Why Is Your Ski Pole So Important?
Ski poles are perhaps the most overlooked piece of a cross-country skier’s equipment. We often have people obsess over the design and weight of their skis and boots, but ignore the quality of their ski pole. A person might also be considering a ski upgrade so that they can keep up with their skiing buddy, while at the same time commenting about how tired their arms are after an hour ski. While your skis and boots glide across the snow, your poles only go forward if you are lifting or swinging them. For many people their technique is hindered by the weight of their pole and their ability to quickly start their next pole plant. Skiing and running are very similar; your arms dictate your turnover rate. Your legs will only move as fast as your arms move and this is why your ski pole is so important. If your pole is heavy and unwieldy you will not be able to move it as quickly as you want to.
The most important properties of a ski pole shaft are weight, swing weight, stiffness, and strength. While overall weight is exactly what it says, swing weight refers to the pendulum motion of each pole stroke and how more weight near the pole tip requires more energy from the skier to move it. The lighter the basket end of the pole is, the easier it is for the skier to swing the pole forward and plant it at the speed that they want to go. If the basket end of the pole is too heavy it takes a lot of strength to get it moving and the pole may over-swing and plant in a position that is not ideal. The stiffer the pole the more of your energy goes into forward propulsion and the less into bending the pole. With a lower grade pole, a lot of your power can be lost during the poling phase when the pole bends. Strength refers to the durability of the pole.
Of all these properties, overall weight is the most important and easiest to compare. Skiers average around 40 pole plants per minute. If you and a friend plan on skiing for 2 hours and your friend uses the Swix Triac and you have the Swix CT4, you are lifting an additional 3 oz. per stroke. If in each stroke you move your pole 5 feet you will be moving an additional 4444 ft-lbs during your ski! This is equivalent to curling a 4-litre jug of milk in both hands over 250 times. If you use the same comparison as above but with the RC Pro entry-level carbon pole instead of the CT4, you would move an additional 8888ft-lbs during your ski, or curling that milk jug over 500 times. And that is why your ski pole is so important. A lighter stiffer pole allows for more efficient movement, which means you have faster turnover and use less energy, all at the same time.
If you would like more information on poles please come down and see us, we’re always happy to talk about gear. If you think that a pole upgrade is in your near future, we may just have what you are looking for.