10 Best Ski Poles of 2023 | Size Chart & Guide

Ski Poles for Downhill & Touring

Far from a finishing touch, finding the right pair of ski poles is important to your on-slope performance and personal comfort. There are a lot of constructions and features packed into this seemingly simple piece of equipment, and finding the best tool for the job depends entirely on your intent as a skier.

For the sake of streamlining, we’ve split our top picks between alpine (downhill) and backcountry (touring) selections, though these categories aren’t necessarily exclusive. For a deeper look at how to choose and size your poles, take a look at our buyer’s guide below.

Top 10 Ski Poles for Downhill & Touring in 2023

Ski Poles We've Reviewed

Best Overall

Those looking for a solid starting point to build their kits, but don’t want to settle for the cheapest option like the Salomon Arctic above should look to Volkl’s Phantastick. With a similar 18mm aluminum shaft, the Phantastick steps things up in terms of durability and value (not unlike the best Volkl skis).

Continuing the comparison, the Phastastick gives skiers a little bit more traction with both their soft rubber textured grip and steel crown tips. They may be an extra $20 compared to the most affordable alternative, but for the majority of skiers, the hike in price will be well worth it.

The Phantastick delivers value in more ways than one. It’s among the only poles on this end of the price spectrum that includes interchangeable powder baskets with the base package. Additionally, it’s available in some striking color combinations to add some personality to a pretty mundane part of your ski setup.

Specs & Features

  • 18mm fixed aluminum shaft
  • Steel all-mountain tip
  • Textured soft rubber grip and standard adjustable strap
  • Included powder and race baskets

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:


Things we like:

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    Not the cheapest ski pole, but probably the best in terms of value
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    Stout construction with some nice amenities like textured grips
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    Comes in some fun color combinations for on-hill pizzaz

Things we don't like:

  • check-markHeavier than a lot of the competition
  • check-markThough it has some features, it’s still a pretty spartan approach to a ski pole
Read full review

Where to buy:


Volkl Phantastick

Best Performance Pole

In an industry where “carbon” almost exclusively translates to “unaffordable”, the Goode G Carbon is a lightweight marvel in the same price range as our top-end aluminum models. This might be explained by the width sitting at just over 10mm in their signature “pencil” shaft design.

While this may leave the G Carbon less capable of absorbing big blows than the rest of the pack, it’s hard to find anything that can touch it in terms of weight. Coupled with a high degree of flexibility and shape retention inherent in carbon, and you have a performance pole suitable for any precision skier.

Goode builds its ski poles with proficient skiers in mind. They try to combine low weight and aerodynamic shaft design to make a pole that delivers accurate plants with as little effort as possible and do so at a reasonable price. Albeit, this comes at the behest of durability.

Specs & Features

  • 10.4mm carbon “pencil” shaft
  • Interchangeable ice tip
  • Inter-Loc Hook Strap System
  • Standard Disc Basket

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:


Things we like:

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    Lightweight and aerodynamic, built for performance skiers
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    More affordable than any other all-carbon shaft ski
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    Ergonomic grip and no taper with a low swing weight leaves you with a balanced in-hand feel and effortless plants

Things we don't like:

  • check-markNarrow shaft and carbon build do not lend themselves toward durability
  • check-markIt’s a pricey ski to only come with one set of baskets
Read full review

Where to buy:

Goode G Carbon Image

Goode G Carbon

Grass Sticks is a Steamboat Springs-based startup that seemingly has found the answer to all our sustainable ski pole needs for the foreseeable future. At the very least, they’ve figured out the secret to the coolest looking skis on the market.

Aside from style, Grass Sticks purportedly share a swing weight and natural flex comparable to their carbon fiber counterparts. While this remains unverified by the rigors of the scientific method, aesthetically and ergonomically they do just about everything you’d want a quality pole to do.

Unfortunately, Grass Sticks suffer from some of the same value issues that we run into with poles around the $100 dollar mark- they only come with a single set of baskets. Though this is partially assuaged by a total of 3 different sizes in 8 colors available on their website, it would be awesome to see some more bang for your buck upfront.

Specs & Features

  • Fixed bamboo shaft
  • Carbide tips
  • Textured soft rubber grip
  • Recycled polyester strap
  • One set of baskets included

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:


Things we like:

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    Focus on sustainability
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    Lightweight, low swing weight, and natural flex comparable to performance models
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    Tons of customizability via aftermarket purchases

Things we don't like:

  • check-markAt nearly $100, it would be nice if they came with another set of baskets
  • check-markA large part of their business model seems to be contingent on aftermarket customization
Read full review

Where to buy:


Grass Sticks Original Bamboo

Best Value

When it comes to things like in-bounds poles, there’s a lot to be said for utility. Leki balances stanch practicality in a standard aluminum shaft, with a couple of features that set the Detect S a step above other fixed builds.

Sitting at an aluminum 16mm diameter, the Detect S straddles the line between a lightweight in-hand feel and on-slope durability. You should be able to ski aggressively without feeling the weight too much over the course of the day.

Aside from the impressive construction Leki also includes some worthwhile features- foremost their Trigger S strap tech. This allows you to quickly detach your poles before getting on the chairlift, as well as adding a little bit of protection against injury should you take an awkward fall. They also come with race grip handles and a top port that makes adding gate guards or a Go-Pro mount hassle-free.

There are a lot of fancy poles on the market, but the Detect S showcases the restraint necessary to make something high-quality that isn’t drowning in unnecessary features with the requisite price hike.

Specs & Features

  • 16mm fixed aluminum shaft
  • Slim Race Grip
  • Carbide Tips
  • Trigger S strap release system
  • Adapter Cap (for guards and Go-Pro)

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:


Things we like:

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    Solid build that’s comparatively lightweight
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    The Trigger S system saves last-minute strap fiddling anxiety when getting on the chairlift
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    Marginal added protection compared to more traditional pole straps

Things we don't like:

  • check-markWrap around Trigger Alpine Straps can feel kind of awkward compared to simpler loop systems
  • check-markThe extra features are nice, but that doesn’t necessarily justify the price hike compared to other fixed aluminum models
Read full review

Where to buy:


LEKI Detect S

Best Budget Pole

If we admired the Detect S above for its simplicity and elegant execution, the Salomon Arctic is the same concept taken to its logical extreme. A simple, aluminum pole, the Arctic is great for those who want a set of backup poles or need a solid budget option this season.

Despite a sizable 18mm diameter and above-average weight, they’re nothing to write home about in terms of durability. They’re also pretty sparse on features and their strap adjustment system (a cheap sliding buckle) is prone to slipping, leaving something to be desired. Shortcomings notwithstanding, you won’t find much better under the $50 dollar mark.

Ski poles are conceptually pretty simple, and this is a great example of a product that gives you everything you need and nothing more. That being said, they’re available in a few striking colors if you want to spice things up. It should also be noted that the Arctics, sized down, may also make a pretty good pair of park poles.

Specs & Features

  • 18mm fixed aluminum shaft
  • All-mountain Tip
  • Standard straps
  • All-mountain baskets

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:


Things we like:

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    Affordable and practical
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    Reasonable durability, given the price

Things we don't like:

  • check-markThe only thing that stands out about them is the price
  • check-markPoorly made strap adjustment system
Read full review

Where to buy:


Salomon Arctic

Best Backcountry Features

Feature-rich and backcountry-oriented, the G3 Via Carbon stretches the limits of what a touring brand can do with all its technology. At just over a pound between the pair of skis, it’s impressive just how much they manage to cram into these poles.

In terms of major concerns, we’d love to see them pack down a little smaller and must acknowledge the durability concerns that come with a set of full carbon touring poles. But, for those looking for something to take on marathon missions, you can’t argue with the weight.

The Via Carbon includes some pretty neat touring-specific considerations. The first of these is an extended tab above the grip, which makes it a little easier to make quick adjustments to your risers when you’re struggling to maintain traction on a steeper climb. In a similar manner, the upper parts of the shaft have textured grips to help you traverse across uneven slopes.

Specs & Features

  • 18mm/16mm adjustable carbon shaft
  • Carbide tips
  • Foam grip with extended sidehill grip
  • Detachable touring strap
  • Utility tab for adjusting risers

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:


Things we like:

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    Super lightweight even for a carbon fiber pole
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    Comes loaded with touring-specific features

Things we don't like:

  • check-markConsiderable price tag
  • check-markCarbon is undeniably pretty fragile and prone to cracking
Read full review

Where to buy:

Best Splitboarding Pole

Black Diamond’s Compactor poles are lightweight, but that’s hardly exceptional when it comes to touring poles and it’s far from the end of the story. What sets these poles apart from the competition is their incredible packed volume.

Instead of collapsing via some telescoping lock mechanism, the Compactors can fold up like tent poles at the press of a button. But, this considerable innovation comes at a considerably larger price than average. That said, some skiers and almost all split boarders would be enticed by the ability to securely stash their poles in a pack.

The Compactor’s build is impressively light. If you’re looking to optimize it’s also available in a carbon fiber alternative, though you lose the ability to adjust the size. All told these are a bit of a specialty option and will appeal much more to the split boarding community than the vast majority of skiers.

Specs & Features

  • 18mm, 3 section aluminum shaft
  • Soft rubber touring grips
  • Lightweight webbing touring straps
  • FlintLock length adjustments
  • Speed cone push-button deployment

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:


Things we like:

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    Top of class when it comes to z-pole builds
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    Appreciably light even for an aluminum build
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    Split boarders and traveling skiers will love the packability

Things we don't like:

  • check-markKind of a niche product that will appeal to our elite split boarding crowd
  • check-markAwfully expensive for something you’ll only use on ascents
Read full review

Where to buy:


Black Diamond Compactor

Highest Value Touring Pole

Above we praised several models of alpine poles for their practicality and simple function, the Black Diamond Traverse has that same simple attitude applied in a backcountry context. Built around a solid 16mm aluminum shaft, it’s on the heavier side of the touring spectrum. But it compensates for this with its ability to absorb sustained alpine abuse.

Weight aside, the Traverse isn’t without its issues, though these are similarly symptomatic of its robust build. As a whole, the Traverse is an excellent entry point for anyone looking at touring poles, as well as a good option for someone in search of a hard-working piece of gear.

We still haven’t mentioned the price. While the MSR DynaLock Trail listed below is this season’s winner for the lowest price tag, the Traverse is nonetheless a very reasonably priced adjustable ski.

Coupled with serious structural integrity stretched over the course of seasons, the traverse has considerable value.

Specs & Features

  • 16mm/14mm aluminum adjustable pole
  • Steel tips
  • Soft rubber touring grip with extended texture choke-up grips
  • Highly adjustable touring strap
  • FlinkLock extension adjustments

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:


Things we like:

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    High degree of structural integrity worthy of a few seasons
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    Reasonable price for a touring pole
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    Great entry point for anyone in need of a set of backcountry poles

Things we don't like:

  • check-markOn the heavier end of the touring spectrum
  • check-markOnly comes with one set of baskets, albeit their powder baskets
Read full review

Where to buy:


Black Diamond Traverse

Hybrid Touring Pole

If you’re primarily an out-of-bounds rider who likes to spend some time getting after it at the resort, LEKI’s Helicon is a reasonable midpoint between the durability benefits of an aluminum pole while keeping things a bit lighter than the Black Diamond Traverse listed above.

They accomplish this at an appreciable price, though it must be noted that they tend to be a little more prone to bending than other aluminum options. If you do happen to bend your poles a bit, they’re relatively malleable and can be bent back into working order with a little bit of careful pressure.

We think this is a great hybrid option because it offers you some of the rigidity of an alpine pole, and all the features of a dedicated touring option without an absurd price tag. They’re capable of handling the type of aggressive riding people tend to do on the resort, without breaking your heart or bank if they end up breaking themselves.

Specs & Features

  • 16mm/14mm aluminum adjustable shaft
  • Carbide tips
  • Foam and hard plastic grip with extended choke-up texture on the shaft
  • Well-constructed security strap
  • SL+ Adjustment system

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:


Things we like:

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    Affordable ski pole with all of the features of a fleshed out touring option
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    Aluminum build gives a little bit more rigidity than lightweight alternatives

Things we don't like:

  • check-markHybrid sometimes means it doesn’t do things as well as a dedicated version of either a touring ski or a downhill ski would
Read full review

Where to buy:


LEKI Helicon

Budget Backcountry Pole

For backcountry skiers in a pinch, the DynaLock Trail is just about the most affordable adjustable pole that you can take off-piste. Understandably, they’re plagued with durability and performance issues that you wouldn’t otherwise see in a pair of better-built poles.

If you’re in need of a set of backup poles or run into an emergency where your normal set is forgotten, lost, broken, or otherwise unavailable on a trip, they’ll get the job done. MSR’s track record with lightweight and affordable gear is pretty good, and if you don’t put too much strain on these poles, they’re an acceptable replacement in a pinch.

Specs & Features

  • 2 piece adjustable aluminum shaft
  • Carbide tips
  • Untextured rubber grip
  • Standard adjustable nylon strap
  • DynaLock length adjustment system

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:


Things we like:

  • check-mark
    Affordable and works if you treat it gently

Things we don't like:

  • check-markNot comfortable to use and prone to breaking under duress
Read full review

Where to buy:


MSR DynaLock Trail

Related Reviews

The Best Ski Poles: Buyer’s Guide

Downhill versus Touring Poles

Purpose is important. How you’ll be spending your time on-snow will decide just about everything about the best pair of poles for you. Below we’ll outline some of the qualities to look for in your poles depending on how you’ll be skiing.


If you’re spending all of your time on the resort, there’s little reason to opt for a collapsible pole. Not only will you be saving yourself a significant amount of money, but you’ll also have a pole that will hold up much better in the long run.

The best downhill poles for the majority of skiers will be solid aluminum options with comfortable grips and a few different baskets to change out depending on snow conditions.


Having an adjustable pole for ski touring is important for a few reasons. Considering how you’ll split your time between going uphill and downhill, the ability to shorten your poles for trudging up ascents goes a long way towards ensuring your comfort.

You’ll also want to emphasize materials much more than you would with a downhill ski, weight starts to matter a lot more when you’re carrying it a significant distance.

Splitboarding Poles

Splitboarding poles have a lot in common with regular touring poles, if anything it’s okay to prioritize weight and packed size above all else.

Considering you’ll likely be using them almost exclusively for climbing, durability isn’t something to be overly concerned with.


Though similar to downhill sets in both build and attitude, park skiers prefer shorter length poles with less emphasis on baskets. It’s important to make sure that your park poles are a little more resilient than lighter options, chances are you’ll bend or break any pair not up to snuff.

Pole Length

By far the most common question about how to choose the right poles is in terms of length. For those new to the sport not invested in a crazy ultralight adjustable model, most likely you’re going to end up with a pair of fixed aluminum poles.

Pole length can vary depending on body type and preferences, but as a general rule you should be able to rest your arms at about a right angle on top of the grips. If you’re in doubt here’s a height chart for quick reference.

Skier Height Pole Length Inches Pole Length Centimeters
6’7″ + 56 140
6’4″ – 6’6″ 54 135
6’1″ – 6’3″ 52 130
5’10” – 6’0″ 50 125
5’7″ – 5’9″ 48 120
5’4″ – 5’6″ 46 115
5’1″ – 5’3″ 44 110
4’9″ – 5’0″ 42 105
4’5″ – 4’8″ 40 100
4’1″ – 4’4″ 38 95
3’9″ – 4’0″ 36 90
3’5″ – 3’8″ 34 85
< 3’4″ 32 80

Having the right length pole is about more than just pushing yourself down cat tracks and having something to lean on in the lift line. Proper pole plants are pretty crucial for getting your timing down and mastering more advanced ski techniques.

Fixed versus Adjustable Poles

It’s already been established that how and what you ski will determine whether or not you should opt for an adjustable ski pole.

If you split your time between the resort or the backcountry or are otherwise curious about the specific performance benefits between the two, here’s a brief list of the pros and cons of each.


Fixed poles have the upper hand for in-bounds skiers in almost every respect. Between their comparable affordability and enhanced durability, there’s little reason to consider anything else.

People tend to step up their riding on the resort, and having a solid piece of metal to depend on is reasonable insurance for riding hard in steep terrain- no one wants their shaft to collapse mid-plant. In a similar sense, if you’re doing the kind of skiing where you’re more likely to fall, it makes sense to invest your money in something that won’t bend when you land on it.

The only place where fixed poles fall short is during travel- if your ski bag is already full it can be difficult to accommodate for the additional bulk. This is by no means a deal breaker but worth considering if you’re prone to making a few destination trips every year.


Telescoping poles are a great tool to add to your backcountry ski kit. Being able to optimize your uphill and downhill use makes climbing much more comfortable while providing the benefits of a full-length pole when it counts.

The sliding size also makes them quite packable, not only in terms of travel but in their ability to collapse inside of a ski pack if you need to go hands-free. This is great if you’re doing any kind of mountaineering, holding an ice axe, or just need a free hand for a steep bootpack.

Additionally, adjustable poles tend to be made up of lightweight materials which are great when you’re covering ground but come at the cost of price and less durable construction. This is exasperated by all of the clamps and moving parts- as they tend to be major points of failure.

Ski Pole Materials


Aluminum is by far the most common material component in your average set of ski poles. It has a couple of significant advantages over lightweight alternatives such as carbon fiber and fiberglass- but none stand out more than price. In most cases, opting for an entirely aluminum pole will end up saving you money.

There are exceptions when it comes to top-tier models, but even these are considerably more affordable than their premium carbon fiber counterparts. But affordable doesn’t mean there aren’t quality aluminum poles out there.

If you’re looking for something lightweight and collapsible, there are plenty of options that compete reasonably well with ultralight poles.

Aluminum also has a competitive edge over other materials when it comes to durability. If you’re rough on your gear or happen to take an unfortunate fall on top of your poles you won’t risk snapping the shaft like in the case of carbon fiber or other brittle materials. At worst, it’ll bend and you can attempt to straighten it out.

Carbon Fiber

From mountain bikes to skis, carbon fiber has solidified itself as a lightweight alternative to traditional materials in contemporary outdoor gear. Regardless of the application, the benefits and drawbacks are always the same. Carbon fiber is much lighter than aluminum alloys and has a little bit of natural flex that more rigid poles lack. These considerable benefits come at the cost of durability.

When stressed beyond a certain threshold, carbon fiber will crack and splinter rather than bend like aluminum. To compensate for the brittle nature of carbon fiber, many poles use aluminum in an effort to save weight but make them more resistant to breaking.

If you’re in the market for a lightweight pole, it’s worth considering the type of skiing you’ll be doing. Those prone to putting strain on gear might be better served by something a little more fleshed out.


Fiberglass isn’t as prevalent as carbon fiber or aluminum and is almost always blended with other materials to add much needed strength. The only reason you’d want to look for a fiberglass set of poles is to try to save weight without the high cost of carbon fiber.

Ski Pole Anatomy and Features


When it comes down to it, there isn’t much you can do to optimize your ski pole’s grip. More than anything else this is purely a point of preference and what works for your gloves or mittens.

If you plan on doing a lot of touring, it can be useful to choose something with an extended soft cuff. This lets you choke up on the pole when the climb gets steep, or you are using the grips to store your mittens when it’s too warm.


Pole straps are typically nylon loops that keep you from dropping your poles in event of a crash or a poorly timed plant. Having gear go careening down the mountain is a major hazard to other skiers, and saves you the trouble of going searching for it in the long run.

There are a couple of considerations when it comes to your pole straps, but the most important is finding something compatible with your gloves. Note that your hands should go up through the bottom of the straps and wrap around the excess, this helps protect you from getting your thumbs broken if you fall. On that note, some aggressive alpine poles have detachable straps that unhook in the event of serious impact.

If you’re doing the type of skiing where big falls are a reality, this may be well worth looking into. They’re also convenient for getting on and off a lift, saving you a little bit of time on your transition.


The width and material of your pole’s shaft is the main determining factor in both weight and strength. As a general rule, the wider the diameter, the stronger and heavier you can expect the pole to be.

Looking at width, consider your needs versus what you can comfortably manage over the course of a day of skiing. Those venturing into the backcountry may prioritize a thinner, lightweight shaft to save fatigue, while resort-bound skiers might look for something more resilient.


Baskets keep your poles from penetrating too deep into the snow while you make turn plants- though they come in different shapes and sizes they should be instantly recognizable as the roughly circular discs just above the tips of your pole.

Basic in-bounds poles usually have a smaller-diameter fixed basket for skiing packed snow on groomers, while poles built with powder in mind have a wider basket to add a little more resistance. If you ski the entire length of the season and want to optimize your performance, it’s worth looking into models with both a powder and a hardpack basket that you can change out as conditions change.


Frequently asked questions

What are the best downhill ski poles?

The best poles for in-bounds use are usually simple and dependable- though factors like weight and additional features are subject to your preferences and budget. We’ve scoured the snowfields for the best ski poles on the market and have come up with this comprehensive list and a buyer’s guide to help you find the best pole for you. In the meantime, here’s a quick list of some of our favorites

Best downhill ski poles

  • Leki Detect S – Best Overall Poles
  • Salomon Arctic – Best Budget Poles
  • Goode G Carbon – Best Lightweight Poles
  • Volkl Phantastick – Best for Beginners
  • Grass Sticks Original Bamboo – Best in Style
What are the best touring ski poles?

Trying to balance weight and durability with features can be tough when looking at backcountry touring poles. Our buyer’s guide pits the top models in the industry against each other to find the best of class in every category. In the meantime, here’s a short list of some of our favorites.

Best backcountry touring ski poles

  • G3 Via Carbon – Best Lightweight Touring Poles
  • Black Diamond Traverse – Most Durable Touring Poles
  • Leki Helicon – Best Hybrid Touring and Resort Poles
  • Black Diamond Compactor – Most Packable Poles
  • MSR DynaLock Trail – Best Budget Backcountry Poles
What size ski poles do I need?

By far the most common question about how to choose the right poles is in terms of length. It can vary depending on body type and preferences, but as a general rule you should be able to rest your arms at about a right angle on top of the grips.

For more on finding the right poles for you, head over to our buyer’s guide for a closer look at the different types of poles, and a comprehensive list of our favorites across the industry.

What is the difference between fixed and adjustable ski poles?

Fixed poles have the upper hand for in-bounds skiers in almost every respect. Between their comparable affordability and enhanced durability, there’s little reason to consider anything else. Adjustable poles are a great tool to add to your backcountry ski kit, they make climbing much more comfortable while providing the benefits of a full-length pole when it counts.

For more on ski poles and how to find the best pair for you, as well as a look at some of our favorites, head over to our buyer’s guide.

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