What Are Ski Poles Used For?

Ski poles are used for stability, balance, and rhythm while you ski. They help you initiate turns and assist with moving forward on flatter slopes. Poles are an essential piece of gear for every type of skier except for complete beginners. 

I’m Christine, and I created this blog to help skiers find helpful information about the sport. I have years of experience on the mountain and an in-depth understanding of many of its aspects. 

This post will explain what ski poles are used for. I’ll explain why they are so useful for skiers and the reason they are an essential gear item. Most skiers don’t really think about this, so it’s good information to understand. 

Let’s get going. 

Ski Poles in Action 

There are a few key ways ski poles help you out on the mountain. I’ll break each of these down in this section to give you a better idea of what they are used for. 


Turning is one of the most important ways ski poles are used. They are the first point of contact in the snow when you want to initiate a turn. This means that the poles lay the foundation for each and every turn you make. 

When you make a pole plant, this helps the rest of your body lean into the turn. Poles give you a little extra grip, which brings you forward and around the pole to make an effective turn. 

Most of the time, you won’t even think about your poles when making a turn. But the next time you are out on the mountain, pay close attention to how much of a role your poles play in the turning process. You’ll be surprised. 


Poles can also be seen as an extension of your arms. They provide you with extra balance that can be very useful on the slopes. This added balance comes into play in all types of situations, from basic turns to extremely difficult terrain. 

Think of when you walk across a balance beam or street curb. Your arms extend to your sides to give you better balance. This same thing happens when you are skiing, and your poles help you stay in control. 


Poles also help provide rhythm and timing to your skiing. When you watch a good skier from the chair lift, you’ll notice how all of their turns are in time. They are all basically equal, which is made possible by using their poles. 

Establishing a good rhythm can help you become a better skier. It’s an essential aspect of ski racing but also comes into play in many other on-snow situations. 

Forward Motion

Your poles will also help you move forward on the snow. This is extremely helpful on flat slopes when you don’t have gravity working with you. If you get stuck on a long catwalk or the bottom of a bowl, you’ll be very glad you have poles.

You can also push with your poles to gain extra speed. This can be useful all over the mountain, whether you just like to go fast or want to get a boost before hitting a big feature in the terrain park.  


Here are a few quick answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about ski poles. 

Do ski poles do anything? 

Ski poles may not seem that critical, but they are extremely important to give you balance, stability, and control while you ski. Poles are used to initiate turns and help you move forward on flat slopes. 

When should I use ski poles? 

Every skier, aside from complete beginners, should use ski poles. Beginners often don’t use poles at first because they need to get the feel of simply standing on their skis. Once you are ready for life after the bunny hill, you are ready for poles. 


Ski poles are an essential piece of ski equipment, but not everybody understands what they actually do when you ski. Poles provide you with stability, timing, and balance while also helping you move forward on flat slopes. 

If you still don’t understand what poles are for after reading this post, take a few runs without them and compare and contrast your skiing experience. You’ll see just how useful they are!

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  • Eric Thompson

    Hi Christine, I took my lesson, about learning how to use ski poles. I learned to ski without poles, and I was a big proponent of not using them. Until my instructor said to me it’s time to incorporate them into my skiing. Now I see why you use them. At least for me they help with balance, and another thing is, they keep me out of the backseat, and weight more forward and leaning up on the tongues of my boots. It really feels funny at first, but after a few times down the hill it feels more natural. Learning the timing of the pole plant is a little tricky, but nothing I can’t handle. The nicest thing, is pushing yourself around, and in the lift line ,and using them to undo your bindings when you’re finished for the day .

    • Christine

      Hey Eric! That’s great you had a lesson and learned how to use poles properly. It’ll pay off in the long run, for sure. Hope you’re season has been solid!