Of course you know that if you’re flying around on cross-country skis or barreling down those slopes, you’re going to need ski poles. Not everyone, however, is aware of the importance of using ski poles that are the correct length. Even fewer actually know how to measure ski pole length or how to decide on the correct length. Finding the right size of ski poles (or sticks) for you will go a long way toward providing you with the right support, rhythm and balance. Put simply, ski poles are effective tools for all kinds of situations you’ll encounter on the mountain. (For example, knocking off built-up snow on your boots, tackling those parallel turns gracefully and being more confident on challenging terrain.)
Choosing the best ski poles doesn’t just come down to how the poles fit in your hands. There are multiple factors to consider when choosing the correct ski poles, including the materials a ski pole is made from, the ski pole basket, the ski pole strap and the different types of skis and their relation to ski pole sizing. Your budget also goes into the decision about which ski poles to purchase; however, you’ll find that there is a great range of prices in every price point in our ski pole selection at L9 Sports. As you improve in your skiing skills and those skills take you into varying and rougher terrain, the pole style, strength and material used in its manufacture will likely become more important to you.
This guide will provide you with the tips you need to pick the perfect ski pole size and right type of ski pole — every time you ski.
Old-school thought was such that the most important factor in choosing the right ski pole for you was that sacred 90-degree elbow angle that would be achieved when you flipped your pole over and put your hand just under that basket. The technology in skis and ski boots has changed a lot, however, and this has affected ski poles as well. This technology has allowed us to ski more aggressively and in a more forward stance, making that 90-degree angle thought a bit less important. That said, the length of the ski poles is very important: if your pole is too long, you’ll ski on your heels or in the back seat, which can lead to a loss of responsiveness and control. Ski poles that are too short, on the other hand, well cause you to lean forward too much. Check out our selection of ski poles at L9 Sports. You can apply the filter to find the right ski pole length for you quickly and easily.
The Different Type Of Skis/Ski Poles And Their Relation To Ski Pole Sizing
As you may already know, proper ski pole sizing also depends on the type of skiing you will be doing, such as cross-country skiing. These are the basic categories of ski poles with their main characteristics:
Powder ski poles: The larger snow baskets and thicker shafts of powder ski poles allow users to reduce impact when on the move
Race ski poles: Not as high-tech as powder and alpine ski poles but extremely light and efficient. These thin poles are designed to reduce drag and tend to be pricey
Freestyle ski poles: Best for skiing on parks and are typically shorter than most ski poles
Alpine ski poles: Popular among most skiers; feature standard baskets
Nordic ski poles: The best option for cross-country skiing, lightweight with spiked tips
Like the different types of ski poles, there are also different types of materials that are used to build ski poles. The construction material used, combined with your ski level, can be the difference-maker in how smoothly you move through snow. Here are the some of the most commonly used materials in ski pole manufacturing:
Carbon ski poles:A resilient material, carbon ski poles can take a beating on the slopes; they can also be costly for skiers. Some skiers argue that carbon ski poles are the best you can buy, offering lightweight control, damping and high stability. They are usually the most expensive
Fiberglass ski poles:Designed for fast, skilled skiers, fiberglass ski poles are thin yet strong — without reducing performance. Fiberglass ski poles are more expensive than aluminum ski poles
Composite polesThe result of a combination of different materials, including but not limited to: carbon, resin, aluminum and graphite. Composite poles can be good shock absorbers; however, they can also break when in extreme cold
Aluminum ski poles:A lightweight, reliable construction material with lower costs; typically used by skiers of average skill. Aluminum poles may bend easily during falls. Heat-treated aluminum poles are stronger; the strength level can often be found printed on the side of the poles
How The Pole Fits In Your Hand
Whether it’s in your left hand or in your right hand, a ski pole should feel equally comfortable. Plastic, cork or rubber tend to be the most available options for ski pole grips. Test out different ski poles by bringing the gloves you wear when you ski and by grabbing the ski poles (as if you were skiing). You’ll have a better idea of what grip works best in your hands. Don’t forget to hold the ski poles with your forearm at a 90-degree angle to your biceps when testing. The difference in the angle may be the difference in how a grip feels in your hands.
Give the ski pole grips a good squeeze to figure out if you prefer the level of strength required to have best control over the ski poles. Keep in mind that your level of control will greatly influence how your time on the slopes goes. Higher-end ski poles also have ergonomic grips; however, you will pay for these upgrades — it’s something you have to determine if it is worth it or not for you, or if you want to upgrade elsewhere.
Another factor for you to consider when trying out different ski poles is how the strap feels when you are holding the ski poles. Straps are on ski poles so that you don’t lose them when you are moving cross country, or when you are flying down that black diamond. Straps are becoming more technical; however, they serve the same purpose and they’re all loop straps — no matter where they attach. Some straps attach to wrists; other straps attach to your waist. Ultimately, it comes down to your personal preference and your likelihood of losing your ski poles.
The Ski Pole Basket
Depending the type of skiing you are doing, ski pole baskets can be the difference-maker in how effective you can move across snow. Mountainous areas typically call for alpine ski poles, which have more snow baskets. If you are headed for the backcountry and powdery terrain, use powder ski poles that have larger snow baskets to keep you above the snow. There are two types of snow baskets:
Hard snow: Smaller surface area
Soft snow: Powdery terrain
You won’t have to be lost when picking out your next pair of ski poles. Remember that not all ski poles will have the same effect on your wallet and not all ski poles are made of the same materials.
If you shrink overnight or your ski-loving child hits a growth spurt, always refer to this guide to provide you with the tips you need to pick the perfect ski pole size you need for your next ski session. If you want to start cross-country skiing and stop hitting the slopes, remember also to revisit this guide. You can also give us a call, open a live chat or shoot us an email if you have questions about the features, upgrades and types of ski poles. We’re happy to help you find the best options for you, depending on your type of skiing preference. If you’re ever in the Wasatch Front area, stop by and check out one of our retail stores.