How to use your ski poles

Oct. 1, 2014

Vail ski instructor tips

“How do I use my poles?” is a question we get from many of our guests and the answer is not as easy as one might think. Ski poles have many uses when skiing and the following will give you a simple idea of just how you can use them to your advantage.

1. Wear your pole strap properly
To wear the pole strap properly, come up through the loop with your hand and grasp the strap and pole grip together. This will help to prevent injuring your thumb as a result of a fall. This injury is so common from wearing your pole straps incorrectly it’s actually called “Skiers Thumb”.

2. Pushing off
Once your skis are on you can now use your poles to push you forward (or backward) to start your ski day.

3. The pole swing
Now that you are skiing, the pole becomes an integral part of each turn. The pole swing is ultimately engineered to help draw your body into the turn and the actual plant, or touch, will aid in stability as you change your edges.

Imagine a string that runs from your belly button to the tip of your ski pole. As you swing that pole forward and towards the direction that you want to turn it should “pull” your belly button (or center of mass) in that same direction helping to keep you centered over your skis and allowing you to change your edges in one fluent motion. Swing and touch your left pole to initiate a left turn. Swing and touch your right pole to initiate a right turn. The direction you swing your pole is entirely dependent on where you are going next.

4. The pole plant
If you are making shorter turns for speed control on a steeper slope, your pole plant will be below your feet directing your body more straight down the fall line. If you are making longer turns for speed maintenance on gentler slopes then your pole plant will be more toward and below your ski tips. Ultimately if you try to aim your pole swing and your body toward the middle of your next turn then you are well on your way to accuracy.

Advice on how to use ski poles

Pole planting tipsAuthor Guy Sedillo is the Training and Quality Manager for the Vail Ski & Snowboard School at Vail Village. Originally from Southern California, he has been enjoying the Colorado Mountains since 1993. In addition to his duties at Vail, Guy enjoys working with other instructors as an Examiner with the Professional Ski Instructors of America – Rocky Mountain.