While you can ski without poles, they are undeniably a useful piece of skiing equipment. Using poles correctly really helps with controlling your speed, turning and not falling on your face.Ski Pole Sizing
Ski poles are generally sized in five centimetre increments. To find the right size of downhill ski pole, you should stand in your ski boots, turn the pole upside down and then grip it with your thumb touching the underside of the basket. If your elbow is at a 90 degree angle, you have the right length of pole. Cross-country ski poles can be longer than downhill poles. As a rule of thumb, the right length is 85 to 90 per cent of your height. Telescopic poles are widely used for cross-country as it can help to adjust length when going up and down hills, making it easier to find the right size. Freestyle and park skiers, on the other hand, use much shorter poles for taking tight corners more easily.Ski Pole Materials
Aluminium ski poles tend to be the standard option as they are strong, affordable and come in a lot of different grades. They are also more rigid than fibreglass or carbon fibre poles. Fibreglass is stronger and lighter than aluminium, allowing thinner pole sizes for reduced weight. Carbon fibre is even lighter and its natural flexibility helps it to resist bending and can assist with turns, but it is also more expensive and can snap under extreme forces. However, it tends to be the pole material of choice for competitive skiers.Ski Pole Grips and Straps
Beginner poles often have grips made from moulded plastic, which tend to be lightweight and tough. Rubber and foam are also widely used for their non-slip surfaces. Premium poles often come with cork grips which are not only grippy but insulating, protecting your hands from the cold pole. Grips are typically shaped to fit the hand well with sculpted finger grooves and palm swells, and often also include wrist straps to keep the pole securely attached to your hand at all times. However, some freestyle skiers prefer a very narrow grip to make tricks easier. Women’s ski poles usually have narrower grips than men’s or unisex ski poles due to the differences in average hand size.Ski Pole Baskets
The basket of a ski pole has a couple of important functions. It counterbalances the pole and helps to prevent it from sinking into the snow when you push off. Smaller baskets are lighter while larger baskets provide greater resistant to sinking. The right size of basket depends mainly on the type of snow that you plan to ski on. Downhill skiing pistes are made from hard-packed snow, so compact standard baskets won’t sink in anyway. Powder baskets are, surprisingly enough, designed for skiing on powder snow. They are wider than standard baskets to prevent them from sinking in the looser snow.