ski Pole Company poles near you, find a dealer here.


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