Best Ski Poles

Updated July 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

12 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
401 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best ski poles

Last Updated July 2019

Whether you’re a downhill, freestyle, or backcountry skier, your poles are an important tool for maneuvering obstacles and keeping yourself upright. A good pole should be lightweight and highly flexible, yet sturdy enough to support you as you climb or pivot.

Each type of skiing calls for a different type of pole. Mountaineers typically use telescoping poles that can be easily collapsed and carried. Cross country poles have large baskets to stay above the surface of the snow. The material of the pole determines its key qualities: weight, flexibility, and strength. It also plays a large role in the cost of the poles.

Your ski poles should suit your style and the conditions you typically ski in. If you are ready to purchase a pair of ski poles, consider our top recommendations. Or, continue reading to learn more about the different types of poles available.

Poles should always be held so that your hands align with the grips. This ensures that the tips are properly oriented to dig into snow and ice.

Key considerations

When shopping for ski poles, you should look for poles suited to the type of skiing you usually do and the conditions in your area. Material, weight, and basket diameter play large roles in how your poles will perform.

Ski pole styles

The most important factor is the pole style, as different types of skiing call for poles of different designs. The number of varieties may be intimidating; however, most skiers use either downhill poles or all-mountain poles.

  • Downhill poles are the most common type and are used by most downhill skiers. These poles are straight, sturdy, and light, with flexible materials that resist breaking in the case of a bad fall.

  • Cross-country poles are slightly longer than downhill poles and have wider baskets designed for powdery snow. They may use harnesses instead of straps to keep your poles close to your hands even in heavy snow.

  • Park and pipe poles are similar to downhill poles buy are usually one size smaller than normal to increase maneuverability.

  • Freestyle poles are shorter in length and have small grips that are easier to hold onto.

  • Mountaineering poles are telescoping and have larger baskets to handle powder. Their adjustable length makes them suited to climbing or descending.

  • Backcountry poles are adjustable, much like mountaineering poles. They may also have features like detachable baskets and ice picks for challenging terrain.

  • Racing poles are lightweight and highly durable. They generally feature curved designs to improve aerodynamics.

  • Slalom poles are straight and have baskets similar to downhill poles. Rather than straps, they typically have a guard that protects the skier’s hands as they hit gates.
     

Weight

When it comes to weight, lighter is better — but balance is important as well. A well-balanced pole improves your control and can prevent your arm from tiring. The lightest poles available weigh just over a pound each. If you opt for a heavier pair of poles, consider the number of times you will lift your poles in a day of skiing and how much the extra weight may slow your reaction time.

Material

Aside from the type of pole, the material is the next most important factor when choosing the right ski poles. The best shafts should be fairly narrow in diameter, flexible, lightweight, and strong. These factors combined make for a pair of poles that can protect you and allow you to maneuver difficult terrain, obstacles, and conditions.

  • Aluminum and high grade aluminum poles are a popular choice for new skiers due to their light weight and durability. Aluminum poles are the most affordable option, though they are also heavier than other materials. High grade aluminum poles are used by intermediate to advanced skiers and are known for their stiffness.

  • Composite poles combine fiberglass and carbon for a design that is lighter and more flexible than aluminum. These poles can suit beginners or intermediate skiers.

  • Carbon or carbon fiber poles are the most expensive for their durability, flexibility, and weight. When looking for carbon poles, you should always take note of the percentage of the shaft that is actually made of carbon.
EXPERT TIP

Much like your skis, pole tips require sharpening from time to time. You should sharpen your pole tips whenever you notice any slippage.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

To ensure that your straps fit comfortably and can be easily removed, you should try straps with your gloves on first. Some straps may be adjustable.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Once you’ve determined which type of pole you need, there are a few other factors to consider to find a reliable pair of poles for the slopes.

Basket type

The basket is the plastic or rubber base just above the tip of the pole that prevents the pole from sinking too far into the snow. There are two primary types of baskets: hard snow baskets and powder baskets.

  • Hard snow baskets: The most common, and are found in any poles designed for groomed or packed snow.

  • Powder baskets: Best suited for skiing in fresh or fluffy snow.
     

Baskets generally range from 2” to 4” in diameter.

Grip styles

The three most common materials for ski pole grips are plastic, rubber, and cork.

  • Rubber grips are the softest option and may be ergonomically shaped, making them a popular choice for downhill skiers.

  • Cork grips feel best against bare skin and may be found in backcountry, cross-country, or mountaineering poles.

  • Plastic grips are highly durable but lack the softness of cork or plastic.
     

Detachable straps and quick release systems

Since getting your gloves or mittens into the straps can be a challenge, some poles may have a detachable strap system. This allows you to keep the straps on your wrists and attach them to the poles after you get off of the lift. Quick release systems are ideal for when you need to free up your hand briefly on the slope.

Interchangeable baskets

Even with live updates from on-slope cameras, it can be difficult to know exactly what conditions will be like on the mountain. Some poles have removable baskets so you can swap out your hard baskets for powder baskets, or vice versa, to adjust according to the conditions.

Pole tips

The tip is the part of the pole that digs into the snow or ice and allows you to pivot, push, or climb. In order of toughness, tips are usually made of steel, tungsten, or carbide. Some may be a combination of these three metals.

Color

Ski poles come in a wide variety of colors and patterns, and each model often comes in a few choices. You may want to opt for poles that compliment or match your skis, jacket, or other gear. A distinct pattern or color can make it easier to pick out your poles from the rest of the poles outside the lodge.

DID YOU KNOW?

Ski pole tip protectors, usually made of rubber or plastic, help keep the tips of your poles sharp and prevent them from damaging your other gear.

Ski pole prices

Entry level ski poles cost between $30 and $60 and are generally made of aluminum or carbon composite. The grips are often plastic and may not be the most comfortable.

Mid-range ski poles from $60 to $100 may be made of carbon composite or carbon fiber. These lightweight and highly flexible poles are suited to beginner or intermediate skiers and may have features like ergonomic grips and detachable straps.

The best ski poles cost $100+ and are usually made of carbon fiber. Poles in this range are preferred by advanced or competitive skiers for their flexibility and strength. Most poles in this range are designed for a specific type of skiing.

Finding the right fit

There are two common ways to find the right fit for your poles. The first is to consult the manufacturer’s recommended measurement based on your height. The second is to flip a pair of poles upside down and grip them so your hands rest just below the baskets. When the handles are planted on the ground and the poles are held vertically, your forearms should be parallel to the ground with your arms bent at a 90° angle. This should be done while wearing shoes or ski boots. This measurement method accommodates for the poles sinking into the snow until the basket is flush with the surface. You should also measure your hand width to ensure that the grips are a comfortable size.

Other products we considered

Ski poles come in a variety of styles and configurations to suit the needs of different skiers. One unique pair of poles is the LEKI Speed S Ski Pole, which uses LEKI’s Trigger S system to attach the poles to LEKI gloves. If you don’t have compatible gloves, the included harness is comfortable and secure. Though these are somewhat pricey for aluminum poles, they come from a trusted brand and are well constructed. A comparable aluminum pole is the Black Diamond Expedition 3, which features convenient adjustable straps. The baskets are removable and the length is easy to adjust, making this a highly versatile pair of poles for backcountry or cross-country skiing. Customers love the abundance of features and longevity of these poles.

Lighter poles are always better, but bear in mind that length plays a large factor in the overall weight.

FAQ

Q. Can using ski poles be dangerous?

A. If used improperly, yes. It is possible to be struck by your own poles if you use them to come to a stop, and a snapped pole can be dangerous. However, ski poles provide control, balance, and increased maneuverability, all of which can prevent crashes.

Q. Can telescopic poles collapse unintentionally?

A. It is possible, but most telescopic poles have reliable locking systems to prevent accidents.

Q. Is it safe to use ski pole straps?

A. The primary purpose of ski pole straps is to prevent your poles from being lost uphill when you fall. Most ski strap related injuries come from poles getting stuck in holes or tree branches, so you may want to remove your straps when skiing in wooded areas.

The team that worked on this review
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Enid
    Enid
    Editor
  • Katie
    Katie
    Editorial Director
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Peter
    Peter
    Writer

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