Ski Pole Height
Different sports require different length poles, and it is not only important to choose the right material, it’s also important to make sure you get the correct length. The ideal length for your poles depends on the sport type, on the route profile and not least on the ability level of the user as well.
Available types of poles on the market include fixed poles, which have a a fixed length and variable or telescopic poles, which can be adjusted when needed and are suited to different sports. The latter choice gives you a high level of variability, but the downside is that they are less solid and more susceptible to errors. This means they can buckle through misapplication or wear, and the adjustment mechanism can fail.
A pole length calculator can help to give you a rough estimation of the ideal length, however this doesn’t take into account the high level of complexity required to precisely calculate the necessary length. In this case – as so often – there’s nothing like trying it for yourself.
Personal preference is of course important when choosing the correct length - what is too long for some, is perfect for the more experienced. The rules of thumb mentioned above give you some approximate guidelines, if in doubt, nothing beats trying it for yourself!
Since the poles for alpine skiing are generally not used for pushing, except in rare cases, they are significantly shorter than those for cross-country skiing. In this case the ski poles are a only a tool, to help you keep your balance! For this reason it’s best to choose poles of a length that your elbows form a 90° angle when the poles are held perpendicular to the ground. This should be measured on a solid terrain and while wearing ski boots and skis.
It is also advisable to use fixed poles for alpine skiing. Since skiing poles are more likely to be bent by falls or when the pole gets caught in a lift, purchasing new fixed poles will be much less of a strain on your wallet than telescopic poles.
Ski touring poles need to be frequently adjusted to the slope or stored away in a backpack when you are using ice picks, so invariably telescopic poles are the ideal. The propulsion is generated primarily by the legs, while the poles are used to maintain balance.
That’s why the pole length used here follows the same guidelines as the length used for walking. The poles should be chosen so that when they are perpendicular to the ground, the elbows form a 90° angle.
When you are travelling across a slope you don’t necessarily need to adjust your poles. Here is a helpful trick: When grasping the pole on the up-slope side, don’t hold it by the grip, rather keep your hand lower down, so that the elbow still forms a 90° angle. But be careful, in this grip position you can’t use the loop, so don’t let the pole fall!