Updated on October 20, 2021

So, what are ski poles for, anyways? Generally speaking, poles are used to help skiers with their balance, rhythm, and timing during turns, and support as they move around the mountain. Choosing a good ski pole comes down to the balance between weight and material strength. Materials most often range from aluminum, carbon fiber, fiberglass, and some combination of the three to bamboo and other novelty materials, and you’re sure to see all manner of designs and constructions out on the hill. From traditional racing poles that are bent at angles optimized for hard-carving, tight turns to more traditional straight designs, the most important thing to know about choosing the best ski poles is that a well-fitting pole can make your day that much better and can help you progress towards more challenging terrain. We’ve put together this guide to the best ski poles to help you find poles for this upcoming season. Take a look, and see you out on the mountain!

For more of our top ski gear recommendations, check out the Best Backcountry Ski Poles.

 

Quick Answer - The Best Ski Poles

  1. Leki Detect S
  2. Volkl Phantastick
  3. Black Diamond Razor Carbon Pro
  4. Black Diamond Traverse
  5. Black Diamond Carbon Compactor
  6. Grass Sticks Original
  7. Rossignol Tactic
  8. K2 Power Composite
  9. Swix Techlite Pro
  10. K2 Freeride 16

 

Comparison Table - Best Ski Poles

PictureNameBest UseAdjustableBasket TypePriceRating
Leki detect sLeki Detect SDownhill SkiingNoPowder$$5.0
Volkl PhantastickVolkl PhantastickDownhill SkiingNoRace$4.8
Black Diamond Razor Carbon ProDownhill/Backcountry SkiingYesPowder$$$$4.8
Black Diamond TraverseBlack Diamond TraverseBackcountry SkiingYesPowder$4.6
Black Diamond Carbon CompactorBlack Diamond Carbon CompactorBackcountry / SplitboardingPackablePowder$$$4.5
Grass Sticks OriginalDownhill SkiingNoStandard$$$4.8
Rossignol TacticDownhill SkiingNoStandard$4.6
K2 Power CompositeDownhill SkiingNoPowder and Standard$$4.6
Swix Techlite ProDownhill SkiingNoPowder and Standard$$4.7
K2 Freeride 16Downhill SkiingNoStandard$$4.5
PictureNameBest UseAdjustableBasket TypePriceRating
Want to learn more about a technical term? Check out our Features Explained section below.

Need buying advice? Take a look at these Things to Consider.

Reviews - The Best Poles for Skiing

Leki Detect S

Specs
  • Adjustable: No
  • Best Use: Downhill Skiing
  • Weight: 8.8oz
  • Shaft Material: Aluminum
  • Basket Type: Powder
  • Safety Release: Yes
Features
  • Slim race grip is easy to grab and hold on to
  • Alpine frame strap clicks in and out of the grip with ease
  • Trigger S spring release system reduces risk of injury
Leki detect s

TOP OVERALL DOWNHILL-SPECIFIC SKI POLE

If you’re looking for a high quality ski pole for all-mountain skiing, the sturdy aluminum Leki Detect S is sure worth consideration.

Leki constructed the Detect S poles from aluminum so that the poles would be more prone to pending than breaking and still be lightweight to carry, as opposed to carbon fiber alternatives. The S in the name indicates that the pole features the brand’s Trigger S system, which allows you to separate the strap from the pole itself. One final thing to note is that the slim race-style grips are super ergonomic and easy to hold on to.

What I like most about these poles is that there is a built-in spring release on the strap that will release it from the pole in the event of upward force, making for an added degree of safety.

Volkl Phantastick

Specs
  • Adjustable: No
  • Best Use: Downhill Skiing
  • Weight: Unavailable
  • Shaft Material: Aluminum
  • Basket Type: Race
  • Safety Release: No
Features
  • Steel tip
  • 2K Grip (rubber+PA), laser textured
Volkl Phantastick

BEST DOWNHILL SKIERS ON A BUDGET

If you’re primarily a weekend skier looking for a solid downhill ski pole on a budget, take a look at the $60 Phantasticks.

Volkl designed this quality budget pole with an 18mm diameter shaft. These poles are cut to order, available in sizes as short as 90 centimeters. One of this pole’s standout features is its availability in a wide variety of flashy colors, including bright red, aqua, and blue — and matching grips to go with each color.

What I like most about the Phantasticks is how tough and durable they are thanks to a solid alloy construction.

Black Diamond Razor Carbon Pro

Specs
  • Adjustable: Yes
  • Best Use: Downhill/Backcountry Skiing
  • Weight: 1 lb. 5 oz. (Pair)
  • Shaft Material: Aluminum/Carbon Fiber
  • Basket Type: Powder
  • Safety Release: Yes
Features
  • Straps Have A Release Function For Added Safety Both At The Resort And In The Backcountry
  • Grips Are Made Of Soft Touch Rubber For Added Comfort And Performance
  • Pole Height Can Be Adjusted For Backcountry Skiing

BEST FOR: AMBITIOUS BEGINNERS

The Black Diamond Razor Carbon Pro ski poles are made for those ready for an adventure. If you’re a beginner or intermediate skier who is looking to improve and eventually make it out beyond the resort and into the backcountry, it may make sense for you to invest now in poles that can take you there. The aluminum/carbon fiber shaft construction balances strength and weight, so that you can be sure that they’ll hold up to your activity level without weighing you down. Additionally, these poles feature straps that release with a certain amount of torque and pressure, a safety feature that protects your hands, wrists, arms, and shoulders in the event of a fall or impact. Finally, these poles are height adjustable so that you can optimize the performance for the type of terrain that you’re on.

Black Diamond Traverse

Specs
  • Adjustable: Yes
  • Best Use: Backcountry Skiing
  • Weight: 1 lb. 4.8 oz.
  • Shaft Material: Aluminum
  • Basket Type: Powder
  • Safety Release: No
Features
  • Touring grip with dual density soft touch rubber
  • Touring strap and plastic ladder-lock buckle
  • Lightweight rubber grip extension for quick, secure choke-ups
Black Diamond Traverse

BEST FOR: BACKCOUNTRY SKIERS ON A BUDGET

This pole provides for unprecedented performance in an astoundingly affordable package.

The Traverse is a high-performance two-section pole that boasts many of the same features as more expensive poles on this list. The comfortable upper grip is designed for skinning while the secondary lower grip features sticky rubber that comes in handy when you’re side-hilling.

What I like most about these ski poles is that they are very durably constructed and should last a long while.

Black Diamond Carbon Compactor

Specs
  • Adjustable: Packable
  • Best Use: Backcountry / Splitboarding
  • Weight: 1lb 2oz
  • Shaft Material: Carbon fiber
  • Basket Type: Powder
  • Safety Release: No
Features
  • Carbon fiber provides high strength without the weight
  • Speed cone deploys quickly to full length by releasing pole capture
  • Integrated rubber grip extension comes in handy for sidehilling
Black Diamond Carbon Compactor

BEST FOR: SPLIT BOARDERS

The nature of splitboarding demands a sport-specific pole — and the Carbon Compactor is one of the leading products on the market.

The Carbon Compactor features a collapsible z-pole design, which makes these easy to stash away when not in use. When you do pack them away, they break down smaller and slimmer than any other pole on this list. It comes with a solid powder basket and is designed to break down fast during transitions, which saves precious time. Because this pole is designed specifically for skinning uphill, it doesn’t offer the same performance on the downhill, which is something to keep in mind.

What I like most about the Black Diamond Carbon Compactors is how lightweight they are, weighing in at just eighteen ounces.

Grass Sticks Original

Specs
  • Adjustable: No
  • Best Use: Downhill Skiing
  • Weight: 1 lb. 2 oz. (Pair)
  • Shaft Material: Bamboo
  • Basket Type: Standard
  • Safety Release: No
Features
  • Built By Hand In The United States In Steamboat Springs, Colorado
  • Bamboo Shafts Have The Strength Of Steel And Compressive Strength That Is Greater Than Concrete
  • Grips Are Made With A Soft Rubber That Stays Put In Your Hands While You’re Skiing

BEST FOR: ENVIRONMENTALLY CONSCIOUS SKIERS

Though they may seem like a novelty, these bamboo Grass Sticks poles are here to stay. Instead of using materials like aluminum and carbon that are mined from the Earth to construct their poles, Grass Sticks has chosen bamboo, a regenerative material that absorbs more CO2 and produces more oxygen than any other plant. The straps are also made of 100% recycled polyester, making these poles one of the most environmentally conscious products on the market. In addition to the environmental benefits of purchasing these poles, they also feature an incredible weight to strength ratio, making them the perfect accompaniment to any terrain that you decide to ski.

Rossignol Tactic

Specs
  • Adjustable: No
  • Best Use: Downhill Skiing
  • Weight: N/A
  • Shaft Material: 6061 Dural O18 Aluminum
  • Basket Type: Standard
  • Safety Release: No
Features
  • Durable Aluminum Shafts Allow For Lightweight Comfort And Ease Of Use
  • Ergonomic Grips Provide A Secure Feeling Even In Gloves And Mittens
  • Shaft Construction Is Designed To Absorb And Dampen Vibrations Transmitted Up Through The Poles

BEST FOR: NO FUSS PERFORMANCE

The Rossignol Tactic All Mountain ski poles are all about no fuss performance. Without the bells and whistles of some of the poles in the same category, these poles may seem overly simplistic, but that judgment would miss the benefits of this kind of simplicity. A basic aluminum construction allows for lightweight performance without compromising on durability, and a specially designed ergonomic grip promises all day comfort on any terrain at the resort. Finally, it’s hard to beat the value that comes with these poles for the price. A low price tag gets you all the performance that you need to enjoy and maximize a ski day at your favorite resort.

K2 Power Composite

Specs
  • Adjustable: No
  • Best Use: Downhill Skiing
  • Weight: N/A
  • Shaft Material: Composite
  • Basket Type: Powder and Standard
  • Safety Release: No
Features
  • Composite Shaft Construction Provides Lightweight Strength
  • Straps Are Adjustable For Added Comfort
  • Baskets Are Designed For All Types Of Snow Conditions And Terrain

BEST FOR: EXPLORING THE MOUNTAIN

K2’s Power Composite ski poles offer the best in ski pole construction design and materials without over-complicating the features of the pole. The 100% composite shaft offers the perfect balance of weight, durability, and strength, so these poles are designed to last and live up to whatever you send their way. From trees to groomed trails and beyond, these poles will get you there. The 60 millimeter baskets will keep your poles floating through powder and will also power through the icy crud in the springtime. Finally, the performance rubber grips and adjustable straps help you to customize your fit for long-lasting, all-day comfort at your favorite ski resort.

Swix Techlite Pro

Specs
  • Adjustable: No
  • Best Use: Downhill Skiing
  • Weight: 1 lb. 8 oz. (Pair)
  • Shaft Material: 7075-T6 Aluminum
  • Basket Type: Powder and Standard
  • Safety Release: No
Features
  • Grips Are Ergonomically Designed For Maximum Comfort And Made Of Hyper-Durable Materials For Long-Lasting Performance
  • Tab On The Top Of The Grip Keeps The Pole In Your Hand Even When You’re Losing Your Grip
  • The Basket System Makes It Easy To Swap Out Standard Baskets For Powder Baskets Or Vice Versa As Conditions Change

BEST FOR: HIGH PERFORMANCE COMFORT

The Swix Techlite Pro ski poles are designed for all-day comfort and performance. The tab located at the top of the grip exists to hold onto your hand even if you lose your grip. It also encourages you to loosen your grip around the poles; you’ll often find that your hands and forearms will get tired after a day of holding and using your poles around the mountain, but if you can loosen your grip, you’ll save a bit of energy throughout the day and promote circulation in your fingers and hands. Finally, the easy-to-use basket system allows you to swap out the baskets on the ends of your poles with ease. For powder days, go for the wider baskets while a day spent on the groomers would be best for your standard, smaller pole baskets.

K2 Freeride 16

Specs
  • Adjustable: No
  • Best Use: Downhill Skiing
  • Weight: N/A
  • Shaft Material: 6061 Aluminum
  • Basket Type: Standard
  • Safety Release: No
Features
  • Reduced Diameter Around The Grip Of The Poles Makes Them Comfortable For Those With Smaller Hands
  • Standard Sized Baskets Are Perfect For Groomed Terrain Or Enjoying the Terrain Park
  • Lightweight Aluminum Shaft Is Both Strong And Durable

BEST FOR: BOLD AND BRIGHT STYLE

The most standout feature of the K2 Freeride 16 poles is their bright color choices. Your friends are sure to not lose you on the slopes with your choice of either hot pink or highlighter orange ski poles. In addition to their flashy style, these poles also feature lightweight, strong aluminum shaft construction that will hold up to any terrain on the resort, including the terrain park. Finally, these poles also include reduced grip circumference, making them perfect for young teenagers or those with smaller hands so that they can better hold on to the poles without worrying about dropping them or their hands getting too tired.

 

 

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING SKI POLES

COST

Ski poles are typically reasonably priced; they are definitely not the priciest piece of equipment in your ski gear arsenal. The difference in cost typically comes in when you start looking at telescoping designs and specialized grips. You should always choose the best option for you when it comes to that balance between economy and functionality, but it’s also best to choose something that will last. Go for a pole that you will be using for years to come.

 

FIT

Choosing a pole that is commensurate with your height and size is critical to having an effective piece of equipment. As a general rule, poles should sit slightly below your armpit height. To measure, turn your poles upside down so that the grip is sitting on the ground and the point and basket (plastic disc on the bottom of your pole) are facing skyward. Grip the pole right under the basket, and look to see if your arm is bent at a 90 degree angle. If your arm and elbow are extended beyond 90 degrees, then the pole is likely too short. If your elbow is more bent and your fist rests above your elbow, the pole is likely too long.

 

MATERIALS

Poles can be made of many different materials including bamboo, which you’ll find in some boutique designers. Typically, poles are made of aluminum, a higher grade aluminum, carbon, or a composite of aluminum and carbon. Aluminum shafts have the most basic type of construction; this is the type of pole that you’ll typically find in rental shops. Higher grade aluminum, composite, and carbon-based poles are higher end and usually come with a slightly higher price tag. But with the higher price tag comes better durability, so you’ll have to decide what the best balance is for you when it comes to economy and durability.

 

STYLE

Ski poles come in all sorts of colors and designs. Though the designs have little to no bearing on the performance of the ski pole, the choice of poles presents an opportunity to express yourself and your personal style. Take this opportunity to go bold or to match your pants, jacket, and skis for an awesome look out on the ski hill.

 

BEST USE/POLE TYPES

Though any pole can really be used for downhill skiing, there are certain categories of poles made specifically for different downhill skiing disciplines. All-mountain poles are made from anything from aluminum to high tech carbon fiber. They typically have a straight shaft and are made for skiers of all ages and abilities. Freestyle poles are made for those that enjoy the terrain park and are typically much shorter for increased maneuverability.

You can recognize racing or racing style poles for their distinctive shaped structures. The different angles are optimized for power at the start of a run and aerodynamics. Backcountry poles are telescoping so that the lengths can be adjusted based on the type of terrain that the skier is on. For more information about choosing the best ski poles for you, check out REI’s Expert Advice column on how to choose the right ski pole.

 

 

FEATURES EXPLAINED

STRAP

This term refers to the flexible nylon loop attached to the pole at the top of the grip. When you loop your wrists through the straps, it prevents poles from sliding down the hill if you fall or drop the pole. Note that you’ll want to remove the straps and hold your poles in one hand when you’re getting on and off the chair lift.

BASKET

The basket is the plastic disk at the bottom of your pole that sits just above the point. The purpose of the basket is to keep your pole from sinking too far into the snow. Typically, powder conditions call for a wider basket, while groomed terrain calls for a smaller one.

TELESCOPING POLES

Telescoping poles are typically used by ski mountaineers or those that ski in the backcountry. They can be extended for uphill climbs and retracted for steep descents. While these might be nice to have if you’re contemplating heading into the backcountry, this type of design is typically unnecessary for those who spend the most time in the resort.

GRIP

This term refers to the grooved handle that sits at the top of the pole and to which you hold on. You want to make sure that the grip fits your hand comfortably enough to hold onto it all day.

COMPOSITE

Ski poles come in all sorts of materials and designs, but a pole made with a composite of materials is typically the best and most versatile for resort skiing. The mixture of materials provides the best balance between weight and strength.

 

READ MORE

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