Ski poles are used by skiers for balance and propulsion. Modern cross-country ski poles are made from aluminum, fiberglass-reinforced plastic, or carbon fiber, depending on weight, cost and performance parameters. Poles are generally used in alpine skiing, freestyle skiing and nordic skiing and are not usually used in ski jumping, and snowboarding.
Although in modern skiing one pole is held in each hand, early skiers used one long pole or spear. The oldest known depiction of a skier shows the skier holding a staff. Rock drawings in Norway dated at 4000 BC depict a man on skis holding a stick. The earliest primitive carvings circa 5000 BC depict a skier with one pole, located in Rødøy in the Nordland region of Norway.
The first depiction of a skier with two poles dates to 1741.
Features of ski poles
- Basket: near the end of the shaft, attached to stop the pole from sinking significantly into deep snow. These can range from being small, aerodynamic cones used in racing, to large snowflake shaped baskets which are used in powder skiing. Many poles feature methods of easily switching between baskets, such as threading on the basket and pole.
- Grip: attached to the upper part of the pole is a grip with a strap, either fastened to the pole or detachable. These are usually slipped over the wrist to improve the skiers hold on the grip and to prevent the loss of the pole in the event of a fall. When backcountry skiing the wrist strap may not be used to prevent wrist injury if the pole should catch on an unseen branch or root. Releasable strap systems have been implemented by pole manufacturers as well.
- Length: pole length varies according to use. Telescopic poles are available for adjustment while out skiing.
In alpine skiing poles are used to push and to help with the timing of the more advanced ski turns. In Giant Slalom, Super Giant Slalom, Downhill, and Speed Skiing poles may be designed to bend around the skiers body while in a tuck position, to minimize air drag. In Slalom skiing, regular straight poles are preferred due to the reduced speeds and increased reliance on poles.
Poles enable cross-country skiers to apply power to the snow, using arm motion; poles can also provide stability. In competitive cross-country skiing, poling technique is essential, especially so during a mass start in which double-poling is the main means of propulsion. Nordic ski poles are longer than those used for alpine skiing.
Longer poles are used for cross country because of different techniques. Pole length for classic (aka diagonal-stride) technique is typically measured from the ground to the skier's armpit. For skating (aka freestyle) technique the length of the pole is typically from the ground to the skier's upper lip. These length selections balance between maximum thrust and technique considerations. Most Nordic ski pole manufacturers have sizing charts available.
Nordic Walking poles are largely similar to composite cross-country ski poles, just shorter in length and with a basket smaller than that of the racing cross country ski pole. The nordic walking pole strap resembles a fingerless glove and is similar to the racing cross country ski pole strap.
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Media related to Ski poles at Wikimedia Commons