You may not worry about your ski poles too much when hiring, but when you buy there is quite a wide range of choice.
The choice of pole is especially important if you're heading out into the backcountry for ski touring or if you're a racer. For both you'll be looking for the lightest and strongest models possible, plus additional features such as extra grips down the pole or click in click out functionality. Most recreational skiers will want a pair of poles that are strong, durable and comfortable in your hands. Here are our top buying tips:
Ski Pole Height
Grab a ski pole and flip it upside down. Grip the pole just underneath the basket, and rest the other end of the pole on the ground. Stand with your knees slightly flexed, like when you're skiing, with your upper arm at your side. Your forearm should be parallel to the floor, with your elbow sitting at a 90 degree angle. Ski poles come in 5cm increments but if you want them tailored to something in between, a good ski shop can trim them down for you.
Buying Ski Poles
You may not give much thought to your ski poles when hiring, but when you buy your own there is a wide variety of types to choose from. You can get carbon composite, metal, cork handled, detachable straps, gloves that clip into the handles, big baskets for soft snow, skinny baskets for racing - the list goes on.
Select a pole with strength. Most ski poles are made of aluminium or some sort of composite. Some people prefer the stiffness of aluminium while others like the shock absorbency of a composite pole. This is personal choice so pick up the poles in the shop and see how they feel.
Decide what type of baskets you want on the bottom of your ski poles. Bigger baskets are more appropriate for skiing softer snow or powder (due to greater surface area), while smaller baskets suffice on hard-packed snow and do not drag as much.
Determine the kind of grip you want. Most ski poles come with a simple strap that goes around your wrists, while some have a plastic loop that encircles the grip or a strap or glove facilitates holding the pole in the right position yet has a releasable mechanism. While these can work well, beware that ice and snow can affect their function.
Getting a Good Deal
Poles can be expensive, so you may like to wait for end-of-season sales for a good deal. This is a great way to get a new pair of poles if you are not so fussed about having the latest colour scheme for the coming season. Rental shops in ski resorts often liquidate their ski stock at the end of each ski season too.