Ski Poles Comparison
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Ski Poles Buying Guide
Types of Poles
There are many different types of ski poles on the market. How you will be using your ski poles and the type of skiing that you will be doing will be crucial factors in the decision you make. We’ve listed the different types of ski poles below.
- Alpine – These are the most common ski pole chosen by most skiers. They suit the average skier well, regardless of skill level. The design of the Alpine ski pole features a shaft that is straight, a hard snow basket that is standard, and a handle that is comfortable for the skier to grip. Depending on the manufacturer, some Alpine ski poles have features that are not normally standard. These features include things like extra snow baskets.
- Powder or Backcountry – Skiers will have increased snow performance with the backcountry ski poles. The snow basket is very large on this type of ski and prevents the ski pole from sinking into the deep snow. Sometimes this type of ski pole will be much thicker than regular poles that will prevent them from hitting obstacles in natures such as trees and rocks.
Some of the models of backcountry ski poles will feature shafts that have adjustable lengths. The benefit to these adjustable shafts is that it makes them very easy to transport since they can be shortened. In some cases they can be shortened enough to fit into a pack or suitcase. It is recommended to purchase backcountry poles just a tad shorter which will improve your performance.
- Freestyle or Park – Many freestyle skiers don’t want to use poles at all and others use them for added balancing over flat terrain. This type of ski pole is typically a lot shorter than the others and the shaft and grip is skinnier as well. Professionals recommend that new skiers take a look at many different sizes of freestyle poles to see which ones feel the best to them.
- Race – These are a specialty type of ski pole. The features of a race pole include elements such as high tech construction, ergonomically designed poles and fiberglass and carbon materials used in construction. Race poles are more specialized which makes them more expensive.
- Nordic – Another name for Nordic ski poles is cross country. These sturdy, long lasting poles are great for cross country skiing, hiking, snowshoeing, trekking and other outdoor snow activities. The shaft on a Nordic ski pole is usually much narrower than others. It has a spiked tip and a basket that is not shaped like the traditional ski pole’s basket is. These differences allow skiers to get plenty of power when propelling themselves along. Nordic poles are sized differently than the other types of poles so be sure that you understand how to size them.
Common Materials Used in Construction
There are several different types of materials that are used to create good quality ski poles. We have listed out the different, common materials and have added information as to the benefits of each type of material.
- Aluminum – The material that is used most often in the manufacturing of ski poles is aluminum. It is lightweight and the tensile strength is extremely high. Additional components that are added to aluminum ski poles include silicon, zinc and magnesium. Ski poles that are made of aluminum are not as expensive as other types of ski poles. They are durable and long lasting and work for most skiers, at any skill level. The type of aluminum used can affect the cost.
- Fiberglass – This is the strongest ski pole to date, offering a high level of strength in relation to the weight. This type of ski pole is a lot lighter and smaller in diameter but offers these features without performance being compromised in any way. Fiberglass is a favorite material of racers and other skiers that want optimal performance. In many cases carbon is mixed in with the fiberglass to strength each of the materials used in construction.
- Carbon – The top of the heap when it comes to the creation of a good quality ski pole is carbon. The highest level of strength to weight is carbon fiber. One drawback to this level of carbon is that the carbon dishes can snap and cause problems. It is extremely hard to snap a carbon ski pole. You will get what you pay for in this world, so look for the ski poles that are higher quality and not just run of the mill.
- Composite – A composite ski pole is a ski pole that has many different materials is used in the construction of the area. Some example of composite materials will be graphite, resin, carbon, aluminum, fiberglass, etc. Carbon fiber and fiberglass are going to be the most often used materials. They will cost more than aluminum poles but they are not as durable or resistant to snapping.
Components of the Ski Pole
The components that make up a ski pole contribute to its weight, durability and also its performance. The components of a ski pole are listed below.
- Materials – Most ski poles that are available on the market today are either made of aluminum or carbon fiber. You can find ski poles that are made of graphite or bamboo as well but carbon fiber and aluminum are the most common. Ski poles that are made from aluminum are less expensive than carbon fiber but they are reliable materials that are very durable. They do tend to be heavier than carbon fiber poles. Carbon fiber is more expensive and they are known for being more lightweight and flexible as well.
- Grips – The grips of a ski pole are made from rubber, plastic or cork. There really isn’t a grip that is better than another. Personal preference is what drives this decision.
- Straps – The straps that are attached to the ski pole are usually made of plastic or durable nylon. Cross country skiers or all mountain skiers like straps that have plenty of padding so if the pole gets stuck on something it is more forgiving on their wrists.
- Baskets – The surface area of the basket determines how well it avoids sinking into the snow. If you’re a backcountry skier, a larger basket is preferable. If you are skiing in conditions where the snow is packed, a smaller basket will work just fine.
- Size – It is important to find the right size ski pole to get the best performance. A lot of the backcountry poles are adjustable which is good for different conditions. Make sure you understand what size pole to get before you purchase. If there is any question, a professional at a sporting goods store can answer some questions for you.
Ski poles may not be the most important piece of ski equipment, but it certainly is a big element of successful skiing. Most skiers that are not competitive can get away with a basic Alpine ski pole or a backcountry style if they prefer cross country style skiing. Knowing the different elements and factors involved is very helpful to the overall decision making process.
This buyer’s guide has been designed to help you choose the right ski pole for your preferences, your skill level, the type of skiing you do and the budget you want to work with. There are many different types of ski poles, so make sure you know exactly what you want to do with your skis so the pole you choose will complement those needs perfectly.