For many skiers, ski poles are the most misunderstood and underestimated piece of equipment. But ski poles are a versatile addition to your arsenal of ski gear. With ski poles, skiers will have better balance and rhythm in their turns, as well as an aid to correctly position their bodies. Plus, ski poles are handy for propelling skiers across flat sections of the mountain. For beginner skiers, learning how to use ski poles properly is essential and for experienced skiers, finding the best ski poles is crucial too. But it can be challenging to determine what makes a quality ski pole and even what features you should consider when looking for a pair of poles.

To help skiers in their search, we’ve created our guide that outlines precisely what makes a quality ski pole and what features to look for in the numerous designs on the market. With our list of the ten best ski poles in 2019, you’re one push in the right direction to finding top rated ski poles that will assist you in conquering the slopes.

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How To Choose Ski Poles – Buying Guide

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Ski poles are a versatile piece of gear, but not all models function the same. A variety of features can give different pairs of ski poles advantages and disadvantages for different types of skiers. Below we have highlighted the most important features that make a quality ski pole, which you should consider when searching for your new equipment.

Material

The material of a ski pole determines the strength, durability, flexibility, and affordability of a design. The three most common materials used for ski poles are aluminum, carbon fiber, and fiberglass. Additionally, a composite ski pole may use a blend of two different materials.

Aluminum ski poles are the most popular choice because they are affordable, but still incredibly strong to withstand extended use on the mountain. The aluminum is stiff and lightweight, which gives sufficient support for the skier to find their balance and make their turns. Aluminum is also the most affordable material, but you may find that there is still a price range. Due to different grades, aluminum may be more expensive or less expensive. A high-grade aluminum will be more costly because it is lighter and stronger than a low-grade aluminum.

Carbon fiber ski poles are the strongest and lightest material that has a little bit more flexibility than aluminum. These types of poles are preferred by experienced skiers who enjoy the benefits of a lightweight body and narrow shaft, which makes all-day skiing more fun. The only downside is that carbon fiber is the most expensive material, so be prepared to invest in your new ski poles.

Fiberglass is another material that ski poles can be made of, but most ski poles will not be made entirely of this material because of the increased weight. Instead, fiberglass may be blended with another material to make a ski pole durable, strong, and long-lasting.

Composite ski poles are made of blended materials, which attempts to offer the best qualities of each material into one design. Common blended materials are carbon fiber and fiberglass, which has enhanced shock absorption. Carbon and fiberglass are the best materials for the backcountry terrain.

Weight

When choosing cross-country skiing equipment or backcountry ski gear, weight is an important consideration in the design of their ski poles more so than that of downhill skiers. This difference is that ski poles for cross-country and backcountry trails are used to propel the skier forward on flat surfaces. Downhill ski poles are better used to help a skier keep the balance, but gravity keeps the skier moving down the mountain so that the poles are used less to push the weight.

Carbon fiber ski poles are often the lightest weight, but this isn’t entirely because of the material. Aluminum can be lighter than carbon fiber, but the difference is in the diameter of the pole’s shaft. Carbon fiber ski poles will often have a narrower shaft to save on weight, whereas aluminum ski poles can be thicker. The narrow diameter means a lower stress tolerance, which can lead to issues for some skiers who firmly plant or lean on their ski poles.

Skiers should do their best to balance weight with durability and consider the type of ski trails they will be skiing. Additionally, men’s ski poles will be heavier than women’s ski poles because of the added length.

Features

Ski poles are just as important as your other ski gear like ski helmets and ski gloves. What many skiers don’t understand is how the features of a pole assist in their performance on the slopes. Ski poles are used for stabilization and support when making turns skiing. The pole can be used at the initiation of a turn to transfer energy as you switch directions. Each time you make a turn, the pole should touch the snow slightly ahead of your boots and on their correlating side.

Ski poles can also help skiers read the terrain through the small sensations that travel up the body and into the handle. Adjustable ski poles and collapsible ski poles shouldn’t falter in their readings because they have a segmented shaft. All ski poles should be sensitive enough to help skiers navigate the terrain underfoot.

Size

The size of the ski poles is the length of the pole, which is typically measured in inches or centimeters. But learning how to size ski poles can be challenging because it will depend on the skier and the type of skiing they are participating in. The four most common sizes of ski poles are standard, short, long, and adjustable.

Standard ski poles rest at elbow height or just around your elbows. Alpine touring poles are an example of ski poles that usually rest at standard height. Your arm should rest comfortably at about 90 degrees while you’re holding the pole and the tip should be adequately planted into the ground.

Short ski poles are best for backcountry skiers. Freestyle ski poles are also shorter so that they don’t catch on any park features. In general, a shorter pole will reduce any damage or hits from trees and rocks on the trail. Backcountry skiers can comfortably take a couple of inches off of the length of the pole, but freestyle skiers may want to take up to 4 inches or 10 centimeters.

Cross-country skiers mostly use long ski poles because they can use the extra length to propel themselves forward or get traction when going uphill. Ski touring poles will often rest at armpit height, which is a significant jump from the elbow.

Adjustable poles are an excellent solution for ski touring poles, backcountry poles, and junior poles. For ski touring and backcountry skiers, a telescoping ski pole can help them adjust the length of the pole while they are on their trip. The adjustment is helpful because these types of skiers need extra length going up, but a shorter length going downhill. Adjustable ski poles let them get the size they need in one design so that they aren’t carrying any extra weight. For junior skiers who are continually growing, adjustable ski poles are also a great idea because they’ll last through multiple seasons or growth spurts.

Type

The type of ski pole that you use goes hand in hand with what type of skiing you do. Backcountry, racing, freestyle, and cross-country skiing all require a different type of ski pole.

The best backcountry ski poles will have larger baskets, which will prevent them from sinking too deeply into the snow. Adjustable ski poles are the best for this type of skiing, and you may want to consider a lightweight and durable material. Additionally, a shorter length can help you avoid any collisions with trees or rocks.

Racing requires a unique pole that is custom shaped and design to follow the curve of your body. The shaft will be strong, aerodynamic, and have the curve shape, which ensures you don’t get caught on the race gates and can move the most efficiently.

Freestyle ski poles are also shorter poles, which helps the skier avoid getting caught on any park features. The shorter poles should still be extremely durable and lightweight so that you aren’t trying any complicated tricks with heavy gear.

Cross-country ski poles will be the longest design because these types of skiers need the leverage to push themselves forward. Downhill ski poles are drastically shorter than these poles, so don’t be concerned if your hands are resting closer to your armpits.

Comfort

No matter what type of skier you are, your ski poles should be comfortable to use. You are, after all, using them for important advantages like better balance. The main concern for comfort is the fit of the ski pole. Skiers should ensure that they have correctly sized their pole and are using the correct length for their ski adventures.

Additionally, the handle and strap should be comfortable to use. Top rated backcountry ski poles should have an ergonomic grip that features a few notches for security. Most grips are made of durable plastic with rubber elements. The strap should easily fit around your wrist without digging or tugging.

Effectiveness

The effectiveness of a ski pole will be dependent on the skier and their skill level. It is possible to ski without ski poles, and you’ll often see beginners learning how to ski with just their skis and other ski gear. It is also very common that people teach their kids to ski without ski poles.

Ski poles themselves are very effective at supporting a skier and helping them enhance their performance. With all the turns, shifts, and angles, the best ski poles can assist you in having a great day in the snow. But it will take time to learn how to properly use and place ski poles, hence why the effectiveness will be up to the individual skier and their experience level.

Use

Ski poles are mainly used to support a skier’s body on the trail. Whether they are turning through trees, navigating moguls, or racing down the mountain, ski poles can effectively support a skier’s weight and adjust their placement to enhance their overall performance.  Backcountry and cross-country skiers will rely heavily on their poles to propel them forward on flat surfaces, and downhill skiers need the stability to carve turns.

Basket

The basket of the ski pole is a small plastic piece that is position just before the tip of the pole. The basket stops the ski from sinking too deeply into the snow, which would cause you to lose your ski pole. Ski pole baskets also have their sizes, which depend on the terrain and type of skiing.

Small baskets are meant for alpine touring poles and on-piste skiers. However, cross-country skiers gear also lists smaller baskets because they don’t sink in deeply and don’t interfere with the arm swinging action.

Large baskets are meant for powder snow, where you need a larger surface area to stop the pole from sinking in. Adjustable ski poles, which are ideal for backcountry skiing, should have large baskets for deeper snow. However, a few downhill ski poles may have interchangeable baskets for powder areas on the mountain.

Race baskets are the smallest baskets because you don’t want the piece to get caught as you are traveling at high speeds. The smaller size also reduces weight and increases aerodynamics.

Strap

Ski poles should come with a strap that can be loosely fitted around your wrist, which prevents you from becoming separated from the pole. The strap is an excellent feature if you ever fall, stumble, or lose grip on your pole. Most straps are adjustable, which makes it easy to get on and off. Some straps include a quick release feature, which will break away should you ever take a bad fall where it may be safer to let go of your pole instead of holding on.

Grip

The grip of a ski pole is where your hand will rest while you use the ski pole. Most grips feature a durable plastic and rubber combination, which are ergonomic in design and comfortable to use for extended periods. Some grips even have indentations or notches to make them easier to hold with gloves or mittens.

Men’s ski poles may have a different grip than women’s ski poles, which is due to the difference in the size of hands. Additionally, children’s or junior’s ski poles may have smaller grips, which are suitable for little hands. If you are concerned about the size of a grip on a unisex design, you can check ski pole reviews. Many buyers will comment on how comfortable a grip is and what size you should expect it to be suited for.

FAQs

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Q: What do ski poles do?

A: Ski poles are pieces of ski gear that are designed to enhance your performance skiing and improve your skill on the mountain. Ski poles are used to help skiers find their proper placement and alignment when making turns. The poles can also be used for support or to propel yourself across flat surfaces. With ski poles, a skier has better balance, rhythm, and coordination. But don’t be discouraged by the learning process. While ski poles may feel clumsy at first, with practice, you’ll soon excel at using them and unlock their benefits. Additionally, ski poles can actually help you release your ski bindings, without bending down.

Q: How to pole plant?

A: Pole planting is the skill that skiers need to acquire in order to unlock all the benefits of their ski poles. For pole planting, you’ll want to keep your arms in front of your body and to the side. But your arms should always be at a relaxed distance. As you make your turns, at the end of each turn, you bring your ski pole forward and place it on the mark just ahead of your ski boot. You don’t want to apply much weight onto the pole, but still, firmly plant it into the ground. As you come into the next turn and release your edge, you plant the next pole and turn. Pole planting should be a smooth operation that is completed at the beginning of each turn and repeated until you have reached the end of your turns.

Q: What ski poles don’t do?

A: While ski poles are durable and strong, ski pole should never be used to stop or break a fall. Skiers who attempt to put too much weight on their ski poles can end up with worse injuries than if they had just fallen. Ski poles are meant to support your balance, rhythm, and coordination. The pole is not meant to stop you from falling once a fall has been initiated.

If you start to fall, you should try to tuck your ski poles up and into a position that you won’t accidentally fall on top of them. Some ski poles even have quick release straps in case of a fall, which ensures that you aren’t focusing on holding your ski pole instead of catching yourself. Ski poles are also not meant to be dragged at your sides or behind you. When you choose to use ski poles, you need to actively use your arms to properly position the pole. A dragging pole poses a danger to you and other skiers or snowboarders on the mountain.

Ski poles are also not meant to be dragged at your sides or behind you. When you choose to use ski poles, you need to actively use your arms to position the pole properly. A dragging pole poses a danger to you and other skiers or snowboarders on the mountain. If you find yourself dragging your ski poles, consider learning how to ski without poles first before incorporating them into your routine.

Q: How to hold ski poles?

A: To properly hold a ski pole, you should first put your hand through the included strap. The strap should rest comfortably and loosely on your wrist. Next, you place your hand on the grip of the pole and the end of the strap. If your grip has finger grooves or notches, ensure that they are properly aligned and feel comfortable. Once your ski poles are in a comfortable position, you should be able to maneuver them however you need.

A big mistake that skiers often have when learning how to hold ski poles is not holding onto the bottom of the strap. For skiing, it is important that you secure the strap so that it is not flopping around too much. By holding the bottom against the grip of the pole, you are also positioning your hand in the optimal location to maneuver and use your ski poles easily.

Q: What kind of ski poles do professional instructor use?

A: When people hear the word “professional,” they think of the absolute best. For many skiers, they believe that professional instructors will use the best or most expensive ski poles to guide them down the mountain. This assumption often concludes that carbon fiber is the overall best choice because it is lightweight and strong. But carbon fiber is also expensive, and continually buying these types of poles will become frustrating. You may be surprised to know that the reality is often the opposite, and professional instructors are looking for durable and affordable designs too.

Many ski instructors will accidentally break, lose, or have a ski pole stolen. Replacing expensive ski poles can quickly put a damper on anyone’s budget, so finding an affordable but reliable ski pole is important. Affordable ski poles shouldn’t be looked down upon and are often the best choice because they can be easily replaced in case of damage. The most affordable design is aluminum ski poles. Aluminum is a durable material, but it comes at an affordable price. Aluminum ski poles are also the most common type of ski poles for those very reasons.

Q: Are powder baskets better than regular baskets?

A: Not necessarily. As we mentioned, there are different basket designs because they cater to different types of skiing. A larger basket isn’t always the best choice for every skier, especially if they are trying to catch speed down a groomed trail. The best backcountry ski poles will use a larger basket for powder snow, but that doesn’t work for downhill ski poles. Instead of correlating the large size of powder baskets as a better choice, consider all the different basket designs and which type of skier you are. For every kind of skier, there is a basket that is catered to their needs.

Q: What are self-releasing safety straps?

A: Self-releasing safety straps may also be called quick release straps and are a feature in some ski pole design. These types of straps have a closure that can easily be opened or broken in case of a fall. These types of straps are meant to keep skiers safer so that their ski poles do not accidentally hurt them. Collapsible ski poles and retractable ski poles may have self-releasing straps because they could be more likely to break in the joints from a bad fall. Telescoping ski poles may also have this feature for the same reason as collapsible and retractable poles.

But not all straps have a self-releasing or quick release feature. If you are unsure about whether your skis have this safety feature, check the product specifications, or read the ski pole reviews. Specifications and reviews can let you know exactly what to expect with a ski pole’s design and help you determine whether they are suitable for you.

Q: I’m a new skier – do I need ski poles?

A: No. The choice on whether you learn immediately to use ski poles will be up to you and the instructor. Many people, including children, successfully learn how to ski first without worrying about how to plant a pole. Even for adult beginners, starting to learn how to ski without a pole can be much easier than trying to learn with ski poles. It can be safer for beginner skiers to learn without a pole because it reduces the risk of an accident or fall with the poles in hand.

However, it is also suitable for adults to learn how to ski using ski poles. For some skiers, learning the basics of everything at once is better because they don’t have to learn one way and then incorporate more actions. If you feel confident about trying ski poles immediately, don’t be afraid to ask for a pair.

Globo Surf Overview

Skiing is a thrilling activity that both children and adults can enjoy. Skiers love to get out on the mountain and feel the cold rush of air on their face as they race down the slopes. But every skier needs the best equipment. Ski poles are an important part of ski gear because they can enhance a skiers performance and skill while they navigate the mountains. But for many skiers finding the best ski poles is a challenge because they don’t know what makes a quality design or they’re unsure which pole matches their ski profile.

We have made this guide and found the ten best ski poles to help you get started in your search. Using this guide, you have everything you need to find a top rated pair of ski poles. The best ski poles will be durable, lightweight, and long-lasting so that there’s no excuse not to spend some time on the slopes!

More Snow Reviews:

Sources

  1. Pole Planting – mechanicsofsport.com
  2. How to Use Ski Poles – thesnowcentre.com
  3. 5 Tips for Introducing Ski Poles – raisinglittlerippers.com

Do you own a pair of the ski poles that made it onto our list? Have they helped you enhance your performance on the mountain? Let us know how your ski poles have made you a better skier in the comments section below.

Globo Surf Ski Poles Reviews

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Great guide especially for beginners like myself. Thank you!

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My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!