ALL THERE IS TO KNOW ABOUT SKI POLES
Ski poles. They are an essential part of modern-day ski gear. Yet they usually get the least attention. Not today. There is quite a bit to say about them, and about the different types, materials, and choices you have.
Ski poles dissected
Ski poles help with balance, rhythm, and push-off. for this, they need to be sturdy, not too heavy, they should be able to withstand some forces and not sink into the snow too deep. Any ski pole consists of five main parts: the shaft, the grip, the strap, the basket, and the tip.
The shaft can be made from aluminum or carbon (or any other material really, such as bamboo, for example). Carbon is lighter and will not remain bent after a mishap or fall. It can, however, shatter when a lot of force is applied to one point. It just breaks. Aluminum is slightly heavier (and cheaper, too), but it has the tendency to stay bent after a fall. It literally shows the scars or skier’s conduct.
The grip (mostly plastic, neoprene, or rubber) is just there to – well, to provide grip. Some poles have a longer grip, extending down the shaft. This is for traversing a slope when the slope-side pole should be a little shorter. You then can just grip the pole a bot lower. The tip of a ski pole just has to be very strong and not wear too easily, even when hitting rocks. The tips are usually made from carbide, a very tough metal. The basket has only one purpose: prevent the pole from sinking into the snow too deep. There are bigger baskets for use in fluffy powder; poles for on-piste skiing have much smaller baskets.
I have saved the strap for last. The strap is there to ensure a good power transfer to the pole when pushing off. When you crash, however, you want that strap to not hurt your hand. The proper use of the strap is one way to ensure that. But some companies have thought of additional safety measures. Leki and Scott both have a technique with which the strap actually disengages from the pole altogether. That’s Leki’s “Trigger S” system and Scott’s “Strap Release System”.
Length of the ski pole
The common way to determine the proper ski pole length is to put it upside down on the floor. Holding it just below the basket in an upright position should leave the elbow at an angle of 90 degrees. As shown in this picture.
If you ski very compact (knees bent more, hips low on the snow, even during the transition into the new turn), or if you ski in bumps a lot, you may want a shorter pole. But for most recreational skiers, the ‘normal’ length as determined as described above will suffice.
For alpine touring, you may want a pole that can be extended. A so-called telescopic pole can be made a bit longer when skiing uphill (better for your posture). On the way down, you can make it a bit shorter.
So, there’s a ski pole for everyone. From fifteen euro up to 300 if you want. Ski pole brands like Komperdell, Gabel, and Leki offer a variety of poles, as do most ski manufacturers.