Beginner and expert skiers alike can benefit from ski poles, but just like skis, boots, and other equipment, the right pair will look different for everyone!
If you are new to skiing, there is no need to invest in the most expensive pair, simply make sure you have the best fit. Over time you will learn what you like in a ski pole.
For advanced skiers, as you learn your preferences, consider ski pole elements like weight, strength, material, grips, size, and more when searching for your perfect pair.
Components of Downhill Ski Poles
Downhill ski poles help you get to point A to point B with ease, whether you are supporting yourself in a deep carve or looking for help on flat cat tracks. To find your perfect pair, there are a few components to consider. If you are not sure what you will like, try out a few different things!
When you are selecting your downhill poles, make sure you find the grip to be comfortable. Also, try holding it with your gloves on.
Grips are made from a variety of materials such as cork, rubber, plastic, and more, different materials can provide better grip and help with shock absorption. Try out a few to learn what you like!
The baskets found on ski poles act something like snowshoes, they prevent your ski pole from going too far into deep snow as you ski.
Depending on conditions, you should vary your basket based on how much snow you will be skiing in. Smaller sizes are ideal for groomers, bigger sizes are better for powder stashes and deep snow, and there are more versatile sizes in-between if you are not sure.
If you are looking solely for versatility, consider purchasing an option with interchangeable baskets.
This element adds security on the mountain, whether you fall or lose your grip, straps will help you keep track of your poles on lifts, and during turns or falls. An ideal ski pole strap should be easy to take on and off with your ski gloves, so make sure you try this out before you hit the slopes.
Common Pole Materials
The material in reference is what makes up the shaft of the pole. Some of the most common materials in ski poles are varying strengths of aluminum and carbon fiber.
If you are searching for an inexpensive option without having to sacrifice on quality, then an aluminum downhill ski pole is the one for you. Aluminum is a popular option for beginner and intermediate skiers, though it is slightly heavier and less durable than carbon.
If you are looking for quality, carbon fiber is a fantastic choice, it is extremely light and is often used in a blend of materials in high-end poles. It is the perfect option for advanced and expert skiers.
When you are shopping, you will also want to consider your personal skiing style.
For skiers with an all-mountain preference, select the most appropriate size and you will have the best bet. Race poles on the other hand need to have a more durable but lightweight build, as skiers rely on them heavily for precise control. These are often offered in a curved style as well. Freestyle poles tend to be shorter to help with movement and maneuverability, without getting in the way. They also have much smaller grips. If you are skiing backcountry, a shorter pole will work better to traverse deep snow through trees.
Pole Height and Sizing Ski Poles
Arguably the most important factor in a ski pole is the height. When fitting a pair of downhill ski poles, the first thing you should do is wear your shoes or stand in your ski boots. Then, with the poles upside-down, grab the pole underneath the basket. Ensure that the grips are touching the floor, you want your elbow to be at a 90o angle.
This is the general fit for ski poles, however, if you are skiing backcountry, park, or racing, sizing will be more unique than all-mountain. You will also learn your preference, while there is a general rule for sizing, you may like something different! Whatever gets you out on the mountain is the best ski pole for you.