How to Size Ski Poles

ski poles

Ski poles are a critical piece of ski equipment that often gets overlooked when we go to rent or buy our skis. Not that we forget to get them or anything like that, but we may often make light of selecting and sizing our sticks.

Aside from getting some quality poles, you want to make sure that you get the proper size. Ski poles aren’t just an accessory to our bundle of ski gear but they are an important piece of equipment that most of us utilize while on the slopes.

First and foremost we use them to keep our balance, not just while skiing but also while standing in line at the lift or any other place. They are often key to keeping us upright and many times we do not even realize it because we use them without even thinking

They are also a very critical tool for helping us get around on flat or very slight inclines. Using your sticks to push you where you need to get to, can sometimes be a lifesaver and without them, you have to either try to use your skis like ice skates or remove your skis and walk.

The most important part of having your poles, is, of course, using them to ski. Pole planting is an important part of many techniques and you want to make sure that they are sized right so that you can ski to the best of your ability.

Traditional Method of Sizing

Getting the correct size poles can be very quick and simple using the old school traditional method of sizing. There’s not much to it and you don’t even need a tape measure or any kind of tools. All you need is a selection of poles to try out and you can perform the following steps to get the correct size.

Step 1: Select a pole

Choose a pole that appears to come to about your chest area when it is standing up.

Step 2: Turn the pole upside down

Turn the pole so that the handle or grip is on the floor and the pole is in a verticle position with the tip and basket facing upward. See the photo below.

Size Ski Poles 1
Upside down pole.
Photo by Melissa Medina

Step 3: Grip the pole underneath the basket

Hold and grip the pole just underneath the basket with the same grip that you would normally use to hold the pole. Keep the pole a little in front of you and to the side, just as you would hold it while skiing. See the photo below.

Size Ski Poles 3
Hold pole under the basket.
Photo by Melissa Medina

Step 4: Check the fit

Take a look at your upper arm, elbow, and forearm. They should form a 90-degree angle or your forearm should be parallel to the ground. See the photo below. If so, then this is probably the correct size for you. If it is not, then repeat steps 1 through 4 again.

Size Ski Poles 2
Forearm parallel to the ground.
Photo by Melissa Medina.

Using the method above should give you a pretty good fit, but there are some who may prefer the pole to be slightly taller or shorter. If you are one of these people you can adjust accordingly but the above method should get you very close to what you are looking for.

The reason that we want to hold the pole under the basket is that the end of the pole on the other side of the basket will normally be sunken into the snow so we don’t want to include this part in the measurement.

Using a Chart

There are also many charts available that show the recommended pole size for a range of heights. These can be handy to get an idea of what size you may be close to but they will not necessarily give you the correct size. These charts go by height but they do not take arm length into account. Since everyone has different arm lengths this may not give you the exact size you need.

The charts are useful to get you in the neighborhood of the correct size so that you can choose the one for your height and then use the traditional method above to ensure that the size is correct for you. Below is a common chart that gives you the pole lengths in inches and centimeters for a range of heights.

Height Pole Size (inches) Pole Size (centimeters)
Less than 3’4” 32 in 80 cm
3’5’ – 3’8” 34 in 85 cm
3’9” – 4’0” 36 in 90 cm
4’1” – 4’4” 38 in 95
4’5” – 4’8” 40 in 100 cm
4’9” – 5’0” 42 in 105 cm
5’1” – 5’3” 44 in 110 cm
5’4” – 5’6” 46 in 115 cm
5’7” – 5’9” 48 in 120 cm
5’10” – 6’0” 50 in 125 cm
6’1” – 6’3” 52 in 130 cm
6’4” – 6’6” 54 in 135 cm
6’7” plus 56 in 140 cm

When you find the length that the chart recommends for your height, you can then look for that size stick and try it out. The poles usually have their size marked on the side of them near the grip. See the picture below.

Size Ski Poles 4
Pole Size
Photo by Melissa Medina

Adjustable Ski Poles

If you have trouble finding good size ski poles that are comfortable for you, there are adjustable poles available. They are telescoping poles that can be set at different sizes. These can also be useful if you find that there are different situations in which you want a longer pole or a shorter pole. For example, you may want a normal size pole for most of your skiing and then a slightly shorter pole for skiing moguls.

These adjustable, telescoping poles are also handy for storage since you can fold them up and store them in a more compact space. Another great use for them could be if you have a growing kid. As your child grows you can extend the pole to fit them as they get taller.

Some of the drawbacks to adjustable, telescoping poles are that they are not quite as strong and durable as traditional ski poles. There is also the chance that they could fold up on you or change size while you are skiing.

Final Words

Using the proper size ski poles is important for any skier since we need them to properly balance and to help us get around when there is little or no downward incline. While there are ways to measure and find the size that fits you, it really comes down to your comfort. Make sure the poles you select allow you to ski comfortably and to the best of your ability.

How much do you rely on your poles to ger around on your skis? We’d love to hear from you, so please leave your comments.

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