Remember your first beginner ski lesson? You most likely did not use poles, maybe not even for the second lesson either. When you finally started using poles you probably immediately wondered why. Poles seem to be in the way when you fall, making for a not-so-soft landing, and they seem to distract you from your effort of focusing on your skis. But ski with poles for a few times and you cannot imagine being without them. Poles are important because they provide extra support and stability as you transfer weight from one ski to the other, and help you keep a steady groove when you use them to initiate turns.
When buying a pole you should keep a few things in mind. Poles should be the right length for your height because skiing with wrongly sized poles can negatively affect your skiing technique. Poles should be lightweight. Heavy poles are exhausting to carry around and make it difficult to move fast on your pole plant. Additionally, the pole shaft should be flexible so using it won’t put strain on your shoulders, arms and elbows. Once you’ve used a light pole, you will never want to go back to a heavier one.
The handgrip should be comfortable to hold and provide a good, non-slippery grip. Bring your gloves along when trying out new poles since to get the best idea of how good a match the grip is for you. Another thing to consider is the strap, which should be easily adjustable. Some company’s poles have a breakaway strap safety mechanism that opens or detaches the strap to avoid hand injury when there is a strong pull on your pole during a wipe-out or catch on a tree. I believe this to be a great feature, and it has put a couple of poles on this Best of the Best list.
Generally, fiberglass, graphite and composite ski poles are the best choice because they are lighter and more flexible. Aluminum poles are cheaper, but often thicker in shaft diameter, and can bend and break more easily (there are, however, some very good and sturdy aluminum poles out there). The thicker the pole, the more wind-drag it will produce.
Most poles come with average-sized baskets to be used on regular, groomed slopes, but most models give you the ability to swap baskets for a day in the powder (for which you would choose a larger size basket).