When an average person thinks about hitting the slopes or the snow-covered terrains, he/she will probably think about the skis and the snow conditions. However, a slender pair of ski pole is an important part of skiing that shouldn’t be overlooked. They may not be as alluring and exciting as the latest skis or boots, but for what it’s worth, they still play a crucial part in the execution of many fundamental ski techniques. The set of poles helps you to keep your balance on the slippery snow and assist your brain in providing extra contact points with the ground. They help you to shift weight properly and align your body while making turns, particularly in steep terrain. Plus, they can help you reduce joint impact and minimize fatigue, so that you can save some strength on the slopes.
If you’re into skiing, you already know you can’t hit the slopes without a good helmet, goggles and a pair of ski poles. The pole comes in handy for releasing bindings, timing the turns, cleaning snow off the boots, hiking, and skating, maneuvering around the slopes, but the most important use is to help initiate the new turn and actively carry energy between different turns. When you extend the new turn, your pole swings and touches the snow to the side and slightly ahead of the boots. In short, a pole is a great link between turns.
Think of your poles as an extension of your arms. When the pole comes in contact with the snow, it gives a little sensation that goes all the way through the arm and ultimately into the body. Stabilizing your upper body while your legs are moving actively and independently, is crucial to good skiing. It’s all about timing and rhythm – the pole movements will happen naturally as you advance further. A perfectly-timed pole swing keeps your body perpendicular over the skis and move in the direction of the new turn.
So, you can see why choosing the right ski pole is important, but the question is where to begin?
Best Ski Poles Reviews 2017
With all the different ski poles available out there, it may seem difficult at times to choose the right pair, but with the right information and guide, you’ll be able to get exactly what you need to have good performance at skiing. A good pair of ski poles serves an ample of purposes, from helping you set up, to setting a rhythm for turns, to propelling you along the toughest trails. We’ve reviewed a handful of ski touring poles designed for running laps down groomers to poles specifically designed for women. Choosing the right ski pole is all about finding the right combination of features and construction to suit your skiing style and terrain. Check out our picks for the best ski poles for the 2017 season.
1. K2 Power 8 Alpine Ski Poles
Add a little spice to your set up with the extremely rigid and durable K2 Power 8 Alpine Ski Poles. The perfect ski pole that adjusts itself to match any condition no matter where you’re on the mountain, the K2 Power 8 Alpine is specifically designed to perform. It features a high-strength 7075 aluminum shaft with upside-down lock design that keeps the clamp high on the shaft, reducing swing weight and increasing strength. The adjustable Velcro strap attached to an Overmold Grip fits perfectly in your gloved hands. The dual injection grip with thick soft outer layer makes for comfortable gripping and top/bottom supports to hold hands in place. The best thing; you’re good to go every day with “set-it-and-forget-it” straps.
2. U.S. Freestyle Ski Team Official Ski Pole
The official ski pole of the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team, used by the top mogul skiers on the team like Joe Discoe, Patrick Deenen, K.C. Oakley, along with many pro athletes from the Canadian Freestyle Ski Team like Julie Bergeron and Matt Joosten. Zipline poles are made with high modulus carbon fiber graphite that’s extremely lightweight and durable, and they are designed to perform under all conditions. The graphite technology offers the best in vibration dampening. The poles provide excellent touch and feel without initial shock normally associated with aluminum poles. Zipline combines all the necessary requirements for a mogul pole to be quick, durable and balanced. The poles will not break under any circumstances even under the high performance requirements of the skiers.
3. Leki Checker X Ski Pole
The Leki Checker X is perfect equipment for a new school rider or a freerider who’s looking for some action on the hill. The Checker X is made from durable lightweight aluminum to give it greater strength and stability. The pole tapers down to a smaller diameter towards the tip to save some weight. Aside from the funky graphics, the Soft Grip fits in just perfectly on your hands as you launch off of jumps or cruise the mountain. Strong steel tip can pierce through the snow easily and is built for heavy-duty performance. The Hard Snow Basket measures 90mm in diameter and snaps on tightly so you do not have to worry about it popping off after some nasty crash.
4. BLACK DIAMOND Razor Carbon Ski Poles
Combine the durability of aluminum poles with the low swing weight of a carbon fiber lower and you’ll get your full-package all-in-one gear – the very versatile Black Diamond’s Razor Carbon Poles. The carbon lower shafts provide decreased vibration and greater strength, and improved handling over all-metal poles, but at a competitive price. The Razor Carbon Ski Pole is outfitted with its very own FlickLock Pro technology to let you adjust the length of the pole on the fly and with a flick of your thumb. This lightweight yet stiff pole is destined for the long ski tours into the backcountry or for use as walking poles. The all new SwitchRelease breakaway technology allows you to ski tight trees without worrying about that dreaded jerk and the pop sensation in your shoulder. All in all, the Razor Carbon provides the best of both backcountry-pole worlds.
5. Winget Carbon Fiber Mountain Alpine Ski Poles XA-80
Super lightweight, extremely sturdy and portable, 100 percent Carbon fiber shaft – the Winget Carbon Fiber Mountain Alpine Ski Pole is everything you’d expect from your high-end ski gear. The shaft diameter measures at approximately 10.4mm, which makes for a great high-speed skiing and training in the winter ski season. The straps provide better gripping for smooth and comfortable handling on the slope. The durable and anti-wear manganese steel tip guarantees long ski runs into the backcountry. The ergonomically design aesthetics are perfect for skiing on the long run and it fits just well on the hands. After all, you need something that not only gets the job done but also feels good on the hands.
6. K2 Chic Style Ski Poles
The K2 Chic Style combines durability and decent design, courtesy of its high-strength 6061 aircraft aluminum shaft. Featuring a women’s specific design, the Chic Style is extremely lightweight and provides a comfortable, secure hold, thanks to the injection molded grips. Small baskets perform well in most snow conditions and excel on hard pack. It also includes adjustable wrist wraps for a better hold and control. It’s a simple and cost-effective ski pole which is ideal for the ones who love the feel aluminum poles and who will never switch. This is a perfect piece of accessory that definitely seems to be a great addition to a women’s ski arsenal.
7. QuickPoles Revolution Aluminum Ski Pole
The QuickPoles Revolution is a revolutionary, high-performance ski pole and convenient ski carry system – it’s the only ski pole that snaps into your bindings, creating an instant handle for your skis. They are probably the only poles in the market that allow a skier to carry both poles and skis in one hand, thanks to the patented clip made from DuPont zytel. The Quickpoles ski poles are built with professional race pole grade materials to boost your performance on the hill. The fact that it’s made with Aircraft Grade 7075 Aluminum and extremely lightweight carbon fiber that ensures better durability, less breakage, and higher precision than the regular ski poles. The grip with strong polypropylene base with thermoplastic rubber ensures better control and gripping, plus the user-friendly design is a great deal.
8. Rossignol Experience Ski Poles
Traverse your way through any mogul field, powder face, icy slope, or whatever the wild mountain throws at you with the very versatile Rossignol Experience Ski Poles. It’s a great pole for the all-mountain skier who wants something that’s lightweight and provides utmost flexibility.The Aluminum alloy shaft is made with 20 percent Carbon to keep the weight down, and the 60mm basket works well with both on-trail and off-trail skiing. The grip offers a comfortable, secure hold, and the adjustable strap supports the wrist perfectly for better control and stability on the slope. Additionally, these poles have sleek looking matte graphics that make the pole look a little more interesting than the regular run-off-the-mill poles. A perfect aluminum ski pole at such an insanely low price, there’s really no reason NOT to go for it.
9. Swix Techline Ski Poles
The Swix Techline Ski Poles are made from high-strength aluminum and Swix single density handle for well-groomed slopes. The medium sized basket helps you maneuver with ease and the shaft diameter is good as well. Although these are pretty basics for recreational skiing, but for those who want an affordable set with all the technical properties to enjoy the day on the slopes, this is a wonderful bet. They offer the strength and stability you need on the slopes, but also the flexibility to tackle tougher slopes. So, if you’re in the market looking for a high-performance ski pole and don’t want to spend an exorbitant sum on the equipment, look no further than the very efficient Swix Techline Ski Poles.
10. Leki Artena Ski Pole
The Leki Artena is an ideal ski pole for any women looking for a lightweight pole with a comfortable grip. The Compact Thermo Grip is slightly smaller and stays warm for a long time, thanks to its thermal material. It’s perfectly designed to fit into the delicate hands of women. Plus, the Trigger S System allows you to clip in and out of your poles easily with the push of a button located on the grip, without having the trouble of removing the straps all the time. The diamond tip is specifically designed to punch your way through the toughest of the snow conditions for smooth pole plants. If you want a ski pole that’s light and durable, and the one which functions fantastically, the Leki Artena is just the thing for you.
A good pair of ski poles is crucial to a successful ski tour just as a solid pair of alpine touring skis, bindings, and climbing skins are. No matter your ability level, a perfect pair of ski pole is an absolute necessity. The above-mentioned reviews is just to help you sort through the different choices, but you have to assess your own needs and preferences and finally make a good decision that you’ll be confident about. They may seem like a pretty simple accessory to go along with the rest of your equipment, yet find the right one can actually make you excel at this wonderful sport.
What are the Types of Poles?
With so many different ski poles on the market, choosing the right pair of ski poles and the type of skiing that you’ll be doing seem to be the essential factors that affect the decision you make, one way or another. Poles vary dramatically from one discipline to another, so we took the courtesy of listing the different types of ski poles to help you understand your needs.
Alpine is the most common type of ski pole chosen by most pro skiers, but is equally recognized among the beginners. They are perfectly designed to suit an average skier, regardless of his/her skill level. The Alpine ski pole features a straight-designed shaft, a standard hard snow basket, and a handle that feels good on the hands, so better grip and control. In alpine skiing, poles are used to push and to help with the timing of turns. Some poles feature extra snow baskets, depending on the manufacturer, which are not standard for Alpine ski poles.
Skiers will have increased snow performance with the cross-country ski poles. The snow basket is usually large on this type of ski which prevents the ski pole from sinking into the deep snow. Sometimes this type of ski pole has a thicker shaft to protect them from hitting trees or rocks in the backcountry. Some of the models feature shafts with adjustable lengths, which make them easy to transport and move around as well as adjusting them for varied terrain. While in many cases, they can be shortened enough to fit into a backpack or a suitcase.
Many freestyle skiers like to ski freestyle without ski poles whilst others use them for added balancing over flat terrain. They are typically a lot shorter than the other ski poles and the shaft and grip is skinnier as well, which makes sure they don’t get in the way while hitting rails or boxes. When it comes to sizing guide, they are much more subjective than other ski poles and completely depends on your personal preference. We recommend you try a few different sized pools to get a feel for what you exactly want.
Race poles have their own unique distinctions. They feature the best and most durable materials such as carbon and fiberglass that can be shaped for aerodynamics, especially in speed events. The ergonomically shaped poles bend around your body while in a tuck position to reduce drag, allowing you to ski faster. They usually come with smaller, cone-shaped baskets that eliminate the chances of getting hooked up on the gates. High-grade carbon and materials ensure a stronger and lighter design than traditional aluminum poles for better control and stability on the slopes.
Nordic poles are largely similar to composite cross-country ski poles, just shorter in length and a basket smaller than the regular racing cross-country ski poles. These sturdy, long-lasting poles are perfect for cross-country skiing, hiking, and other outdoor snow activities. They usually have narrow shafts with a spiked tip and a strap that resembles a fingerless glove and is quite similar to the racing cross-country ski pole strap. This allows you to get maximum power when pushing along. They vary in sizes than other types of ski poles, so we’d recommend you choose the one that reaches up to your collarbone or chin.
How Ski is made?
How skis are constructed can vary quite a lot, however, the basic components generally stay the same. Different manufacturers use slightly different materials and methods to make their skis stand out from the rest, all claiming advantages over others, but at the end of the day, all skis are built to basic principles. The basic construction of a ski features a laminated wood at its center which is surrounded by composite layers. A topsheet is then attached to the top and the edges, and the base is attached to the bottom.
In the modern skis, the integral part of the construction is the inner core, which can be made from a variety of materials. The core determines the characteristics of a ski, and this is exactly where the most of the longitudinal strength comes from. The core’s material seemed irrelevant back then, when skis were used to be constructed entirely of wood. But with the introduction of metal, the core determined the strength of the ski. The outer part of the ski is made from a wide variety of materials, most common being aluminum, carbon fibers or fiberglass.
Aluminum is the most commonly used core material in the construction of ski poles. It’s extremely lightweight but is also more prone to bending rather than snapping like carbon and fiberglass materials. The most common alloys used in the construction are silicon, magnesium, and zinc. Though it’s light and strong, it’s quite expensive and has reduced damping capabilities. In skis with aluminum cores, the metal is usually fashioned into a honeycomb pattern. They retain an excellent tensile strength but are also more flexible than wood cores. They vary in thickness and quality, depending on the manufacturer. Buying more expensive and higher-grade aluminum will ultimately bring greater strength for the weight, which eventually makes them feel lighter in your hands.
High performance ski pole often tout a lightweight design, which is often because there’s carbon fiber weaved into the build. Carbon is often considered as a pinnacle of ski pole construction, offering the highest strength to weight ratio. But it’s more prone to snapping rather than bending like aluminum poles. They often blend in other materials to improve the characteristics of the pole, making them more elastic. It’s very difficult to break a carbon ski pole. In short, they are light, strong and very good under compression, but very expensive. It’s an ideal gear for someone who’s hard on the gear and wants to hit big features in the terrain park.
This is the least common material used in the construction of ski poles, which is mostly because of its primary constraint: low levels of durability, which is far lower than a regular aluminum or carbon fiber pole. That being said, fiberglass has its fair share of advantages over other materials like this is the strongest ski pole to date that offers a high level of strength to weight ratio. This allows the fiberglass poles to be slimmer and lighter without compromising performance. It shares similar traits as carbon fiber but at a relatively lower cost. It’s often blended with carbon to improve the qualities of the materials, eventually making them less expensive than other materials.
Composite refers to a blend of materials being used in the construction of a ski pole depending on their specific properties. This may include aluminum, carbon fiber, fiberglass, resin and others. The most common materials used in the process are carbon fiber and fiberglass. They cost more than traditional aluminum poles but are not as durable or resistant to snapping.
Ski poles are a vital piece of equipment and are great for hitting snow out of your bindings or helping you up when you fall. It helps to provide stability, balance, control, traction, and add style to your skiing. So make sure you’re taking the search to find the best pair of poles for your needs. But your choice of poles depends on a lot of factors, including your terrain, discipline, and budget, and with different designs for all-mountain, cross-country, freestyle, and racing, it’s important to understand the fundamental elements to make the right choice for optimal comfort and performance.
How to Choose?
Yet they are widely recognized as standard gear with the vast majority of skiers using poles for every outing. There are several features that set one ski pole apart from another.
It’s vital to find the right length ski pole before hitting the terrain to get maximum performance. You should take time to choose a pole that seems of proper length for your height and skiing style. To find your proper size, measure the height of your arm with your elbow bent at 90-degrees. Ski poles are generally sized in 2-inch increments. Take the pole and turn it upside down, putting the handle on the floor, and grasp the pole just below the basket. If it’s the correct size your forearm will be parallel to the ground. You can find your ideal size using a simple measuring tape – and put on shoes (or ski boots) for a more exact number.
The weight of the pole is just as important, especially when it comes to backcountry or cross-country skiers. The weight of a pole often relates to the material type, but that doesn’t mean carbon fiber is the best option for a ski pole. Let’s say, if you’re just starting out, aluminum poles are just your thing to start rolling and are moderately priced. Like many action gear, lighter means more money. Lighter poles will generally cost more and the added features will make little difference to the performance. The thickness of the pole also plays a role. In some cases, narrow shaft of any material type tends to be less durable and with less stress tolerance, so you’d probably want to avoid choosing the lightest pole available.
The surface area of the basket determines how well it avoids the pole from sinking too deeply into the snow. Ski poles have a plastic circular-shaped basket connected near the bottom. Wide powder baskets will not sink in soft snow as much as a narrower one, so a larger basket will come in handy when it comes to conquering powder. However, if you prefer to ski on hard-packed, groomed trails, a smaller basket would be useful for better performance. Some poles come with two sets of baskets so that you can switch easily to powder without compromising your performance.
Straps keep the poles wrapped around your hands for better control and stability. Most poles come with an adjustable nylon strap with pull-through locking system, which is very easy to use and quite effective. Cross country skiers prefer the straps with lots of padding which is more forgiving on the wrists. The inexpensive models use plastic straps, though the expensive versions will use padding to prevent the risk of injury.
Plastic, cork and rubber are the most common materials used on the grips of ski poles. With so many options out there, choosing the right pole comes down to personal preference and just how well the grip fits in the gloved hands. After all, there’s no grip better than another. Rubber is comfortable of all and some poles feature dual-density foam for extra comfort and control. Some high-end variations come with grip extensions, which are usually found on cross-country poles.
Dual-density handles seem to be more comfortable as they feel lighter on the hands and usually grip better than others. Yet another cheaper alternative is the mono-material handles, but it doesn’t feel as comfortable. Women’s specific ski poles sometimes have a smaller handle.
The tip of the most of the ski poles is usually made of steel to provide a good bite on the toughest snow conditions and strength to resist knocks and bangs. The carbon-based tips are a bit expensive but are exceptionally capable of cutting into firm snow with ease.
The downhill poles are ideal for all kinds of scenarios and are capable of taking the hard hit. They will last for many years under great conditions, but they are more prone to bending or snapping upon hard fall. The sturdier the pole the better.
Different levels of skiers use different types of ski poles – a beginner would go for a basic ski pole while a downhill skier will choose a pole designed for multiple disciplines. An adjustable ski pole can be great for downhill skiing, but you’ll want a longer length for the flat sections. Using fixed-length ski poles is absolutely an option, but may require little tweaks and modifications, allowing you to hold the poles at varied lengths.
Getting a Good Deal
Most entry level poles are usually made of aluminum; they are cheap and durable. You can get your hands on some nice pair of poles just like this, even with the racing straps, for a couple of bucks. Aside from the cost, these poles are much less likely to break under any conditions. Mid-range poles cost a couple hundred bucks ($100-200), which are usually a composite of carbon blended with some other material. While not as sturdy or stiff as racing poles, mid-range poles offer the best bang for your buck. Plus, they are perfect for skiing on groomed trails. The expensive poles, on the other hand, tend to have a beautiful swing or pendulum action. So it would be wise to invest in poles that fit your budget and cater to your interest in the sport.
Ski poles can be expensive, depending on the different manufacturers and shaft properties. But if you don’t want to spend a significant amount of your hard-earned money on something that you’re not so sure about, you might want to wait for the seasonal sales or those fancy end-of-season sales for a better deal. This is a great way to get a new set of poles if you’re not so fussed about getting your hands on the latest color scheme for the coming season. Rental shops in the slopes or ski resorts often auction their stock at the end of every ski season too.
Ski Poles FAQs
Purchasing a new set of ski poles is a big investment, especially for beginners, and should not be underrated. Ski poles are the second most important piece of equipment (after the ski boots), and is probably the only piece of equipment that you physically hold onto. That’s why your decision is very important when selecting the right pole for your swings and lifts.
Q: What length pole should I choose?
Ski poles come in different lengths and sizes, so it can be confusing at times, finding the right length. Poles for cross-country skiing are generally longer than poles for downhill skiing. Remember the thumb rule: ski poles should be slightly shorter than your armpit height. Longer poles are needed for skiers with short arms, and vice-versa. Poles that are too long can create problems during turns. A mid length pole, on the other hand, is more stable and maneuverable. Decide what areas you’ll be skiing and choose accordingly.
Q: Do I really need ski poles?
Actually, there are many uses for them, least of which is to propel you around flat areas. In simple terms, poles come in handy while hitting snow out of your bindings and helping you up when you fall. Many skiers think of their poles as an afterthought, but they are in fact one of the most important equipment in your skiing arsenal. They affect your stance as you ski, so it’s important to choose a pair that best suits your height.
Q: Do Poles come assembled?
All sets of pole come completely assembled. If your gear does not include the sled, you may have to install the hardware that comes with the pole onto your sled. All systems that include a sled are assembled and good to go.
Q: What’s the difference between classic and skate skiing?
Classic skiing is the traditional way of cross-country skiing, while skate skiing is more like ice-skating or roller-skating which leverages the side to side motion to propel. Classic style requires a higher poling cadence and if done properly, a pole should always be planted.
Q: What bindings should I buy?
Personal preferences and style aside, there are only subtle variations across different models of bindings. All bindings from recognized brands are tested and developed to the same standards. Different factors serve to distinguish different bindings, but the correct setting is determined by your size, skill level and boot size. But if you don’t have any idea regarding what to do, ask for a professional to help them adjust them for you.
Q: What is swing weight and why is it important?
Swing weight generally refers to how heavy a pole feels to swing when in use. Even the lightweight poles that are specially designed with more of their weight fall toward the basket will seem a little heavy and cause greater arm fatigue over time. Most poles are adjusted toward the upper shaft of the pole rather than the lower shaft which eventually creates a high center of gravity which results in a smooth and effortless swing.
Q: Heavy or super-light pole – what should I choose?
Most of the modern-day ski poles are made of aluminum, graphite, carbon fiber, fiberglass, and composite materials – each varies differently in weight, cost and performance. Several models use a combination of these materials to draw the benefits of each. A pole that feels too heavy can interfere with your balance on the slopes, whereas an extremely lightweight pole won’t be able to withstand average wear and tear. So choose wisely before making the decision.
Q: Where to find ski poles?
There are a number of places to shop for ski poles, but if you’re a beginner, you’d want to start with the large outdoor retailers. Certain locations have specialty ski shops and these stores are also a good source of information. You can also buy your equipment at the slopes, but they may be more expensive that other retail shops.
When searching for the right pair of ski poles, it’s very important that you spell your terms correctly. While at first, it would all seem the same – they all have grips, a handle, a long stem, a sharp metal tip, and a plastic basket to keep the pole from sinking into the snow. However, the more you get into skiing – be it cross-country or downhill – the more you’ll get to know the major differences between aluminum and composite poles, poles for freestyle and Nordic skiing and differences in basket size.
The fact is different poles are used for many different things in the different environments. They are great for hitting snow out of your bindings, but many skiers are unsure about how to choose the right pair. Poles are often seen as an afterthought, but the perfect pair of poles can really get you into skiing if you know what you need and what to look for. Understanding the different elements and factors involved will help you make the right decision. A ski pole, like boots and head gear, is a very personal affair, but as long as you have something that you feel comfortable with, and which is equally strong and sturdy, then you’re good to go.
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