Leki Venom SL Ski Poles and Stella S Ski Gloves Review
Paul has tested a range of Leki trekking and ski poles over the last few years and has been consistently impressed with their construction quality, design detail and stylish appearance. Some of his reviews are here, here and here). I have used some of these trekking poles too, but was delighted to be offered the chance to review some of their female fit Stella S gloves and Venom SL poles and I’ve been busily testing them in the French Alps. I will explain in the review how the two products combine and have written about them being used together for this review, but they also work individually and have their own features so I have discussed them separately too......
The Leki Brand
It is strange how you might never notice a particular car type on the road but, when you get one of the cars yourself, suddenly you spot them everywhere! It was a bit like that with Leki. Until Paul became involved in testing Leki products it wasn’t a brand I had particularly noticed, but soon I started spotting them all over. Then, when I headed to the Alps over Christmas it seemed like every other skier was using their poles or gloves. They are often easy to spot because they come in quite distinctive colours - but seeing the brand name boldly splashed on the side also helped!
Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised because Leki have been around for a long time and are a big name in the industry. The company was founded by keen skier Karl Lenhart in 1948 after he became disillusioned with the ski pole options available at the time. He started making grips and baskets before eventually producing his own complete poles in the 1970’s. The brand has gone from strength to strength and is now a market leader in the production of ski poles, trekking poles and associated accessories like gloves and protective wear.
Venom SL Poles
The Venom SL is one of Levi’s race series poles made from high strength HTS 6.5 aluminium and aramid carbon. The upper section is alloy for strength and rigidity and the lower section is carbon for lightness and to offer good balance.
The handle features 4 finger grooves for a comfortable and secure grip and Leki have added an additional grip area for added security. The handle is made from 2 rubber compounds for optimum friction and comfort.
The handle also features Leki’s Trigger S system which, when combined with the included frame strap (or compatible Leki gloves - but more on this later), offers a secure, safe and quick release attachment system. Lastly, the Venom SL features Leki’s ‘Flex Tip Alpine’ pole tip which is designed to perform well in all snow conditions.
I’m certainly not a ski racer but would class myself as an experienced leisure skier with time spent living in resort and I have tried quite a number of pole types over the years. The testing for these poles and gloves took place in the Alps and included piste skiing, some off piste and a ski tour.
It is immediately obvious that the Venom SL is a top quality pole. The finish is perfect, the construction quality impeccable and the styling and design are superb. They are almost a work of art! The styling on the poles I received is quite ‘loud’ with bright colours and large logos, but I don’t mind this and think it suits the skiing world well.
They come in a variety of lengths and, as there is no adjustment, you need to ensure you get the right length for your height. Fortunately, Leki have a handy length calculator on their website which makes this job very easy.
So, the Venom’s are a great pole. They have performed well in every context and are a pleasure to use. The grip system is superb, they are well balanced and lightweight, the pole tips are spot on and everything works as you would hope.
But the real winner has to be the Trigger S system. This is a two part system combining the trigger release incorporated into the pole end and the ‘Frame Strap’ which fits over the hand and secures with a Velcro strap. This fits securely in place and sits comfortably over gloves or mittens. To use the system you simply push the incorporated cord loop onto the spike that is on the pole and it clicks into place. You are ready to ski and have a perfectly positioned hand support. But, if you had a fall and force was applied to the pole then it is designed to release for safety.
It is a brilliant system - really brilliant. When you queue up at a lift you simply press to unclip your poles from the strap and, once off the lift, it takes a second to clip them back in. When you are touring you sometimes don’t want to have your hand strapped in and you can unclip it instantly. The system is a pleasure to use and you really notice it when you switch back to a standard pole style.
So, the upshot is that I have liked everything about the Venom SL, but that isn’t the full picture. For this review Leki also sent me some of their female fit Stella S gloves to test. This is where the pole and glove combo shines brightest. Please do keep reading.
Stella S Gloves
Leki produce a broad range of ski gloves and several female specific models. The description for the Stella S is of a ‘reliable sport glove designed for energy, motion and speed’. To this end, Leki has used a stretchy soft shell outer material teamed with a durable sheepskin palm, Primaloft insulation and a breathable, lightweight and silky Bemberg liner.
The Stella S also features a Velcro cuff adjuster, fur cuff trim, appliqué logo and the Trigger S attachment system.
In terms of looks, I would describe the Stella S as stylishly understated. The pair I was sent were in an all black colour with subtle detailing - although touches like the fur cuff trim and appliqué logo sewn into leather added a dash of flair. They are also, as I’d expect from Leki, beautifully made. If your preference is subtle but stylish then the Stella S will be a firm favourite.
For a ski glove, and compared to what I am used to, the gloves are quite thin and, as I suffer with cold hands, on first inspection I thought the Stella S wasn’t going to provide sufficient warmth for skiing on colder days. They are also designed to be quite snug fitting and, as I am used to a looser glove (which I often wear with a thin liner underneath), I was again concerned that the glove would leave me with chilled fingers.
In the end I needn’t have worried. Despite frigid temperatures in the Alps my hands stayed warm thanks primarily to the Primaloft insulation and the SoftTex soft shell material. I was really impressed and the gloves have certainly made me think about using similar gloves for other cold weather activities - something like this would be great for ice climbing in drier conditions.
The other thing about the soft shell fabric is that, because you have that stretch in the material, you can wear these gloves with quite a snug fit (Leki provide plenty of sizing guidance on their website). Having a tighter fitting and thinner glove than usual has been very liberating. Suddenly I have enough dexterity to pick up small objects or to grip zipper pulls and the snug fit made it a breeze to hold my ski poles on lifts. Normally I am regularly taking my gloves on and off for these fine motor jobs.
The sheepskin palm is grippy enough to hold items and works perfectly with the rubber compound of the Venom SL’s. I can’t comment much on durability yet but I have no reason to suspect the Stella won’t stand up to plenty of ski time. I also really like the liner material. Leki have used a slippy silky fabric that makes it easy to slide the gloves on and off and feels great to wear for extended periods of time.
The gloves are said to be water resistant rather than waterproof. This suits most ski requirements and I have never had a problem with moisture getting in. The soft shell material also dries quickly and sheds snow well. If it were an extremely damp day I might choose something else, but for 98% of ski days these will be my top choice.
And so, that is almost the picture, but not quite. Although you could happily use the Stella S with any ski poles and they would perform with aplomb, it is when you pair them with some Trigger S poles that they really shine. Stitched into the glove (in the dip between the thumb and finger) is a loop of stiff and durable cord. This is designed to slot smoothly into the trigger holder on any Leki Trigger S Poles. You slide it down to clip in and press the trigger release with your thumb and slide up to release. It is that simple.
It is that simple......and I love it. The pole is held firmly in just the right place. There is no faffing with straps and buckles. It looks slick and that’s because it is slick. When you arrive at a lift it is a doddle to release your gloves and hold your poles. Once off the lift you are clipped in within seconds and you can even take your gloves off and, with your pole pushed into the snow, leave them clipped to the pole when you are sorting other things or drinking a slope side hot chocolate.
Again it is hard to comment on long term durability with this system. You are relying a lot on a piece of stiff cord to do all the work but they seem to be built with sufficient burliness to cope and I have no doubt Leki will have tested them thoroughly. The Trigger S system is also designed to release if a substantial force is applied (such as in a fall). I haven’t tested this (I never fall of course!) but the good thing is that this should protect the glove as well as the skier.
I really can’t over empathise what a great pole/glove combo this is. The only downside is that, once you’ve skied with this system, you won’t ever want to go back to how it used to be.
There isn’t much more to say that hasn’t been said really. The Venom SL is a superb pole that is a pleasure to use and the Stella S is a beautifully constructed, stylish and surprisingly warm glove with all the features you would wish for. Individually they will serve you well for many ski adventures, but the real deal is when they are paired together. Then they are then a truly winning combination. The Venom SL retails for £145 and the Stella S for £90 and more info is available via the Leki website here.
Tested and posted by Cal