Ski poles are essential skiing equipment that provides practicality and style as well. They help you maintain balance, time downhill turns to perfection, skate, and glide across mountains while leaving piles of snow on observers.
What makes them even more desirable is the level of customization that you can get with your ski poles. After all, looking cool while you ski your way down mountains is part of the whole action-packed experience.
If you are looking for the best ski poles, you will be surprised to know that the functionality is not just limited to what we have outlined above.
In Nordic skiing, ski poles are a crucial tool for descent and ascent. Snowboarders may use ski poles too, to quickly climb mountains on their split boards. Ski poles, as such, are integral in maintaining balance and offer a great deal of functionality.
However, the wide range of choices currently available to skiers will only leave you feeling overwhelmed and confused about the right ski poles for you.
Generally speaking, ski poles are available in pairs and measured in increments of two inches/five centimeters.
The correct size of the ski poles is important because if the poles are too long, then you will naturally ski on your heels. This will result in poor balance and control and will also affect the responsiveness. On the other hand, ski pools that are too short will lead to you move forward, which is good when you’re going downhill but not very practical when making sharp turns.
So what is the ideal ski pole size for me?
Best Ski Poles for Different Uses
It is a given that high-end ski poles promote balance and lower the swing weight. As a result, you get better control over your body and improved responsive while skiing.
Branded ski poles come with ergonomic grips that are designed to improve your control over skiing. While it’s not a hard and fast rule, but the more upscale your ski pole is, the better the skiing experience is bound to be.
While most ski poles can be used for mountain skiing, there are different variations available that you should consider, including:
- All-Mountain – These include aluminum fitted poles to high-grade carbon fiber poles that are suitable for all ages and types of skiers.
- Freestyle –These poles are generally shorter in length which improves maneuverability. They also feature smaller grips for improved control.
- Race – Often featuring the most durable materials, race poles are built for aerodynamic efficiency at high speeds. They are characterized with small, cone shaped baskets to reduce chances of hooking on gates across race tracks.
- Side Country/Backcountry – These poles are highly convenient and flexible as their length can easily be adjusted. Backcountry ski poles feature an inclinometer or ice ax for efficient backcountry traveling.
The Size Guide Chart
This chart will help you determine the ideal ski pole length based on your height. However, do note that the length of ski poles you choose will eventually depend on the type of ski poles you want. For instance, if you are into freestyle skiing, then ideally you should choose the pole length that is one increment below the preferred height.
|Skier Height||Pole Length (Centimeters)||Pole Length (Inches)|
|4’1″ – 4’4″||95||38|
|4’5″ – 4’8″||100||40|
|4’9″ – 5’0″||105||42|
|5’1″ – 5’3″||110||44|
|5’4″ – 5’6″||115||46|
|5’7″ – 5’9″||120||48|
|5’10” – 6’0″||1258||50|
|6’1″ – 6’3″||130||52|
|6’4″ – 6’6″||135||54|
Downhill Ski Poles
Downhill skiing poles are commonly deployed for pushing near the base area to speed downhill and to initiate and complete turns. While they are not really necessary for downhill boarding, they do improve stability and maneuverability. It is not uncommon to see skiers using ski poles as standard gear for their outings.
There are various features in high-end downhill ski poles that make them stand apart as a separate ski pole class.
Ideally, the right length for downhill ski poles is measured by the angle it makes when rested on the floor. Hold the pole upside down and if your elbow makes a 90-degree angle while grasping the basket of the pole, then it is of the right size for you. Make sure you have your ski boots or shoes with thick soles on for more accuracy.
In terms of weight, generally, lightweight downhill ski poles are considerably stronger. This is because of the construction material used and the range of flexibility the pole features. While not necessarily the norm, but lightweight poles may be more expensive.
If you are new to skiing, we recommend aluminum ski poles that are quite affordably priced and always great to start off with. Lightweight poles will generally cost more, but they also have a range of benefits, which, as a new skier, you won’t be able to differentiate from the others.
The baskets of the poles basically aid in sinking your ski poles deep in the slow. Downhill ski poles are categorized with generally useful baskets, where the bigger the baskets, the greater the sinking power. As such, small basket poles are ideal for packed conditions whereas large baskets are suitable for all terrains.
Straps are also important in all ski poles and most feature adjustable nylon straps to keep the poles attached to the wrists. Cheaper ski poles will feature plastic wraps whereas upscale ski poles may feature padded straps with unique design features for ergonomics.
Grips in downhill ski poles are generally made from cork, rubber, or plastic. However, as the price range goes up, the grip material quality becomes better. Ideally, you should look for a cork or rubber grip as a beginner, as they will offer better control.
Flex, which is the tendency of flexibility in a pole, is generally stiff in downhill poles and more relaxed in freestyle poles. However, where flexibility is compromised, you get more strength in downhill poles as compensation. While one hard fall may snap your pole into two pieces, they are generally very durable.
Aluminum, carbon fiber, and fiberglass are common materials for downhill ski poles. As mentioned, aluminum is the more affordable option. Carbon fiber is expensive but very lightweight and yields great strength. Fiberglass, when blended with other materials, is good, but quite expensive and not very durable. There are downhill poles that are designed to makeshift for trekking, backcountry, and alpine skiing. Generally, they feature lengths that are adjustable and removable baskets, but cost significantly more and are also more fragile.
Nordic Ski Poles
In Nordic skiing, poles are very common and an integral part of races, distance marathons, and even cruising. In such events, every pole plant matters which is why you should carefully select the best ski poles.
Straps in Nordic ski poles allow the user to hold the pole with the forefinger and thumb, so there is no need for a grip. Modern poles feature Velcro closure that makes it easy for the user to wrap their hands around the pole. Straps in Nordic poles are generally affordable and known as biathlon straps.
The ideal length of poles in Nordic race skiing is 9/10 of the user height. For cruising, where you require skis and poles to remain parallel, multiply .85 of your height. For an experienced skier, longer poles will work just as effectively.
The weight of a Nordic ski is inversely proportionate to the cost. As such, the lightweight the pole is, the more it is will cost. You also can’t do much with a heavy pole when you’re in circuits and have to plant the poles to perfection.
As for the baskets, they are generally about two square inches, to allow fast plantation on groomed surfaces. However, for other terrains, you will need a pole with a larger basket.
The shaft material in Nordic skis is similar to downhill skis. Carbon fiber is good when blended with other materials and is a lightweight, durable ski option. Solid carbon fiber is more expensive but is good in terms of durability.
In fiberglass, the pole is more flexible but just as prone to breaking. Essentially, you should look for a ski pole that is stiff with limited flexibility as it wastes less energy.
Corked and rubber grips are the preferable choice for Nordic skiers as they are easier to hold in falling snow. However, as the strap acts as the grip, you won’t have trouble working with plastic grips.
In fact, they are quite affordable and last for years. Cork grips take some time to mold with your hand but once they do, they offer great insulation in the cold. Rubber grips, on the other hand, don’t retain moisture, making them the best insulators. They are also very good for mountain climbing as they reduce vibrations in the pole.
Now you are equipped with all that you need to know in order to buy the best ski poles, so search for the right one now!