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Ski Pole Buyers Guide

Poles are great for hitting snow out of your bindings or helping you up when you fall, but many new skiers are unsure of how to choose the right pair or if they even need to be using poles at all. Skill level and conditions are import factors to consider.Poles are often purchased as an afterthought, but the right pair can really improve your skiing if you know what to look for.

Beginners - new skiers often prefer poles to keep hands occupied & steady themselves, but should really leave them behind to focus on mastering turns.

Intermediate - at this level, its important to have a pole that won't hinder your progression. Poles should be used to assist in turn timing and navigating flat/uphill areas.

Advanced - poles really become important to athletes who are frequenting black diamond trails, exploring backcountry or venturing into uncertain conditions. Planting poles in the snow maintains balance & keeps turns controlled in rough terrain.

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Ski poles can affect your stance as you ski, so it's important to choose a pair that suits your height. Poles that are too tall can make you lean back on your heels, while short poles will force you to hunch over.

To determine what size ski pole you need, stand with your arms at your sides, bent at a 90-degree angle and measure the distance from your hands to the floor. (If you can't have a friend measure, stand near a wall & use one hand to mark the other's height)

Add 2 inches to the measurement to compensate for height added by your skis, boots & bindings. (Poles are measured in intervals of 2 inches or 5 centimeters so be sure to note both measurements.)

If you're physically shopping for a pair, stand near a mirror and turn one of the poles in question upside down. Grasp it so that the bottom of your fist rests on the underside of the basket, and position the pole completely vertical with its handgrip resting on the floor.Relax your shoulders, but keep your back straight-- if your forearm is bent 90-degrees/parallel to the floor, you're good to go.

Parts of a Ski Pole

Grip - the very top of the pole, usually made of molded rubber or plastic. If possible, wear your gloves/mitts to make sure you can comfortably hold your poles.

Hand Guards - Models designed for slalom racers may incorporate a cover to shield hands from hitting gates.

Adjustable Grip - Certain styles can be positioned to fine-tune the pole's overall height. Usually they extend/retract about 2-3 inches, makingthem great for complete customization or growing athletes.

Strap - attached to the grip to secure poles in case they get stuck in snow or you loosen your grip. Often a nylon strap that's lopped around your wrist, but can also be a curved extension off the grip. These plastic or rubber loops are fixed on one end, leaving the other open to easily wrap around your glove. Injuries to the wrist & thumb can easily result from grasping poles during a fall, so many manufacturers incorporate these flexible arcs to get hands out of the way easily. There are also straps that offer a Velcro closure or quick-release function to prevent hand injuries from impact.

Shaft - the main part of the ski pole, cylindrical and made of composite, titanium, aluminum, carbon fiber or fiberglass. Should be strong, lightweight, flexible & resilient (when it bends, it shouldn't stay bent!)

Curved Shaft - aerodynamic design & low swing weight in curved poles perform better for downhill racers.

Basket - the disc near the bottom of the pole that stays on top of the snow. The average disc should work fine for groomed resort trails, but for deep powder a larger disc is necessary to keep from falling through the snow. Most baskets are easily interchangeable.


Ski poles are typically made of aluminum, graphite, fiberglass, or composite materials, all varying in weight, price & performance.Most models today are made of a combination of these materials, drawing the benefits of each. A pole that feels too heavy can through off your balance, whereas a super-light racing pole won't be able to withstand average resort wear & tear.

Aluminum - moderately lightweight &most affordable, but can bend/snap easily.

Carbon Fiber - 100% carbon fiber creates the lightest poles available, but is also easily dented.

Composite/graphite - durable & have resilient flex, but are also slightly heavier.

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