There's all sorts of marketing magic out there trying to convince you to spend hundreds of dollars on the latest carbon fiber models. But when it comes to poles... it's size that matters;)
Pole length is really the only thing recreational skiers need to consider and it mostly comes down to preference. Hot doggin Bumpers and freestylers tend to go a little shorter whereas racer types usually prefer them a little longer.
Your speed and level of ski performance will also have an effect. At intermediate speeds the body tends to remain more upright favoring a little longer pole. Whereas at higher performance levels the bigger lateral moves may keep your upper body a little closer to the snow.
So what is the right length?
You should be able to swing your pole basket through each turn in time with your feet moving through the turn and still be able to maintain a fairly quiet upper body.
The classic method used in rental shops to determine pole length is to stand relaxed with a slight flexion in the joints, grabbing the pole upside down just under the basket. They're typically looking for the bend in the elbow to be around 90 degrees. These days most instructors agree this is a little long. So for the average recreational skier I usually recommend going a little shorter... so the elbow is slightly more than 90 degrees.
Possible signs that a longer pole size may be beneficial:
- You keep missing pole plants.
- You need to way crouch down or create unnecessary angulation to plant.
- Your legs get tired from squatting or your back hurts
Possible signs a shorter pole size may be beneficial:
- Your timing is off and you feel like you can never swing the pole fast enough.
- You have to make wild arm movements to get your pole around.
- Your hand is often above your head when you plant.
- Your balance tips to the inside ski as you swing your pole.