Ski Poles Size Chart: How to Find and Size Your Perfect Poles

Published on 03/07/2023 · 15 min readSki Expert Kat Smith details the important considerations when it comes to ski poles, including features to look for, and how to pick the right poles for you!
Kat Smith, Ski Expert
By Ski Expert Kat Smith

A downhill skier eyeing his next pole plant. Photo by Glade Optics

“Why do I need ski poles, anyway?” This is a common question amongst advancing beginner skiers, as it may seem like ski poles are just another accessory piece of equipment that costs money. While you may have spent your first day out on the slopes without poles as you learned the basics or seen some skiers without them while watching the Olympics (ski jumpers and some freestyle skiers), ski poles play a huge role as you progress from beginner to intermediate and beyond, especially when sized correctly. In addition to varying lengths, poles also come in different weights, shaft materials, grip materials, basket types, shapes, and features. So how do you know which ski poles are best for you?

My name is Kat Smith, and in my 32 years of skiing, I’ve skied all types of terrain in all types of snow conditions and have explored various ski styles. From high-speed cruising on icy groomers on the East Coast, where I grew up, to steep and deep blower powder turns in the Wasatch backcountry where I now live, to terrain park laps when there’s no fresh snow to be found. And guess what? I use ski poles for all of it!

I’ve learned a lot about ski poles throughout my life. I’ve broken poles, bent poles, lost baskets, used mismatched poles, used too-short poles, used too-long poles, and the list goes on! While it’s all doable (sort of), I don’t want anyone to have anything but a great experience with their ski poles. They’re there to help you ski, not hinder you! This guide will help you determine the best size ski poles for you and the right features to look for based on your personal skier level, skier style, and gear budget.

What Are Ski Poles?

Photo by Ben Kolde

Ski poles are long, thin sticks, typically made out of aluminum or carbon, held by a skier to help with balance, stability, and initiating and timing their turns. Ski poles have a handle or grip at the top, usually made out of rubber, a slightly pointed tip at the bottom, and a “basket” just a couple of inches above the tip.

Advantages of Ski Poles

Ski poles provide balance and stability in a few ways. They act as an extension of the skier’s arms, providing a larger balancing aid. Think of when you hold your arms out to the side while attempting to balance on one leg. If your arms are longer, balancing will be easier. Ski poles also act as another point of contact with the ground. It’s easier to balance with three points of contact than two, especially since the skier constantly shifts their center of mass from side to side.

Ski poles help a skier initiate and accurately time their turns and will support their body as their skis change edges when going around a new turn. While the “pole plant” takes some practice to be effective, once perfected, the skier can establish a rhythm as they link together multiple turns.

In addition to providing balance, stability, and support, skiers may also use their poles to propel themselves forward (especially on flat sections!), release their bindings, and tap snow off the bottom of their boots.

While you can certainly ski without poles, why wouldn’t you want the tools to provide balance and make turning easier? But with all that said, don’t head out and purchase just any pair of ski poles. There are many things to consider to ensure you buy the ideal product. While the right size and type of ski pole will make skiing easier, the wrong size or type will have the opposite effect.

What to Consider When Purchasing Ski Poles

How Tall Am I?

Length is the priority feature to look for when purchasing ski poles, and using your height is an easy way to determine approximately what length poles you need. You will likely be able to get by if your ski pole grips aren’t the most comfortable or if you have the wrong baskets for the snow conditions, but having the wrong length pole can really hinder your skiing ability. So how do you figure out what length poles you need for your height? There are two different methods:

Refer to a Standard Ski Pole Size Chart

If you know your height, you can easily see what ski pole length should work for you. Below is an example of a standard-size chart many ski shops use for reference.

Skier HeightPole Length (in)Pole Length (cm)
6'7" +56140
6'4" - 6'6"54135
6'1" - 6'3"52130
5'10" - 6'0"50125
5'7" - 5'9"48120
5'4" - 5'6"46115
5'1" - 5'3"44110
4'9" - 5'0"42105
4'5" - 4'8"40100
4'1" - 4'4"3895
3'9" - 4'0"3690
3'5" - 3'8"3485
< 3'4"3280

Some ski pole companies, such as Leki, have their size chart for customers to refer to. The chart below is Leki’s ski pole size recommendations based on height.

Leki’s Ski Pole Length Advisor Chart can help you determine the ski pole length that is ideal for you

Measure

While referring to a size chart is simple and quick, the most accurate way to determine the right ski pole length for you is to take a measurement since everyone, regardless of their height, has different leg and torso proportions.

To take the most accurate measurement, follow these simple steps: 1. Stand in your ski boots or a pair of shoes. 2. Bend your elbow to a 90-degree angle. 3. Using a tape measure, measure the distance between your hand and the ground. 4. Round to the nearest whole number, and add two inches.

To test it out and ensure you measured correctly: 1. Grab a ski pole that matches the measurement you took. 2. With the pole upside down and the handle touching the floor, grasp the ski pole just under the basket. If the ski pole is the correct height, your elbow will be bent at 90 degrees. 3. If your elbow angle is less than 90 degrees, try a shorter pole; if it’s more than 90 degrees, try a longer one.

In the image below, the skier’s elbow is bent to a perfect 90-degree angle when they are grasping the ski pole upside down, just beneath the basket. This is the correct size ski pole for this skier.

What Level Skier Am I?

A beginner skier’s poles may be different from an advanced to expert skier's poles. In fact, a true beginner who is just learning the fundamentals of skiing may not even use poles, as they are sometimes just a distraction. But even for a beginner skier who has mastered the basics and can link turns, the best ski poles will be any that are the correct length (see above) and fit into their budget.

For a more advanced skier who is skiing more variable terrain and conditions, features such as shaft material, which will alter the poles’ weight and durability, basket type, and grip type will play more of a role.

What Conditions and Terrain Do I Primarily Ski?

Even freestyle skiers getting big air use ski poles! Photo by Sebastian Staines

Your ski pole length and some features of your ideal ski poles may vary based on your skier style, which corresponds with where on the mountain you typically ski and what the snow conditions are. For example:

  • A freestyle skier who spends most of their time in the terrain park or hitting natural features should use poles at least two inches shorter than the traditional recommendation so that their poles don’t get caught on jumps and rails.
  • A skier who spends their time in the backcountry, telescoping or adjustable poles are recommended since longer poles are ideal for traveling uphill, but shorter poles are ideal for the descent.
  • A skier who primarily skis in deep powder and soft snow in the Rockies will want to equip their poles with a wider “powder basket.”
  • An East Coast skier hitting groomers, hardpack snow conditions, bumps and moguls, and occasional fresh snow will want a pole that is the traditional recommendation for length and has standard baskets.
  • A ski racer, whose priority is going fast, will want ski poles that are more aerodynamic and curve around their body when in a tucked position.

What Is My Ski Pole Budget?

Ski pole prices range from about $40 on the lower end to upwards of $200 on the higher end. This is a pretty big price range! However, like with most equipment, the price point is a direct correlation between the quality of the product and the features it includes.

A more expensive pair of ski poles may be made out of carbon, a strong and lightweight material that will give it the durability to last for years, no matter how hard you ski. They may also have features such as interchangeable baskets (sometimes with powder baskets included!) and a comfortable, shock-absorbing ergonomic grip.

A less expensive pair of ski poles will most likely be made out of aluminum, a durable but heavier material than carbon, and have more basic features.

What Are the Different Types of Ski Poles?

The two main types of ski poles are alpine and cross-country poles, which will have some slight differences (and will be sized differently!). In this article, I am referring specifically to alpine ski poles.

While there are many variations in ski pole features, all ski poles for alpine skiing will be the same basic “type.” Once you’ve determined the appropriate ski pole length, just look for a pair of alpine ski poles with the features you need for your skier level, style, and budget.

Features to Look Out For

Shaft Materials

Ski pole shafts are most commonly made of aluminum, carbon, composite, or bamboo. Each shaft material has its pros and cons.

  • Aluminum ski poles are the most common. Aluminum provides excellent strength and durability but may be heavier than the other material options. This material is a great option for frequent use at the resort.
  • Carbon fiber is a lightweight yet super durable material that many high-end ski poles are made out of. With such a good strength-to-weight ratio, carbon fiber ski poles are ideal for backcountry skiers who benefit from a lighter package.
  • Composite ski poles are made from a combination of materials. The advantage to this is that the ski poles gain the advantages the different materials offer.
  • Bamboo is the least common shaft material and is the most eco-friendly choice!
ProsCons
Aluminum- Durable - Budget-friendly- Heavy
Carbon- Durable - Lightweight- Expensive
Composite- Has the pros from the different materials used- Has the cons from the different materials used
Bamboo- Eco-friendly - Strong - Lightweight- Expensive - May lack some features such as telescoping

Ski Pole Grips

The ski pole handle or grip is the part you hold on to. The grip can be made of various materials, including rubber, plastic, and cork, and can have different widths and shapes. A ski pole grip that is comfortable for one person may not be comfortable for a different person, based on their hand shape and size. Try a few different options to see what is most comfortable for you! Be sure to wear your ski gloves when testing pole grips since you won’t often use ski poles without gloves.

Many ski poles also have straps at the handle. Ski pole straps prevent skiers from losing their skis in the snow if they fall or lose their grip on the pole.

Photo by Urban Sanden

Baskets

The purpose of ski pole baskets is to prevent the pole from sinking too far into the snow. In general, there are two types that you may come across on the ski slopes.

  • Standard: Standard baskets have a 5cm diameter and are the most commonly used. These baskets will be sufficient for groomed trails, a hardpack snow surface, or even a few inches of fresh snow.
  • Powder: Powder baskets can be as wide as 10cm across and are used when there is deep powder when the risk of your pole sinking deep into the snow is high. However, powder baskets can be used on hardpack snow as well.

Some poles can change baskets, allowing the skier to decide what basket size would be the most ideal for the conditions that day. Poles with interchangeable baskets are also ideal because you can easily replace a basket if one breaks.

Telescoping/Adjustable Poles

Telescoping ski poles, which allow the length of the pole to be adjusted, are most commonly seen in the backcountry. This is because, ideally, your ski poles will be slightly longer when traveling uphill or on a traverse than when you are descending, so the ability to adjust the length on the fly is key. Adjustable poles are also an ideal option for kids since they may grow out of their fixed-length ski poles between ski sessions!

Skier skinning with adjustable poles. Photo by Amza Andrei

Choosing the Right Ski Poles

That’s a lot of information! While height will be the number one factor to consider when choosing ski poles (so that you can determine the correct length), you should also consider skier level, skier style, and gear budget to help you determine what ski pole features you should look for. Let’s break it down with a few scenarios.

Nick: The East Coast Resort Ripper

Nick is a 5’9” advanced, hard-charging skier who gets 21+ days per year at the resort. His home mountain is in Vermont, but he usually gets one trip out West per year. He’ll ski any terrain on the mountain and head out in any snow conditions.

Features Nick should look for:

  • 50-inch length
  • Aluminum or carbon
  • Interchangeable baskets or powder baskets

Examples: K2 Power Carbon Ski Poles, Armada Legion Ski Poles

Why? Aluminum and carbon are both durable shaft materials that will hold up to Nick’s hard-charging skier style, and interchangeable baskets or powder baskets would mean he’s all set for his trips out West!

Christina: The One-Ski-Trip-per-Year Ski Schooler

Christina is a 5’3” beginner-intermediate skier who gets out on the slopes less than seven days per year, primarily in the Northeast. She likes to stick to groomers.

Features Christina should look for:

  • 44-inch length
  • Aluminum poles
  • Basic features

Examples: Rossignol Tactic Ski Poles, Salomon Arctic Ski Poles

Why? Since Christina only skis a few days per year, spending big bucks on ski poles with fancy features isn’t worth it. She should find something on sale that is the right length and has a comfy grip!

Victoria: The No-Limits Ripper Doing A Little Bit of Everything

Victoria is a 5’5” advanced skier who lives in Utah and splits days between touring the backcountry and the resort.

Features Victoria should look for:

  • Telescoping poles with a range between 40-50 inches
  • Carbon fiber poles
  • Interchangeable baskets

Examples: DPS Extendable Ski Poles, Volkl Touristick AC ADjustable Ski Poles, Leki Helicon Lite Ski Poles

Why? Carbon is lightweight yet durable, so it is ideal for backcountry skiers trying to lighten their load. In addition, telescoping poles will allow Victoria to easily change the pole length when she’s traveling uphill versus downhill. Interchangeable baskets may also be a great feature that she should look for since she is likely finding powder in the backcountry but may be skiing groomers at the resort.

Charlie: The Park Skier Looking for Durability

Charlie is a 6’2” skier who loves spending time in the terrain park on jumps and rails. When he’s not in the terrain park, he is jibbing and buttering all over the mountain and finding natural features to display his tricks on!

Features Charlie should look for:

  • 50-inch length
  • Aluminum poles

Examples: K2 18 Freeride Ski Poles, Salomon Arctic S3 Ski Poles, Armada Triad Ski Poles

Why? According to the size chart, 52 inches would be the appropriate length for a 6’2” skier. However, since Charlie is primarily in the terrain park and making the entire mountain his playground, sizing down two inches is ideal so that his poles don’t get in the way of jumps and rails. In addition, aluminum is a durable material that can take a beating.

Conclusion

Ski poles are essential gear for any skier looking to advance their skills on the slopes! But not just any pair of poles will be perfect for everyone. The correct size is the priority when purchasing ski poles, as they will provide balance and stability, while the wrong size will be a distraction and hinder your ability to learn and grow as a skier. After you’ve been sized correctly, there are many other features to look for and not look for when purchasing a pair of ski poles. Your skier ability level, skier style, and gear budget will help narrow down the ideal features.

If you still have questions about ski poles, reach out to a Curated Ski Expert for assistance narrowing down the options and finding that ideal pair for you!

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