CORRECT SKI POLE USE:
Creating the Perfect Plant
Every expert skier uses an expert pole plant on every
turn. Why? Because the proper use of poles is an
extremely important part of being a great skier. Pole
use, combined with how tightly you hold them, has a
major influence on your skiing. Use a pole wrong and
your upper body will never be in position to allow your
lower body to stay centered over your skis.
Next time you are riding a chairlift observe
different skiers as they plant their poles. You will see
a variety of styles, most of which are wrong. There is
the double pole plant, the one-sided pole plant, the
late pole plant, the non-existent pole plant, the across
the body pole plant, the row boat pole plant, and my
favorite, the knock-the-gates-out-of-the-way pole plant.
You know, the one where a skier swings their arms from
side to side as if to knock imaginary race gate poles
out of their path.
To determine if you are using your poles
correctly have a friend positioned about 75 to 100 yards
directly below you on the ski run. As you ski down to
your friend, have him observe your pole plants. If your
friend cannot see eight to twelve inches of light
between your pole shafts (or elbows) and the sides of
your body at all times, then you need to make an
adjustment to your pole plant technique. This is easy to
do by making sure your arms are always held
and wide, with your hand utilizing the teacup grip to
hold your poles. The teacup grip allows you to flick
your pole back and forth using only your wrist. This
helps keep your arms quiet and in the correct position.
Your entire body is an interconnected string
of muscles and joints, and every time you move one part
of your body another part must also move, rotate, or
somehow change position. For skiers, this means too much
upper body movement forces the lower body out of
position, making skiing correctly difficult, if not
An effective pole plant occurs at the end
not the beginning of each turn. Don’t initiate your
turn and then plant your pole. To determine if your pole
plant is timed correctly, have a friend stand down the
hill while watching you make a series of turns on
groomed run. If you are observed planting after you
begin each turn ask your friend for a little more help.
Pick a nice gentle slope and have the friend follow
behind you as you ski down the hill. Your partner
will shout out the word “plant” as you are finishing
each turn. This will help you speed up your pole plants
as you learn to use them to set up the next turn. Also
be sure to make your pole plants deliberate yet quick.
Think of each plant as a flick, stab, and release
With the teacup grip you are able to
flick the tip of the pole forward toward your next
plant. A good rule of thumb is to always plant your pole
at the tip of your ski. The
stab occurs when you extend your elbow until the
tip contacts the snow. To make sure you pole plants
remain fluid and flowing from turn to turn always
release the plant quickly. At this point you
may want to watch this short video demonstration of our
pole plant technique. This may be accomplished
by a slight recoil of the elbow.
SHOULD NEVER BE ANY SIDE-TO-SIDE ARM MOVEMENT ACROSS
YOUR BODY AS YOU SKI!
Figure 7.1 Powder skiing with correct arm
Mark Kraley flicks
his pole toward the next plant as he
the virgin snow at Soldier Mountain,
fingers of his right hand are closed around the grip
to facilitate pulling the tip back to the ready
position, while the fingers of his left hand are
open to allow the pole to flick forward to the next
plant. So it goes, with the fingers; open, close,
open, close, open, close..............
you will need to think about the type and length of your
poles. It is generally accepted that the only
consideration when buying ski poles is the length. Not
true! The type of grip, the grip offset, and the pole
swing weight are also very important. These elements of
pole design and style are discussed later in chapter 25
on pages 193 and 194 of
our Expert Skiing book. For
now we will limit this discussion to pole length.
To determine the correct pole length, you
will need to visit your local ski shop. Place a ski
pole upside down with the basket resting on top of your
fist and against your
thumb. Bend slightly at the knee, as if in a skiing
stance and place the pole grip on the
floor just in front of your feet. Make sure the pole
shaft is straight up and down as you observe the angle
created by your upper arm and forearm. This angle should
be ninety degrees with your forearm parallel to the
floor. Because shoe heel height can vary from ˝ to 4
inches, I suggest you do this pole measurement while
wearing ski boots. Do not do it with bare feet.
Using this method to determine pole length
will get you very close to the correct length. You can
make more precise adjustments to your pole length by
making some on-snow observations about your skiing
If your poles are too long it may be
difficult to swing them. You may drag your poles a lot,
and in the bumps you will be jamming them into bumps
repeatedly. Long poles also can cause you to stand too
tall and interfere with your ability to move your body
through a cleanly carved turn. If your poles are too
short you may ski with a hunched over upper body. A
short pole will also cause you to reach out too much to
contact the snow resulting in a bizarre skiing style.
None of us want that.
When buying longer poles or cutting your
current set down, be sure to proceed with caution. You
know the saying: Measure twice and cut once. To apply
this logic to ski poles try renting a pair that is
closer to the correct length. If this is not convenient,
make small rather than large adjustments. We have been
through this process and discovered that ˝ inch can be a
big change. Good luck with it.
KEY POINTS FOR CORRECT POLE USE
Hold arms at
chest level and wide, with hands using the
Use only the
wrist to flick the pole from plant to plant.
The pole tip
always leads the pole to the next plant.
Plant pole tip
out at the tip of the ski, creating the correct
angle down hill.
Do not drive your
hand forward; instead think of it as swinging
the pole tip.
Extend your elbow
out until the tip contacts the snow.
Release the pole
tip from the snow and quickly rotate the wrist
downward to bring the pole tip back to the ready
position (this is accomplished by closing the
fingers around the grip as the wrist flicks
downward and back.