Using the best ski poles can have a positive impact on how you perform out on the slopes, but finding the right set isn’t as easy as it may sound, considering the market is essentially flooded with options. Ski poles are an important piece of skiing gear. They’re what help you hike, time your turns, and they provide balance. If you’re searching for a new set, or you’re a beginner and don’t know where to even begin looking or how to tell a quality pair of poles from a set that won’t last the season, then this buyer’s guide will be invaluable. I’ll walk you through all the features you need to look for, while also going over the top six sets that are currently on the market, their pros and cons, and which set has what it takes to give you an edge on the slopes. I’ve tested out several of the best-selling sets. The four sets I’ve chosen scored well in a variety of areas. Below, you’ll find a comparison chart that lists each set, their best features, and how they rated.
Ski Poles Comparison Chart
|Zipline Ski Poles||Graphite Carbon Composite||Thermoplastic||11|
|Salomon Arctic Ski Poles||Aluminum||Rubber||6|
|Black Diamond Ski Poles||Aluminum||Foam||1|
|Salomon North Pole Ski Poles||Aluminum||Rubber||6|
Zipline Ski Poles
These graphite carbon composite poles are designed for skiers of all skill levels. These poles are incredibly light and durable, offering reduced vibration with every plant. The grip is made out of thermoplastic and contours to the user’s hands for improved grip, even when wearing gloves. The streamlined straps are highly adjustable and allows the user to achieve the perfect fit, ensuring they won’t lose their poles when they’re flying down the slopes. The tips of the poles are made out of carbide, with teeth that promote precise plants in any type of powder.
- Offers the perfect amount of flex
- Perfect for any type of skiing
- Finish chips off easily
These poles are durable, lightweight, and include an ergonomic grip that contours to the shape of the hands. These poles are perfect for any type of skiing including cross country, resort, and backcountry skiing. The poles offer just the right amount of flex, making them a great choice for any type of powder conditions, which is one of the many reasons why this set is one of Zipline’s top sellers.
Salomon Artic Ski Poles
These ski poles are made out of lightweight aluminum material. Unlike poles that are made out of carbon, aluminum is very rigid, which is exactly what some skiers prefer. Additionally, these poles are available in a wide range of colors, so you can choose a color that goes with your skis and your style. The poles come equipped with standard straps that are highly adjustable and feature a shaft diameter that measures in at eighteen millimeters.
- Six size options
- Made out of high-quality aluminum
- Poles are not sold in a set of two
Affordable, perfect for a wide range of skiing applications and environments, and offering the perfect amount of rigidity, this top of the line aluminum ski pole is a steal for the price. It’s durability, combined with its high-quality aluminum construction will ensure these poles can handle all types of snow and icy conditions and will be a great option for the skier who prefers aluminum poles over the more popular carbon.
Black Diamond Ski Poles
This set of three aluminum skis earned top marks for their comfortable foam grip and their aggressive hooking points which can be used to manipulate buckles and bars. The straps are adjustable and offer an ergonomic fit for total comfort. The powder baskets measure in at one hundred millimeters, which is about average. These poles are a great choice for trekking through the snow, hitting the slopes, hiking, and more. The extended foam grips are very versatile, providing several angles of use. These ski poles are much heavier than poles made out of carbon and weigh in at 1.2 pounds each. This weight shouldn’t be a deal breaker for the resort skier but may make them a poor choice for the backcountry hiker.
- Includes powder baskets
- Set of three
- Extended foam grips
- Low price
- Only one size available
This set of three durable aluminum ski poles come with extended foam grips, powder baskets, and adjustable straps. The poles are on the heavy side, which can make them a poor choice for certain applications. Overall, the poles feature the type of durable design and solid construction that every skier is looking for, and they’re a great bargain for the price.
Salomon North Pole Ski Poles
This ski pole by Salomon is one of their biggest sellers. Made out of stiff, rugged aluminum, this lightweight ski pole features a durable design and a grip that is specifically made for women. The grip provides top of the line comfort and hand support and works by molding to the contour of the user’s hands. Rubber grips are more rugged than foam and more comfortable than thermoplastic, both of which are materials that you’ll commonly find on grips of competing poles. The thick rubber grip on this pole will not only improve comfort, but it also does an excellent job of ensuring the user’s hand will not slip during use, even while wearing gloves.
- Ergonomic rubber grips
- Specifically designed for women
- Made out of high-quality aluminum
- Poles sold individually and not in sets of two
This pole is versatile, stiff, and offers the type of support and rigidity that’s perfect for more challenging terrain. The pole is also an excellent choice for the beginner in search of a versatile pole that can handle a wide range of terrain types. The lightweight aluminum, ergonomic grip, and rigid design will make this pole suitable for a wide range of skiing applications including resort skiing, cross country, and backcountry skiing.
Ski Poles Buyer’s Guide
The right type of ski poles can be invaluable on the slopes or when you’re traveling out of bounds, far from any resort. Before I go over the different features you can choose from, first, let’s take a look at some of the benefits that come with using poles on the slopes.
The Benefits of Using Ski Poles
- If you’ve decided to give skiing a try and you’re online searching for the right gear, then you may be wondering whether or not you really need a set of poles, or what they’re even for.
- Keep in mind, ski poles are not considered essential and many people will tell you that children and beginners should avoid using them since they can cause injuries if you’re not careful when using them, or they can even distract you and get in the way when you’re trying to learn the basic skiing techniques.
- However, ski poles offer several uses and will definitely come in handy when you’re skiing at a local resort, trekking through the backcountry, or you’re on your first cross country skiing adventure.
- When you ski, it’s not all downhill. You’ll usually encounter flat sections or slightly inclined terrain, especially at the bottom of a run as you make your way back to the resort. Poles will come in handy in this type of situation, since they can help push you along. Without poles, you’ll have to skate on your skis which is hard work for beginners and can be tricky even for experienced skiers.
- If you fall when skiing, you can plant a pole in the snow and use it to help you stand up.
- As you become a better skier, you’ll find that poles help a lot when it comes to rhythm and balance, especially when you’re executing parallel turns. They will also come in handy when you’re dealing with very challenging terrain.
- If you’re executing a tight turn, then a pole plant with the downhill pole will help you turn around.
- A ski pole can also be used as a tool. If you’ve got boots that are caked in snow, then you can use the pole to knock it off. This will also come in handy if you have icy bindings. If your ski comes off in deep snow, you can use your pole as a probe to search for it.
- If you’re having trouble taking your bindings off or you need to remove them in a hurry, then you can use a pole to quickly pop them open.
- Poles can also make you feel more confident when you’re learning how to ski. Having something to hold can provide you with an extra level of comfort, especially when you’re heading down a steep slope.
- Whether or not you decide to use poles, you must keep your hands slightly to the side and in front of you at all times. When you use a pole to plant and make a turn, avoid using large swinging movements with your entire arm. If you have a pole, all you have to do is flick your wrist away from you and use the pole to reach out, then make sure your wrist is cocked to bring the pole back down towards you and into the snow.
As you can see, ski poles are very versatile tools that can help to build your confidence when you’re learning how to ski. They can also help you turn and move when you’re dealing with challenging terrain, and you’ll find that they come in handy in a number of skiing conditions. Now, below, I’ll go over the different features available and how to choose poles that are right for you based on your skill level and the intended application.
Other Important Features
As you can see, a good pair of ski poles can serve a variety of purposes. Poles can help propel the skier along a flat trail, can help set a rhythm for turns, and can be used to lean on in a long line at the lifts. There are a couple of different types of poles to choose from:
Downhill poles which are designed for running laps and lightweight touring poles that are perfect for backcountry use.
Choosing the right type of poles will involve finding the right construction and combination of features based on the user’s skiing style and the terrain type.
Different skis are designed for different types of activities. If you’re planning on cross country skiing, then you’ll need poles specifically designed for cross country use. Most manufacturers will be very straightforward concerning what their poles are designed for. There are also models that are designed for multi-use, offering a more versatile design that will allow you to use the poles for a variety of activities out on the slopes.
Ski poles are measured in centimeters, in increments of two to five centimeters. Finding the right size is simple enough. Most manufacturers will provide a size chart that will make the process easier for buyers to choose the right set. Finding the correct size is important, since if you end up with poles that are too long it can cause the user to ski on their heels. This will result in a loss of responsiveness and control. Poles that are too short can cause the skier to ride leaning forward too much, however, there are many freestyle skiers that prefer using shorter poles.
Higher-priced poles often offer a better balance, in addition to a lower swing weight. This will make the poles more efficient. Higher end poles will also feature ergonomic grips that will fit in the skier’s hands better.
The long portion of the pole is referred to as the shaft. The shaft is what takes the brunt of the skier’s weight during use, so it must be able to withstand heavy-duty use based on application.
Many top of the line poles are made out of aluminum. This type of mid-weight material is heavier than poles that are made out of fiberglass and it’s also harder to snap compared to carbon fiber. However, carbon fiber doesn’t dent or bend as much as aluminum can.
Most poles currently on the market will contain some aluminum in their construction. The reason behind this is how cheap aluminum poles are to manufacture. Unfortunately, aluminum is more prone to bending. However, if the poles become bent, they can be manipulated back into the right shape.
The quality and thickness of the aluminum will vary. Always go with a higher grade aluminum since it will bring greater strength for its weight.
Top of the line poles often feature a lightweight design, which is usually because they have carbon fiber weaved into the design. Carbon fiber is lighter than aluminum and is able to naturally flex under pressure in contrast to a stiff alloy. Unlike aluminum which will bend under heavy stress, carbon fiber can break or splinter. Because of this, it’s not the best choice for people that are harder on their skiing gear.
Fiberglass is the least common material used for ski poles. This is because of their low level of durability. This material does share some of the same traits as carbon such as its tendency to flex and its lighter weight. Hybrid fiberglass and aluminum designs will reduce the weight of the poles without compromising durability and they’re often available at a reasonable price.
Basically, the smaller a pole can pack down, the better. This will matter the most for skiers who usually strap their poles onto their packs for the descent. A skier prefers poles that are packable especially when it comes to stowing their poles on their packs when using an ice ax or when making short rock scrambling moves while mountaineering. Additionally, packed size is important when traveling in the backcountry.
When you’re looking at a pole’s grips, you’ll find that there are a variety of styles to choose from. You’ll need a set of poles that are equipped with solid grips that won’t slip or move at all when you’re flying down a hill. Grips are made out of a variety of materials, including:
Rubber and plastic are considered the most durable type; however, foam and cork can provide grips that are steadier and more solid compared to plastic and rubber grips.
The straps are often made out of nylon. The straps on poles are very important since they’re what keeps the poles with you, even if the grips slip out of your hands. When you’re shopping around, you’ll need to check out the straps and ensure they offer a little wiggle room so you can get in and out of them, easily, but they shouldn’t be so loose that they’ll constantly slide over your hands during use.
The baskets play an important role for the skier who plans to head for more challenging terrain. The basket is what prevents the pole from sinking too far into the snow when it’s planted. Powder and standard are the two most popular basket shapes. A standard basket will work the best on modest snowfall and hard-packed groomers. However, this type of basket isn’t the best choice for deep, fresh snow. The powder basket is much wider and can provide more surface area for the poles to plant, which is what makes them the best choice for loosely packed snow.
There are other types of baskets to choose from, such as racing baskets, and other types of baskets that are more aerodynamic. However, any type of basket will work well in a pinch, they just may not be the best choice for certain types of skiing applications.
Adjustable and Fixed
Looking at a ski pole size chart will help you find the perfect length. As I mentioned earlier, the length of poles is very important. You can choose between a fixed length pole or adjustable. Adjustable poles can fit in your backpack better, can be adjusted based on snow depth, and can also be a great choice for kids, since they will grow with your child.
Poles that are adjustable are best used when ski touring. A skier will usually want a longer length for downhill use and flat sections and shorter poles for uphill use. The biggest drawback that comes with using adjustable poles is the possibility that the clamp will give and collapse when the skier plants.
How much the poles weigh will also be important. Poles that are lighter will make you move faster on the slopes, but they will not be as stable when you’re going through challenging terrain at higher speeds. Additionally, heavier poles can wear the skier out faster, but they will last much longer and will give the skier the push they need when they’re trekking or cross-country skiing.
The pole’s weight will be more important for side country and backcountry skiers; however, resort-goers will also appreciate a lighter set. The weight of poles usually correlates with the type of materials the poles are made out of, but that doesn’t mean that you can automatically assume that poles that are made out of carbon will always be the lightest. The thickness of the shaft can also play a role in how light or heavy a set of poles are.
The width of the poles will also impact the weight of the poles. Narrower poles made out of any type of material will be lighter, will have a lower stress tolerance and will be less durable than wider poles.
Pole tips are made out of hard metals, fiberglass, plastic, and other materials. Tips that are made out of hard metal tips will be the best choice, especially if you run into icy conditions when you’re skiing.
The tip is the portion of the pole that has direct contact with the snow. They must be sharp and small enough to dig into the snow easily. At the same time, the tip shouldn’t be dangerous to the user. If you end up with a set of low-priced poles then you may not have the option to replace the tips since they’re a permanent part of the shaft. Higher priced poles will allow you to replace the tips if they break or become too dull. The tips are usually designed as a separate extension of the bottom portion of the shaft and are usually made out of plastic and metal.
Poles for Freestyle Skiing
The freestyle skier will use shorter poles that are basically meant for show and not designed to provide much in the way of balance. The shorter design prevents the poles from interfering when the skier is stunting.
Skiing Poles Used for Snowboarding
Some skilled skiers recommend using poles when you first begin snowboarding, however, this can cause muscle memory issues later down the line. Poles are a better choice for skiing since they will go in the same direction as the skier’s feet. Poles should never be used for snowboarding since the snowboard bindings and boots place the feet in a different position. The use of poles for snowboarding can also place undue strain on the body.
The most important thing to consider when you’re buying a set of poles is how you plan to use them.
For casual groomed runs, a set of basic aluminum poles that are fixed length and come equipped with standard baskets will work well.
For hard charging groomers, poles that are fixed length and made out of both carbon and aluminum with standard baskets will be the best choice.
When it comes to backcountry touring, adjustable poles that are equipped with powder baskets and made out of lightweight carbon fiber is the right option.
For mixed snow use, you’ll need to use fixed carbon fiber or aluminum poles that have baskets that are replaceable.
Ski Poles will vary in price based on the type of materials they’re made out of. Models made out of aluminum are more affordable compared to carbon poles. These poles will usually cost around $25 to $50. Carbon models are significantly more expensive ranging from $45 up to $150. If you’re serious about skiing, investing in a good set of ski poles will be essential and can save you money that would otherwise be spent on replacing a set of low cost poles every season.
How to Size Ski Poles
- In order to ensure you end up with the right size of ski poles, begin by standing on level ground. Hold the pole in your hand with the basket resting on top of your fist.
- Bend the arm at a ninety-degree angle
- The handle of ski pole should rest on the ground
- Shorter poles will help you commit to crossing over your skis with your body and changing edges. It will also help you keep your balance and weight forward on your skis.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Should I look for in Ski Poles?
If you’re a downhill skier, then you’ll need poles that are tough enough to handle planting turns. The poles should be light enough so that your arms don’t easily tire you out. They should also be flexible enough to handle hard falls. If you’re new to skiing, then a good pole will be a pole that fits. If you’re more experienced, then you should try out different types of materials for an improved strength to weight ratio.
What is the Point of Ski Poles?
A skier will use poles because they become accustomed to them. The pole plant will provide more stability on steep terrain. Poles will also help a skier to keep their hands out front, keeping them visible at all times.
Should Beginner Skiers use Poles?
For the beginner, poles may not be necessary. Most people who are new to skiing tend to use their poles incorrectly or they will hold them loosely, which can cause too much drag. Those new to skiing must use their poles correctly, right from the get-go, otherwise they will pick up bad habits that can have a major negative impact on their performance later down the line.
What is Pole Planting?
Pole planting involves putting a pole in the snow briefly, during a turn. For basic parallel turns, pole planting will help the skier with timing their turns. For short turns, pole planting is used to help the skier turn easily.
How is Ski Pole Length Measured?
The length of a ski pole is often measured in centimeters from the top of the grip to the tip.
Should I use Ski Pole Straps?
Poles have a variety of uses when skiing. Using the straps will ensure your poles don’t fly out of your hands when you’re going downhill or taking a challenging turn. Many pros recommend using the straps at all times since a flyaway pole can easily become damaged or lost.
The best ski poles will work for your style of skiing. There are a variety of types of materials you can choose from. Whether lighter or heavier poles will work the best for you will heavily depend on your skiing style and where you prefer to ski. As you now know, there are many factors that you’ll want to take into consideration when you’re shopping for the perfect set, including length, material type, grip type, tip type, and much more.
This guide and the products I’ve included here will help you choose the right set, based on your skiing needs and your budget.