What Are Ski Poles For?
If you're preparing to head off on your first ever ski holiday, you might be wondering "what are ski poles used for?". After all, when you go ice skating you don't use poles, so what's the benefit of using them on the piste that can justify the effort of carrying them with you?
It's worth pointing out that ski poles are by no means essential and many people will tell you that beginners and young children shouldn't use them at all as they can cause injury if waved about and may distract you from what your legs are supposed to be doing. However, there are a number of uses for poles, so read our guide below to help you make up your mind about whether you'll take them with you on the slopes:
It might surprise you to learn that not all skiing is downhill. Quite often you'll encounter sections that are flat and even slightly inclined, especially towards to bottom of a run as you head back into the resort or when you're trying to get onto lifts.
This is where poles can be really handy for pushing you along - without them, you have to try to 'skate' on your skis, which can be very tricky and hard work for beginners.
You can also use a firmly planted pole to help you stand up when you fall.
You'll also spot snowboarders jumping along or walking with their board in hand because they don't use ski poles :)
Balance And Rhythm
As your skiing improves, you'll find poles are great for aiding your balance and rhythm as you execute parallel turns, especially when tackling more challenging terrain such as moguls.
A pole plant with the 'downhill' pole gives you something to turn around, which is really helpful for executing shorter turns.
Poles can also be used as tools for a variety of jobs. Got snow stuck in your boot? Knock it off with your pole. Bindings full of powder? Use your poles to flick it out. Ski lost in the powder? Probe for it using the tip of the pole. Want to get out of your bindings quickly? Pop them open with, you guessed it, your trusty ski pole.
As well as having physical benefits, poles can give you a psychological edge. Having something in your hands can provide that extra level of comfort you need to take on a steep slope.
If you do decide to go with poles on the piste, it's really important to use them properly, otherwise, they could adversely affect your skiing.
With or without poles, you need to keep your hands in front and slightly to the side of you at all times. When planting a pole to make a turn, don't make big swinging movements with your whole arm. Simply flick your wrist away from you to reach out with the pole and then cock your wrist to bring it back down towards you and into contact with the snow. As it catches the surface, simultaneously begin your turn.
Happy pole planting!