How To Choose Ski Poles? Tips From Expert Skiers

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For any skiing enthusiast, choosing the right equipment is crucial to ensure a great time on the slopes. One of the most important pieces of equipment for skiing is your ski poles. Apart from providing balance and support while skiing, they also help in initiating turns and maintaining rhythm.

With so many options available, it can be overwhelming to select the perfect pair of ski poles. But worry not, we have put together some invaluable tips from expert skiers that will guide you through the process of selecting your new ski poles.

“Consider the purpose of your skiing – whether it is recreational or racing, as well as your individual height, strength, and skiing ability when determining which pole length will work best.” – Mike Douglas

From understanding how pole length impacts your movements to picking the right material, our experts share insights that will make the decision-making process more comfortable. Additionally, factors like grip size, wrist straps, and baskets play an equally vital role in making your experience on the slopes enjoyable.

In this article, get ready to dive into expert advice that will make selecting the perfect ski poles easy. Whether you are an amateur or a professional skier, these tips will undoubtedly come in handy during your next shopping spree.

Consider Your Skiing Style

Alpine Skiing

If you enjoy carving turns down groomed runs at high speeds, then alpine skiing is probably your style. In this case, you will want to choose shorter ski poles that provide more control over the skis. According to Ski Magazine, you should measure from your armpit to the ground and subtract 10 centimeters to determine the proper length for your poles.

Besides the length of the ski poles, there are a few other factors to consider when buying them for alpine skiing. Firstly, make sure that they have sturdy baskets designed for use in packed snow. Secondly, it’s important to get poles with comfortable grips that won’t slip out of your hands during rapid maneuvers. Finally, some alpine skiers prefer poles made of lightweight materials such as carbon fiber or aluminum alloys because these provide better balance and flexibility on steep slopes.

Cross-Country Skiing

If you prefer exploring the wilderness at a slower pace, cross-country skiing might be your thing. To enjoy this sport, you need longer, lighter ski poles with smaller baskets that reduce drag in soft snow. As explained by experts from REI Co-op, you should select a pole size based on your height and use stiff poles if you like going fast and flexible poles if you want more comfort and control.

The material of the pole also has an impact on cross-country skiing performance. For example, poles made of aluminum are typically the most affordable option but can feel heavier than higher-end options such as carbon fiber or composite materials. Meanwhile, some cross-country poles come with adjustable straps that can ease hand fatigue during long treks.

When selecting ski poles for any type of skiing, it’s also important to consider your budget and the intended use of the gear. If you are a beginner, renting poles before buying makes sense so that you can try different types and sizes without making a big investment upfront.

“The right set of ski poles enhances your performance on the slopes. Consider various factors when choosing poles but mainly focus on your preferred skiing style”

Determine The Right Length

The length of the ski poles you choose should be determined by your height, weight, skiing level, and type of skis that you use. Having appropriate length ski poles will ensure more efficient skiing techniques as well as a reduced risk of injury.

Height

Your height plays an important role in determining the correct pole length. To get the right size for yourself, stand straight up while wearing your ski boots on, and let your arms down alongside your body. Position the poles upside down with the grip at the floor, so your hands can easily grasp them. You may need to ask someone to help you measure from the ground to the point where your hand is holding the strap. This measurement in centimeters would typically come out to be around 90% of your height. However, it’s better to adjust this based on personal preference.

“The length of ski poles depends on skier’s height and purpose since optimal positioning during downhill or cross-country skiing requires different length.”-Bill Quinn

Weight

Another measure that affects ski pole length selection is an individual’s weight. Heavy skiers require stiffer poles than lightweight ones because they apply greater force while making turns. They bend softer poles too much which makes the pole less effective. A standard-use alpine ski pole made of aluminum might not be suitable for above-average weight individuals. It’s recommended to go for a stronger carbon fiber composite ski that provides excellent shock-absorption capability even when you hit rocks or other rough patches under snow-covered slopes.

“Ski poles are not just simple sticks but aids with additional value-added features such as good looks, adjustable sizes, locking mechanisms, etc. Manufacturers have been striving to create durable and sturdy products that satisfy customer needs and requirements with low maintenance and affordable price tags.”-Utpal M

Skiing Level

The length of ski poles also depends on an individual’s skiing level. Beginners tend to have shorter poles because they are easier to control, while more advanced skiers typically use longer ones for greater leverage when making faster turns. One way to calculate the ideal pole size is by subtracting 115cm from one’s full height, combined with their respective skill level. Those who focus mainly on speed should select a longer option than those leaning towards quick short turns.

“Ski poles remain a valuable tool to every skier regardless of their levels, shapes or sizes since they can aid in balance, rhythm, and flow.”-Meegan Moszynski

Ski Type

Last but not least, the type of ski you’ll be using influences your choice of pole length. If you prefer using powder skis that are wider at the tip with large turning radii, consider choosing shorter sized poles. In contrast, those who use carving skis require longer poles which provide better leverage during turns due to their narrow-waists. Freestyle skiers may prefer shorter poles to help them maneuver easily around terrain features like jumps, boxes, rails, etc., whereas backcountry skiers often opt for adjustable-length poles so that they can adjust quickly depending on slope conditions.

“Ski poles’ primary purpose is to aid balancing, and helping skiers navigate across different terrains with ease. Regardless of type or dimension of ski poles, regular maintenance is crucial both before and after hitting the slopes for longer durability” -Sean Jastrzebski

Choose The Right Material

Aluminum

If you are an entry level skier or on a tight budget, aluminum ski poles may be the right choice for you. These poles are durable, lightweight, and affordable. They can withstand rough terrain and offer excellent grip. However, they do not absorb vibrations as well as other materials, which can cause increased strain on your arms during long runs.

According to Rossignol USA, “aluminum poles offer versatility and durability for entry-level and recreational skiing.”

“For those who count precision and weight among their top priorities, we would recommend carbon fiber poles over aluminum.” -Rossignol USA

Carbon Fiber

If you are a more experienced skier looking for top-of-the-line equipment, consider investing in carbon fiber ski poles. These poles are made from advanced technology that offers exceptional strength, stiffness, and shock absorption. Carbon fiber also provides superior energy transfer for better control and faster turns.

K2 Skis recommends carbon fiber poles because of their responsiveness, saying “carbon ski poles provide quick and precise pole plants, even at high speeds.”

“When it comes down to pure performance, carbon is the way to go.” -K2 Skis

Keep in mind that carbon fiber ski poles are generally more expensive than aluminum poles, but offer greater performance benefits.

  • Consider Your Skill Level: If you are new to skiing or on a tight budget, aluminum poles may be sufficient. For more experienced skiers or those seeking top performance, carbon fiber poles are recommended.
  • Budget: Aluminum poles tend to be less expensive than carbon fiber poles, so consider what you’re willing to spend before making a decision.
  • Environment: Consider the terrain and weather conditions you will be skiing in. Aluminum poles may be more durable for rough terrain, while carbon fiber offers superior shock absorption for icy or bumpy runs.
  • Style: Some skiers may prefer the look of carbon fiber over aluminum, but aesthetics should not be the sole deciding factor in choosing ski poles.

By carefully considering your skill level, budget, environment, and personal preferences, you can choose the right material for your ski poles and improve your overall performance on the slopes.

Decide On The Basket Size

Choosing the right ski poles may seem like a simple task, but various aspects need to be considered before making a purchase. One of these considerations is what basket size you should opt for. The baskets are at the end of each pole and keep them from sinking too far into the snow.

Small Baskets

If you’re planning on skiing in firm or compacted snow conditions, small baskets are the best choice. They create less drag and do not catch onto the snow as much as larger baskets. Small baskets work well with groomed runs and hard-packed powder conditions.

“In general, smaller baskets can help skiers who prefer staying on firmer surfaces by reducing friction,” says Tyler Lovejoy, a Level III certified instructor & trainer at Winter Park Resort in Colorado.

They do have their drawbacks. If you find yourself skiing in deep powder, it might be challenging to move through it since your poles would sink deeply into the snow. In such cases, smaller baskets might even cause difficulty in maintaining balance.

Large Baskets

On the other hand, if you’re skiing in deeper and lighter snow, large baskets are essential. Larger baskets provide additional support under heavy loads and make navigating through fresh powder significantly simpler. As a result, many backcountry and freestyle skiers will choose this type of basket size. Large baskets also prevent poles from sinking down too far when traipsing across loose areas.

“Larger baskets come in handy when skiers venture off-trail, travel through deep, untracked powder,” adds Eric Edelstein, public relations manager at Schnees.com.

That being said, if you tend to stick to groomed trails and firmer snow, large basket sizes might be a bit too cumbersome for you. They can create resistance as they glide against the terrain and slow down your speed.

No Baskets

Although rare, some ski poles come without baskets entirely. This option is typically reserved for those who prefer completely customizing their pole setup or require lighter-weight poles for racing purposes. Removing the basket altogether reduces weight and may provide additional maneuverability for skiers who want complete control over their skiing experience.

“Some skiers will take off the baskets on groomer days to make turns more precise,” says Lovejoy.

Going without baskets has significant disadvantages in softer snow conditions where poles tend to sink deeper. Poles without baskets also have a higher risk of breaking if they get wedged between rocks or caught undergrowth.

When choosing a basket size, understanding your preferred skiing style and planned terrain are crucial in making an appropriate decision. Skiers planning to hit hard-packed powder should choose smaller baskets while backcountry enthusiasts and free-style skiers should opt for larger baskets. Skiers with specific customization and racers should consider no baskets but must bear in mind that these types of poles bring considerable risks.

Look For Comfortable Grips

Rubber Grips

If you are looking for comfort while skiing, then rubber grips would be the perfect option for you. The rubber material has a soft texture that provides an easy grip and absorbs shock when skiing on rough terrains.

The best thing about rubber grips is that they do not become slippery even when wet. This advantage makes it easier for skiers to maintain control over their poles when skiing in wet conditions or snow-laden slopes.

“Rubber grips provide excellent shock absorption and great grip qualities when skiing on any terrain.” -SkiWebShop

Most top ski pole manufacturers offer rubberized handgrips as standard equipment because of the popularity of this material among skiers. If you want to enjoy skiing without experiencing blisters on your hands, consider choosing ski poles with rubber grips.

Cork Grips

If you prefer a different type of grip, cork grips can also provide you with comfortable handling. Cork is a natural insulator, so it keeps your hands warm despite the cold temperature outside.

Cork handles conform perfectly to the shape of your hands, providing a custom-fit feel. Many expert skiers choose cork-handled poles since they reduce slippage from sweaty palms and vibrations coming through the pole itself.

“Cork grips are an excellent choice if you’re in search of a tactile feedback or insulation from cold weather.” -Ski Magazine’s Gear Guide 2021

Another significant advantage of cork is its durability. It can withstand wear and tear effectively, making it ideal for frequent skiers who require reliable and sturdy poles.

Whether you choose rubber or cork, prioritize purchasing ski poles with comfortable grips to minimize fatigue and experience superb handling while skiing.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the proper length of ski poles?

The proper length of ski poles depends on your height and ski style. For alpine skiing, stand with your arms at your sides and elbows bent at 90 degrees. Measure from the ground to the top of your hand. For classic cross-country skiing, measure the distance from the ground to your armpit and subtract 30cm. For skate skiing, measure the distance from the ground to your nose. The length of your ski poles should be within +/- 5cm of these measurements.

What material should ski poles be made of?

Ski poles are typically made from aluminum, carbon fiber, or a combination of both. Aluminum poles are durable and affordable, but heavier. Carbon fiber poles are lightweight and absorb shock better, but are more expensive. For recreational skiers, aluminum poles are a good choice. For more advanced skiers or those who prioritize weight, carbon fiber poles are a better option.

What type of grip should ski poles have?

Most ski poles have a grip made of rubber or foam. Rubber grips are more durable and provide better traction, but can be heavier. Foam grips are lighter and more comfortable, but can wear out faster. Some grips have added features like adjustable straps or ergonomic shapes. Ultimately, choose a grip that is comfortable and secure in your hand.

Should ski poles have wrist straps?

Ski poles should have wrist straps to prevent dropping them and to help with control. The straps should be adjustable to fit snugly around your wrist but not too tight. Some straps have quick-release mechanisms in case of a fall or emergency. When using wrist straps, be sure to keep your hands relaxed and not grip the pole too tightly.

What is the best type of basket for ski poles?

The type of basket you need depends on the type of skiing you’ll be doing. Larger baskets are better for deep snow and backcountry skiing. Smaller baskets are better for groomed trails and racing. Some baskets are designed for specific types of skiing like powder baskets for deep snow or racing baskets for high speeds. Choose a basket that matches your ski style and conditions.

What features should be considered when choosing ski poles for different types of skiing?

When choosing ski poles, consider the type of skiing you’ll be doing, your skill level, and your personal preferences. For alpine skiing, look for sturdy and durable poles with comfortable grips. For cross-country skiing, choose lightweight poles with flexible shafts and small baskets. For backcountry skiing, look for adjustable poles with large baskets and durable tips. Consider your budget and any additional features like adjustable straps or shock absorption.

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