How Long Should Ski Poles Be? Here’s What to Look For!

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collection of ski poles laying on ground

Beyond being essential for providing balance and mobility, ski pole length can affect your physiological and perceptual responses. This makes getting the right ski pole length all that more important!

How Long Should Ski Poles Be?

You can use three ways to determine your ideal ski pole length, and it mostly depends on your body size or height. Below are the methods currently used to measure ski pole length:

Option 1: Ski Pole Length Formula

Besides Pythagoras, who figured out he needed formulas to simplify life, ski racers also subscribe to a mathematical formula to help them get the correct ski pole length. The formula is:

Body size (in cm) X 0.7 = Ski pole length

The perfect ski pole size can be obtained by following the steps below:

  • With your arms on your sides, raise your arm. Bend your elbow out to the side with your hand facing your chest. Ensure you bend your elbow to a 90-degree angle.
  • Wear your ski boots or some thick-soled shoes so that you’re raised from the ground just as you typically would when skiing. Failure to wear shoes (thick-soled ones) may cause you to get a short ski pole.
  • Note the measurement down, rounding it up to the nearest whole even number. But if it’s an odd number, round it down to the nearest even number. However, if the shoes you were wearing have a thin sole, round the number to the nearest even number. 
  • To your rounded measurement, add five cm (two inches). This increment accounts for the part of the pole that will be sticking in the snow. 
  • This number is your ski pole size. Now you can go ahead and shop for a pole of that dimension. Alternatively, you can purchase an extendable ski pole with your measurement in a particular range that’s allowed.

Here’s an example of how to get the pole size measurement:

Say your child measures at 43.5 inches, and they were wearing their ski boots, round that length to 43 inches. Then add to this number two inches to make it 45 inches, which equals 114.3 centimeters.

However, because ski pole lengths come in multiples of five, you’ll want to round this final measurement up to 115 centimeters. That’s the ski pole length you’re going to purchase.

Option 2: Ski Pole Length Charts

Sometimes you don’t have a calculator around, or you’re just not up to measuring and calculating. You have the option of using a ski pole size chart.

These determine the correct ski pole length based on your height. They give measurements for both resort and all-mountain skiers.

When using ski pole length charts, an important tip is to size up or down as per the above tips depending on what type of skiing you’re doing.

And don’t worry: these measurements are not set in stone, for there are many factors, including individual aspects to consider, such as skiing style, upper body length, leg length, and personal preferences.

However, these findings can serve as a ballpark measurement. To get a more precise pole length, you can do a practical test. 

Option 3: Practical Test

To do the practical test, you need to be in your ski boots and skis.

With the grip of your skip pole touching the ground, turn the pole upside down. Now grab the pole below the basket, holding it in front of your upper body.

What you require for this measurement is the section below the basket, not the upper part. That’s because this upper section will be dug into the snow and is therefore not considered when determining the pole’s length.

To know if the pole is the right size for you, check if your upper arm forms a right angle with your forearm. Alternatively, you can tell from your forearm, which should meet the conditions we just mentioned and be horizontal to the ground. If it does, that’s the length for you.

Some expert advice that may seem a little contradictory is to try shorter or longer models to see the difference a couple of centimeters can make. After all, theory is one thing and practice something else entirely. You may like having a bit less (or more!) length to your poles.

Different Ski Pole Types and Ski Pole Sizing

Sizing your ski pole correctly correlates with the type of skiing you’re planning to do and, by extension, the type of ski pole.

Below are six of the most common ski pole categories and their primary characteristics:

  • Power ski poles: Powder ski poles have thicker shafts and bigger snow baskets that minimize impact when a skier is, well, skiing.
  • Freestyle ski poles: These poles are usually not as long as most other poles, and they’re ideal for skiing in parks.
  • Alpine ski poles: These poles are famous among skiers with standard baskets.
  • Race ski poles: Though not as advanced as alpine and powder ski poles, they’re very light and efficient.
  • Nordic ski poles: If you’re doing cross-country skiing, these skis with their lightweight and tapered tips are your best option.
  • Race ski poles: This pole’s thin design minimizes drag. 

How to Measure Ski Poles

Understanding how to choose a good ski pole length also takes knowing how to measure ski poles.

The main thing to remember is that ski poles are measured from the top down, meaning from where the ski pole grip starts all the way down to the bottom.

As mentioned earlier in the length guide for ski poles, ski poles come in increments of five centimeters. Therefore, it’s a good idea to wear the boots you plan to use when skiing as you attempt to figure out the correct ski pole length.

Wearing your shoes may boost your height by a few centimeters, which can make all the difference!

Ski Pole Size Chart

A ski pole size chart is a table that provides an overview of the various ski pole lengths available in the market and the ideal height of their user.

So if you don’t have a tape measure, use the chart below to help you find your correct ski pole size:

Skier Height [ft]  Pole Length
6’7” plus56 inches (140 cm)
6’4” to 6’6” 54 inches (135 cm)
6’1” to 6’3”52 inches (130 cm)
6’10” to 6’0”49 inches (125 cm)
5’7” to 5’9”   48 inches (120 cm)
5’4” to 5’6”46 inches (115 cm)
5’1” to 5’3” 44 inches (110 cm)
4’9” to 5’0”   42 inches (105 cm)
4’5” to 4’8” 40 inches (100 cm)
4’1” to 4’8”  38 inches (95 cm)
3’9” to 4’0”36 inches (90 cm)
3’5” to 3’8”  34 inches (85 cm)
3’4” and under32 inches (80 cm)

It’s important to be certain that the pole length is the right one for your particular height. To do so, flip the pole upside down and hold it beneath the basket, keeping the grip on the ground.

If you can bend your elbow at a 90-degree angle, that indicates that it’s the right size for you, especially when it comes to downhill or all-mountain skiing. 

Remember, people are different, and it may be necessary for you to adjust the measurement up or down a size or two to suit your ski pole preference. It’s always a good idea to test poles out before you buy and see how they feel in your hands.

Wrap-up

Now you have a better understanding of ski pole lengths, including how long it should be and how to measure. Whatever your height and preference, there’s a correct ski pole size for you.

So go ahead and use any of the methods mentioned above to get your ideal ski pole size and enjoy your skiing to the fullest!

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