Ignorance may be bliss, but once you've been educated, you can never go backas I was reminded after first picking up Indigo's Epic Adjustable ski pole. In my foolishly uninformed universe, I thought all ski poles were created equal: As long as they fit the Goldilocks requirements (not too long, not too short), pole selection was more of an afterthought. To me, this also meant that leaving the slopes with two poles bent like deranged pieces of licorice was just part of the gigski hard (or, in my case, crazily) and your poles bend. As long as they didn't approach the 90-degree mark, it was back into the lift line.
Using the Epic for the first time was a revelation. I'd dig deep, push off the poles . . . and they'd spring back rather than transforming into some Escher-esque series of angles. Constructed with a 90 percent carbon-fiber lower and an aluminum upper, these poles flex and bend with Flubber-like consistency but always return to their original rigidity, inspiring a cartoonish boing sound in my head. The I-grips fit my gloved hands, well, like a glove, and the wrist straps have quick-release clips, should a tumble take you one way and your poles the other. Pole size is also a refreshing variable on the Epicssimply press a spring-loaded button and slide to adjust the pole to your preferred length. Durable, weatherproof plastic over the buttons halts unwanted snow from penetrating the mechanics. The tips are a carbide/steel composite, durable enough to penetrate the iciest of East Coast slopes.
These poles are so responsive, so essential, that I've taken to traveling with them, even when I'm not planning on being on the slopes. Should you find yourself similarly gear-obsessed, here's how to travel with the Epics: Simply drop the poles to their shortest length, unscrew the flexible plastic baskets, slip the poles and baskets into a cardboard tube designed for mailing posters, apply duct tape, and check it with the rest of your luggage. Yes, I've become the freak who travels with his ski poles. But once you've used the Epics, you'll never want to leave them behind. $100; www.indigoequipment.com