Originally Posted by icanseeformiles(andmiles)
Sorry, MG1961, gotta disagree on this point. I think it's too easy to lose your poles in a critical arrest situation without using the straps. Of course, I never use them in trees, but for a different reason.
The most important aspect to self-arrest: DON'T PANIC. I think this bears repeating: DON'T PANIC!
Keep your wits about you, make sure to get feet downhill and on your stomach as quickly as possible. If you still have a pole, both hands on shaft very close to basket, positioned mid-chest, arch your back and dig in to the snow with the tip of the pole - you may really need to use a lots of force to do this.
In the one case that I alluded to above, had I not had the pole strap on (which by that time had slipped around my wrist), I would have ended up in the trees at extremely high speed.
I agree about wearing a pole strap, but I disagree about where to place the hands. I was taught to use one hand on the handle and the other hand just above the basket. I believe you have much better leverage that way.
The ONLY time I do ski with a pole strap on is when I'm skiing something steep and hard where a fall would have unpleasant consequences. Even then, I only wear one strap so I could jettison the other very quickly if need be.
As to the original question, I did teach the pole self-arrest regularly back when I was guiding backcountry skiing in Jackson Hole twenty years ago. We did a lot of spring skiing where we would be traversing on steep, smooth slopes early in the morning before anything had softened up. There were places where you needed to be able to stop if you fell.
Teaching the pole self-arrest is very quick and easy - for me the trickier part was to trying not make first-timers to that kind of terrain so nervous about WHY I was showing them how to slow down that they wouldn't seize up.
As someone said earlier in this thread, the key to the pole arrest is to jam that pole in the snow instantly and as hard as you can. Acceleration of a sliding body on steep slopes is extremely fast. Honk on that pole like your life depended on it.
I've seen many inbounds situations over the years where somebody could have really benefitted from knowing how to arrest. Now that I do a little bit of instructing, I *do* show people how to use their pole(s) to stop.