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Timeless Tips: New Way to Measure Pole Length




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Timeless Tips: New Way to Measure Pole Length

By Ron LeMaster



1969: Modern ski techniques place much importance on pole planting for both long parallel turns and short swing. However, many advanced skiers have limited success in assimilating the latest refinements into their own skiing because their ski poles are too long. Long poles tend to set a skier’s weight back on his heels and interfere with setting up a good rhythm for short swing.

The old rule of thumb—that poles should reach up to the armpit—is obsolete, in the opinion of many instructors who now advocate shorter poles, particularly for advanced skiers. To check for proper pole length, place the tip of your pole in the snow as if you were about to make a turn. If your poles are short enough, the wrist-to-elbow section of your arm will be parallel to the ground. Checking proper length in a ski shop or in your home, place the pole grips on the floor, grasping the shafts just below their baskets. Again, your lower arm should run parallel to the floor.
—Stefan Nagel (Certified, U.S. Eastern Amateur Ski Association)

2020: In September 1969, when this tip appeared in SKI, the method it described might have been new to some, but was already current practice. Since then, good skiers have gradually migrated to shorter poles. A person who skied with 52-inch poles in the 1960s was probably using 50-inch poles in the 1990s, and might be skiing with 46-inch poles today. Competitive mogul skiers are likely to use poles even shorter than that.

But even though poles have gotten shorter, the method described in this tip still works. The key is to place the tip of your pole in the snow as if you were about to make a turn. In the illustration above, the skier is in a tall stance. For various reasons, the stance of good skiers at the moment they plant their poles has typically gotten shorter over the years, especially when making short turns. Keeping your forearm level to the snow dictates a shorter pole.

In the 1960s, skiers typically up-unweighted to start their turns. Today, they’re more likely to avoid actively unweighting, and in high-performance turns will flex through the transition between turns to absorb forces that would otherwise launch them off the snow. Competitive mogul skiers are at the extreme end of this spectrum, always deeply flexed at the moment they plant their poles. —Ron LeMaster 

In the 1960s, skiers generally stood taller when they planted their poles than they do today — as demonstrated in the photomontage (right) by Michael Rogan, current coach of the PSIA National Alpine Team. So while pole length has gotten shorter, the rule of thumb described in this timeless tip still applies. Photomontage by Ron LeMaster.



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