Gear Review: Salomon MTN Carbon S3 Poles

For the longest time I had a pair of Black Diamond Traverse adjustable poles. They were aluminum. They were poles. They worked just fine. Then I lent them to a snowboarder at a resort so he could make a couple hops up a short uphill section. He hopped his snowboard right into the lower section of one the poles and bent the hell out of it. Never lend your poles to a snowboarder.

The Salomon MTN Carbon S3 poles at work in Gulf of Slides, Mount Washington

The Salomon MTN Carbon S3 poles at work in Gulf of Slides, Mount Washington

Since that fateful day the bent Traverse pole never worked the same again. Even with some careful bending, some paste wax, and sanding the pole section, it wouldn’t shorten and extend easily. It took a lot of force to work that pole where I wanted it. But the pole did continue to serve me for several years.

This year I splurged and got new poles. I went with Salomon MTN Carbon S3 ski poles. They’ve got a ton of features that are well thought out. I dig ‘em.

Straps

The straps have a safety release feature that allows them to pull free in case you snag a pole on a tree or are caught in an avalanche. I’ve never felt the need for pole straps. They just seem to get in the way. They get caught on your bindings when you use your pole handles to flick heel risers and they’re just another strap to fiddle with before you point your skis downhill to shred the gnar. So it’s nice that they’re easy to remove.

The Salomon Straps are much bulkier and padded than other pole straps I’ve seen. I guess it’s a “comfort” thing. Another good reason to remove them if you ask me.

Baskets

The pole baskets rotate and wobble on a spherical hub just above the pole tip. I thought this was a gimmick when I first saw it. I never thought my pole basket had gotten in the way before. But now that I’ve used these baskets I’ve seen the light. They’re awesome. They allow the tip to sink into steep snow without being levered out by the basket. This is especially handy on traverses on firm snow. They’re the real deal and I want every pair of future touring poles to have them. I imagine that finding replacements for these baskets might be tricky but hopefully I’ll never have to deal with that.

Even on firm snow the basket moves around to allow you to plunge the pole tip as deep as possible.

Even on firm snow the basket moves around to allow you to plunge the pole tip as deep as possible.

Weight

They’re light. Not to say my old Traverse poles were particularly heavy, but these Salomon MTN Carbon S3 poles are stupidly light for a full featured pole. A single pole weighed in at 265 grams with the strap attached. When you pick something up and place it back down several thousand times per day, it’s nice to not have to pick up more weight than necessary. And when you have to strap them to your back on a booter, you’re carrying around less weight. And the carbon is super stiff. They’re a nice, solid platform when you’re in consequential terrain.

Adjustments

Salomon MTN Carbon S3 locks

The Salomon flick-style locking lever is easy to grab with gloves on but low profile enough that it hasn’t opened unintentionally. My Traverse pole locks snagged on something at least once per outing and would need to be clamped back down. I was lucky to never lose a pole section.

My only real gripe about the Salomon MTN Carbon S3 pole is that the length tops out at 135cm. I would have been pleased if it went to 140cm for poling on long, flattish descents. That being said, it’s not a deal breaker. 135cm is plenty long for most everything and I can deal with the reduced 5 cm of length.

Grips

Salomon MTN Carbon S3 Pole Grips

They’re foam, they’re light and they’re chunky. They’re easy to grip and they won’t rub your hands raw if you’re using them without gloves like a rubber grip will. They have a foam extension that is good for choking up on the pole for short steep sections or when you’re traversing. Ideally, I’d like this foam to be a bit lower on the pole or extend down just a touch more but that’s really just a nit pick.

One other small gripe I’ve noticed is that the foam seems to hold snow a little more than a rubber grip will. So if you’re sawing a quick hand shear block with your pole handle or you plunge the handles into the snow to keep them from falling away on the steeps, that snow tends to stick to the grip. And then you wrap your hand around it, compress the snow and it gets a little icy and hard to grip. But I’d rather deal with this issue and end up with a more comfortable grip. It’s all about compromises.

Durability

I’ve already put some good nicks on the lowers. I suck at skiing and I’m constantly ramming my skis into stuff they’re not supposed to hit: trees, rocks, poles, you name it.

The grips have been put through some abuse sawing hand shear pits in some dense wind slab and crust and haven’t shown any wear.

Summary

The Salomon MTN Carbon S3 poles are great, lightweight, fully-featured touring poles at a reasonable price. They have some key features like the removable safety straps and wobbly baskets that set them apart from other poles on the market. Highly recommended.