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How to choose your ski poles

Ski poles are often seen as accessories and chosen according to their price and color. However, the right size and a model adapted to the type of skiing you do can really help your mobility and make you feel balanced both on-piste and in powder. Here is our advice to help you choose the right ski poles.

Man who is skiing
Focus on a ski pole


What are ski poles used for?

On flat terrain, pushing down on your poles with your arms can help you glide. When skating, poles help with propelling you forward and keeping your balance.

When descending, poles can help you stay more balanced. By planting your pole, you can pivot around it and curve more naturally.

Beginners often don't use poles as they consider them bulky, but poles can help with small instabilities when skiing. The sharp tips allow you to put weight on them and remain stable even on hard-packed snow or in icy conditions.
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Expert advice
For mostly ski touring, get adjustable length poles. For the ski area, get fixed length, strong ski poles. For any use, be sure to get a grip that feels good in your hand.


Choose the right ski pole size

Poles are best chosen based on your height, there are tables which help you choose the right size for you.

You can also find the right size by turning the pole upside down (with the tip in the air) and holding it underneath the snow basket. Your arms should be against your body and for alpine skiers, your elbows should be bent at a 90° angle. However, this technique doesn't apply for nordic skiing, so if you are looking for cross country poles, read this article.

For backcountry skiing and freeride, generally you should use slightly longer ski poles then you would for on-piste, because they tend to sink down in deep snow.
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For ski touring, longer poles are preferred as you push down with your arms when climbing, however the extra length can get in the way when descending. That’s why telescopic poles that are adjustable in 2 or 3 places are the most useful. An extra grip underneath the handle allows you to fine-tune the length of the pole which can be particularly helpful on steep climbs.
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Ski poles sizing chart

Features of a ski pole

Apart from the size and color, you should also take into account some other features in order to choose the right pair of ski poles:

  • Snow basket size: a basket with a small diameter is enough for skiing on groomed slopes, a larger basket prevents you from sinking down when skiing in deeper snow, while an average-sized snow basket will perform well in most terrains.
  • Grip:  on more expensive models, ergonomic grips which are shaped to sit well in your hand, allow for a better hold. Poles made for women and children have grips that are smaller in diameter.
  • Straps: they are essential for a good hold on your poles. Some come with a more defined grip while others are also detachable and therefore easier to use. Certain models have straps that automatically detach when you fall, giving you more security. However, when skiing off-piste, it's best not to ski with your straps on so you can get rid of your poles quickly in case of an accident.
  • Shaft: shafts can be made out of aluminum, carbon fiber composite in case of top-end poles. For freeride, the shaft is more solid and larger in diameter. Curved poles are reserved for competitors in giant slalom and speed disciplines.
  • Guards: pole guards can be added to protect your hands against the impacts of ski gates when practicing slalom.

The choice of a ski pole can seem trivial, but you now know how to choose the right length and can be more aware of the useful features to look out for when choosing the right pair for the type of skiing you do. Now it's your turn!