Ski Pole Clinic: Cross-country Ski Poles

In cross-country (Nordic) skiing, poles are essential. They provide far more than just an aid to balance. They are also an essential means of propulsion, and allow Nordic skiers to get a full-body workout.

Pole Fit

It’s important to have the proper-sized pole for your height. They should reach up to your armpit or shoulder (for skate-style Nordic skiing, poles should reach up to the skier’s nose).


Aluminum poles are very common- they are durable and are usually less expensive than carbon or graphite poles. Serious skiers may prefer the pricier carbon or graphite models- their lighter weight is less tiresome to swing forward after each pole plant.


Some Nordic poles have round baskets- these are good for backcountry. Wider baskets are best for deep-snow conditions. Other Nordic baskets only stick out on one side of the pole. These baskets are ideal for groomed trails or other hard-packed snow.

Hand straps

The pole should have a comfortable hand-strap. Nordic skiers fit the hand-strap snugly across the back of their hand, so they can open their hands during part of their poling motion without losing the pole. This is an essential part of a Nordic skier’s rhythm as they head down the trail, and allows the arm muscles to relax.