Cross-Country Ski Pole Height
Different sports require different length poles, and it is not only important to choose the right material, it’s also important to make sure you get the correct length. The ideal length for your poles depends on the sport type, on the route profile and not least on the ability level of the user as well.
Available types of poles on the market include fixed poles, which have a a fixed length and variable or telescopic poles, which can be adjusted when needed and are suited to different sports. The latter choice gives you a high level of variability, but the downside is that they are less solid and more susceptible to errors. This means they can buckle through misapplication or wear, and the adjustment mechanism can fail.
A pole length calculator can help to give you a rough estimation of the ideal length, however this doesn’t take into account the high level of complexity required to precisely calculate the necessary length. In this case – as so often – there’s nothing like trying it for yourself.
Personal preference is of course important when choosing the correct length - what is too long for some, is perfect for the more experienced. The rules of thumb mentioned above give you some approximate guidelines, if in doubt, nothing beats trying it for yourself!
Cross-country skiing poles must withstand heavy forces. This means that they need to have exactly the right length for power transfer, so their length has to be perfect. In this case, the difference between the classic technique and the skate skiing technique is pivotal. For the latter longer poles are used.
Telescopic poles are not an option for cross-country skiing, since these are much more likely to open or break under pressure; the poles for cross-country skiing need to be much more rigid. The highest quality poles are fixed length and constructed from fibreglass or carbon.
The rule of thumb for these poles is that the tops of the poles should come to shoulder height. The more experienced and skilled the user, the longer the poles should be, to allow the skier to generate more thrust. However, for the classic technique the poles should never be higher than five cm above the shoulder. Some manufactures make poles which can be retrospectively shortened. This means that you should initially chose longer poles, so that they can be shortened later.
As a rule the poles for skate skiing should be around 10 cm longer than those for classic technique. This allows you to push back harder to generate plenty of force when pushing off. Classic poles are generally too short, which quickly gives you the feeling that you are unable to generate sufficient force. This will soon become exhausting, so we would advise that you own two different pairs of poles, if you intend to use different techniques.