What are ski poles used for?
Ski poles, sometimes known as ‘sticks’, are sometimes thought of as a grey area accessory when it comes to ski equipment. Do you need you need to use ski poles? Do they actually do anything? How are you supposed to hold them? They can be slightly ugly and often an utter faff to carry around.
Nevertheless, ski poles have been around since day dot, and they don’t get the respect they deserve. After all, they’re not as sexy as skis and don’t need specialist knowledge to fit like a ski boot. They’re basically aluminium sticks with a foam handle and a plastic basket on the end.
Why don’t beginners use ski poles?
When you’re first learning to ski you’re going at slower speeds and don’t need the help of a ski pole to initiate your turns – you really just want to concentrate on keeping your body in the right position and shifting your weight one side to the other.
Ski poles, at this point, are just one more thing to distract you. Once you’ve got the basics locked down, you can start to use poles and really kick things up a notch.
So, if you’re under the age of six and / or learning to ski, many ski schools won’t need you to have poles for your ski lesson. You’re the exception. You can sit this one out.
For the rest of you, read on…
Why do we have ski poles, what are they used for and do you need them?
Ski poles have many uses (we’ll get to this later) and can improve your skiing and help link turns when you learn the correct techniques.
The core purposes for ski poles are balance and initiating a turn.
Ski poles for turning
The age old pole plant. Easily observed from a mountain side restaurant while you sip on your lunch time vin chaud. A well-seasoned ski instructor, complete with leather tan and sunglasses, descends the slopes, perfect parallel turns and ski poles alternating in an almost engineered rhythm. You know the ones, it’s textbook.
But many skiers don’t know how to plant the pole, are planting incorrectly, or not using them at all. If this is you, or you are even in any doubt about your ability to pole plant, we recommend booking a ski lesson for your next ski trip!
Poles act as an additional point of contact beyond just your skis and used at the right point of a turn can really help take a lot of the ‘wobble’ out of your turns.
A key skiing technique, pole plants really get their time on the podium when skiing moguls, doing short turns or off piste. They act as a point of pivot, a block on steep slopes and help control your speed.
How to use ski poles for balance
Without realising it, your ski poles will help with your balance. Many skiers who don’t know how to correctly use their poles will either have their hands dropped by their hips, or bunched up by their chest.
Having your hands by your hips will push your centre of gravity backwards causing you to sit back on your skis. Whereas, having your hands up by your chest will force you to be stiff and tilt your weight forwards.
When downhill skiing, you should aim to have your arms positioned in front of you, around waist level. Imagine you’re carrying a tray of drinks..! Keeping your arms out in front of you, a bit more than shoulder width apart will keep you in prime position.
When initiating your turn, the pole’s contact with the snow will act as a point of balance, ensuring your upper body remains downhill.
Technically, you can ski pretty much anything without poles. But, they will help with your skiing and come in handy more than you realise. Even if they are a bit pain to carry around!
How long should my ski poles be?
The length of the pole will have an effect on your skiing. Turn your ski pole upside down and rest the handle on the floor. Grab the pole just under the basket (the weird bit that looks like a small colander). Your wrist should be at a 90-degree angle from the pole and forearm parallel to the floor – boom, that’s how you measure ski poles.
When should kids get ski poles?
When you learn to ski, as an adult or a kid, your ski instructor will normally take away your poles. This is so you can get used to transferring your weight and balancing on your own.
Kids can usually be introduced to ski poles when they can control their skis, turn and stop. If they have been learning to ski from a young age, ski poles will normally be introduced around the age of six or seven.
When introducing poles to kids, ensure that they are responsible enough to look after them. This is more about getting in lines, on and off chairlifts and remembering to remove the pole strap.
Other uses for ski poles
Now for the additional uses of ski poles (aka the fun part). Ski poles have many uses (both practical and not so practical)…
Poles are a dream when you get stuck on a flat for pushing yourself along. Or use them to help a fellow snowboarder out!
Skiing ‘car’ horn
Let someone know you are behind or taking over on a flat by tapping them together to make a sound that resonates to a saucepan and a wooden spoon.
Use your ski poles to wave down lost friends. Just be careful not to take anyone’s eye out in the process!
By watching the poles of other skiers, you might be able to better understand their intended direction.
Use your poles to pop your ski boots out of their bindings.
Use the ski pole to tap, bang and scrape any unwanted snow off the bottom of your ski boot.
Slide each glove on top of your parked ski poles for a handy place to store them while you fiddle with zips, cameras and mars bars.
For finding lost skis buried under snow after some serious shredding.
Human drag lift
Great for little ones (and snowboarders) to hold onto while you walk in the snow and drag them alongside you.
Check how much snow has fallen overnight!
If you’re totally done with your poles, cut them up (with the help of a responsible adult), tie them together and make a fun, skiing inspired wind chime!
The opportunities are endless if you put your imagination to it! All the more reason to praise the humble ski pole.
Want a lesson in using your poles correctly? Book a private ski lesson with one of our many qualified ski instructors at SkiBro.