Recreational Ski Poles
There are many different features that are built into a ski pole, but the most important is the sizing. Poles are made in 2-inch or 5-centimeter increments depending on the company.
To measure yourself for the proper ski pole length, grab a pole and flip it upside down. In a fist, clench the pole just below the basket (the round, plastic or rubber piece). Your forearm should be parallel to the floor. This is the best way to measure yourself, but if you do not have access to a pole then refer to the chart below. Keep in mind that more experienced skiers should err on the larger side of these ranges.
Once you’ve decided on the size, you need to decide what material you would like. Poles are made of aluminum or carbon fiber (or a combination of the two). Carbon fiber is lighter and more fragile while aluminum is heavier and stronger. If you are an intermediate or a beginner, you should go for the aluminum poles as they are much harder to break. Advanced and expert skiers prefer lighter carbon fiber poles because they allow the skier to pole plant more aggressively.
Racing Ski Poles
Ski Racers require different types of poles for different events:
· On slalom poles a guard is placed over the grip to allow the racer to block gates. Slalom poles are normally straight and have flat baskets just like a recreational pair of poles.
· Bent poles are used in Giant Slalom, Super-G, and Downhill to allow the racer to tuck easily. The poles bend around the racers trunk to prevent the pole from hitting the gates as they pass. Most companies make giant slalom poles and downhill poles but the only difference is that the downhill poles have more bend. These poles also normally have cone baskets to reduce air resistance and to ensure that the baskets don’t fly off when they hit gates.
For most racers, 2 pairs of poles are not necessary even if you need guards.
Racers all prefer different sized poles but generally slalom poles should be sized in accordance with the chart in the recreational poles section. GS poles are normally a size larger and DH poles a size larger than that. Many race poles are made in carbon fiber but can be fragile. Aluminum poles do not break as often but are heavier which some racers do not like.