Ski Pole Buying Guide
By Steve Kopitz
Ski poles are an essential piece of skiing equipment. They provide you with balance, help you time your turns, help you hike, skate, pull your kids, and move around the mountain. They also give you a sense of style and help you accessorize your skiing. After all part of skiing is looking cool too.
Ski poles are always sold in pairs and are measured in two inch or five centimeter increments. Finding the right size ski pole is very simple. Feel free to use our ski pole sizing chart. Having the correct size ski pole is important, if your ski pole is too long it will cause you to ski in the back seat or on your heels resulting in a loss of control and responsiveness. Having a pole too short will cause you to be too far forward, although many new school and freestyle skiers use much shorter poles.
Higher end ski poles have a better balance to them and a lower swingweight, which makes it more efficient on your body. More expensive ski poles have more ergonomic grips that fit the anatomical shape of your hands better. There is no disadvantage to having a upgraded ski pole, they are used in every turn that you make on every run. If you are an intermediate or above skier it is beneficial for you to purchase an upgraded pole.
For the most part just about every ski pole can be used for all mountain skiing. There are a few specialty types of poles such as:
All Mountain poles range from basic aluminum to high tech carbon fiber for skiers of all ages and abilities.
Freestyle poles are much shorter allowing maneuverability, and have smaller grips to make grabs easier and radder.
Race poles feature the best and most durable materials that can be shaped for aerodynamics, especially in speed events. They usually have smaller or cone shaped baskets that reduce the chances of getting hooked up on gates.
Side Country/Backcountry poles can be adjustable in length. They can also have tools equipped for backcountry travel like an ice ax or inclinometer.
Aluminum is common in junior and beginner poles. It is heavier than carbon fiber or other high tech materials, but is durable and very economical.
High Grade Aluminum is common in high end poles. It has a high strength to weight ration making it very durable while providing a stiffer feel than some of the lighter weight composite or carbon fiber alternatives.
Composite poles are more flexible and durable than standard aluminum. They can bend a lot without breaking.
Carbon is common in advanced and expert poles. It has a high strength to weight ratio and unlike High Grade Aluminum is flexible, improving durability while maintaining an ultra light feel.
Powder baskets are larger in diameter. The increased surface area keeps the pole from sinking too deep into the powder.
Standard baskets are smaller in diameter. They are designed to be as small and light as possible, while still being able to limit the amount of the pole can sink into the snow.
Mens ski poles can come in longer lengths, and many different styles.
Womens ski poles typically come in shorter lengths, and can have smaller grips to accommodate the smaller female hand.
Kids poles can be adjustable in length to accommodate for growth, and have much smaller grips that will fit in children’s hands.
The appropriate length of a ski pole is measured by flipping the pole upside down, and grabbing underneath the basket. The angle from your shoulder, to your elbow, to your hand should be 90 degrees or more, or your forearm should be just about parallel to the ground. Based on current skiing technique some skiers will prefer slightly shorter ski poles. If the angle is less than 90 degrees, the pole will be too long.
Now that you are knowledgeable in ski poles buy the best one that you can afford, shop now!