How Long Should Ski Poles Be

The correct size alpine ski poles for your height should be long enough to form a 90-degree angle with your arms at the elbow when you turn the poles upside down and hold them right underneath the basket. 

Cross country ski poles should come up as high as your armpits for classic style and up to your nose for skate style.  

I’ve been a skier for almost my entire life. I learned how long ski poles should be early on in my skiing career and how to figure the best length accurately and effectively. 

This post will tell you how long your ski poles should be. I’ll show how to figure this out quickly and why ski pole length is important. Most skiers don’t think much about their poles, but it’s a critical piece of equipment to understand. 

Let’s dive in. 

Why Ski Pole Length is Important

Ski poles play a critical role in providing balance, stability, and timing for alpine skiers. They are essential for making turns and can help you develop a rhythm that effectively helps you ski downhill. 

For nordic skiers, poles are a big part of how you actually move on the snow. They push you forward and work with your skiing motion to propel you along the trails. 

If you don’t get the right pole length, you’ll encounter all sorts of issues. If they are too short, you will struggle to stay balanced, throwing off your turning capabilities. If they are too long, they can cause other issues such as shoulder pain. 

Figuring out the proper size pole length is really easy, and it will pay off to take the time to get the best size for your height.  

How Long Alpine Ski Poles Should Be

The majority of skiers are alpine skiers. Alpine is also known as downhill skiing, and these types of ski poles are shorter than Nordic poles. 

To figure out how long your alpine ski poles should be, you first need to have access to several different sizes of poles.

Grab a set of poles that you think look like the proper size or that you are interested in purchasing or renting. 

Flip the poles upside down and grab ahold of them right beneath the basket. The basket is the round section made of plastic that is a few inches up of the pole’s tip. 

When you are holding the poles upside down, you want your arms to make a 90-degree angle at the elbow. This is the ideal length and will help you use the poles most effectively. 

Try out different sizes of poles until you find the option that creates this 90-degree angle.

How Long Nordic Ski Poles Should Be

Nordic, or cross country skiing, is a traditional style of skiing that is also a lot of fun and an excellent form of exercise. If you haven’t tried this skiing style, I would highly recommend it. It’s not as popular as alpine, but it’s still a lot of fun. 

There are two main styles of Nordic skiing – classic and skate. Classic involves moving your skis in a walking motion across the snow, similar to alpine touring. Skate involves skating on your skis in a similar movement to ice skates. 

Each of these styles has a slightly different way of figuring out the proper length, and they are both considerably longer than alpine pole lengths.  

Classic cross country ski poles should be just about the height of your shoulder. The easiest way to figure this out is to place the poles underneath your arm. If they come up into your armpit, they are the correct length. 

Skate poles need to be even longer than classic. This will give you more power to push and thrust yourself forward in the snow. The easiest way to figure this out is to choose a length that comes up to your nose.

If you want to be more precise about getting a skate pole size, you can use a formula to figure it out, and it’s how many Olympic athletes and serious skiers do it: 

Your height in centimeters X 0.89


Here are a few quick answers to some of the most common questions about ski pole length. 

Are shorter or longer ski poles better? 

Ideally, you don’t want a pole that is too long or too short. They need to be sized correctly for your height. This is important for both alpine and cross country skiing styles and can really make a difference in your experience in the snow. 

How long should ski poles be classic?

Classic cross country ski poles should be just about as high as your shoulder. An easy way to figure this out is to hold the poles underneath your armpits. If they touch your armpit while holding them straight up, the poles are a good length for your height.


Getting the correct ski pole length is essential, no matter what style of skiing you like to do the most. 

Remember that the proper alpine ski pole length should make a 90-degree angle with your arm at the elbow when you hold the poles upside down just under the baskets. 

For classic cross country skis, they should come up to your shoulder or just into your armpit. For skate poles, they should come up to your nose, or you can use the formula that I mentioned earlier in this post.

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  • Matthew W Orton

    Hi Ski Girl,
    in the 2022 Olympics it appears that the cross country skiers raise their right hand higher then the left. Is it just my perception? or do you see it too? if they do raise one hand higher then the other is it for a reason? do they ever use one pole length for the left hand, and a different length for the right hand?

    • Christine

      Hi Matthew,

      I’m not a cross-country expert, but my guess is that what you are noticing might just be caused by the skier’s dominant hand/arm having extended reach versus their other arm. I’ve never heard of anyone using different length poles, and I don’t think that is very common. I’ll keep an eye on this when I watch a race and ask around and can keep you posted if I discover anything.