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Guide to Selecting Ski Poles
Selecting the Proper Sized Ski Poles
Here's the old way this was done: Stand up straight, hold both arms straight out in front of you, forearms parallel to the ground, thumbs up. Without moving your elbows, raise your hands up about three to four inches. Roll your wrists so that your pinkies are parallel to the floor...that's where your poles should be. Have someone measure from the floor to your thumb...
Again, this is the old school method. Not bad, considering that we are definitely Old School here at Skiernet. Because arm lengths vary, your best bet is to rent poles sometime, and try a couple different pole lengths through the day.
If you have the luxury of being in a ski shop and are selecting from a rack of different poles, turn the pole upside down. Grab it right below the basket (what is really the top of the basket) and if your arm is at a 90º angle, you're good to go.
Why is pole length so critical? Well, if you're skiing with short poles, you're hunkering down to hit the snow -- and out of balance forward when you pole at a turn. If you ski with long poles, you're leaning back to compensate, and your balance is off accordingly. If you need to "scrounge" or borrow a pair of poles and can't find any the right length, remember to opt for poles that are too long over poles that are too short and just try to grip as low as you can.
What about "Baskets"? In case you just fell off the turnip truck, "baskets" are those round thingies near the ends of your poles. They are placed to allow a couple inches of pole to stick in the snow -- and prevent you from stuffing the entire pole into the snow. There are a lot of varieties of baskets, so we'll try to decipher them for you.
Composite vs. Aluminum More than anything, this is a matter of preference. Aluminum and old stainless poles are heavy; composite poles are not. The advantage to a composite pole is that it won't bend when you rap it against your boots to knock snow off. Aluminum poles will bend, and eventually break from doing that, but they do have a more solid feel when you plant them. Which do you like?
Personally, I like heavy metal poles that make the snow bleed. If you spend a lot of time at crowded metropolitan areas, you've seen wise-guys zoom past people resting on the side of the trail, inches away. I used to have a giant pair of aluminum Barrecrafters with enormous solid plastic handgrips. I'd wait until Mr. Wiseass was swooping in, then plant one of those babies a couple feet away. The sudden wide-eyed look of terror was priceless. Believe me, they'd rather hit a lift tower than one of those poles.
Along the same lines as aluminum vs. composite are "curved" poles such as a racer might use. Unless you're a serious, competitive racer, these are not necessary. Same goes for the "aero" poles vs. the regular old round poles. The fancy shaped poles are a bit silly, but again, if you like 'em, use 'em.
Avoid ski pole theft: Believe it or not, the most frequently stolen items at most ski areas are not bags with nice clothing inside, not the pricey phat powder skis, but the $45 pair of poles you place next to your skis on the rack. People drop a pole, bend a pole, lose a pole -- it is so convenient to simply replace their broken poles with your nice new poles! The best way to avoid this is to lock them up with a Ski Tote...but we don't want to be seen with one of those, now do we? So, the second best way to avoid stolen poles is to put one on the rack over here, and the other pole in the corner over there. After all, a thief wants matched poles too!
From understanding ski sizes, selecting shaped or parabolic skis, understanding the differences between men's and women's skis, buying used skis, demo skis, and buying new skis, Please click here for our Ski Buyer's Guide.
Buying Used Gear Online
Thinking of going the cheap way to gear up? Click here for some insight on purchasing ski equipment on auction sites.
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