ski pole length advice Ive found on the web for skimo racing. I found more but it leads you astray with current avy shovel requirements which require a shovel like this from CAMP USA (so be careful!):
CAMP and Skimo Co you should. They have the best selection of all the stuff beyond skis, boots and bindings you need to be light! And of course Skimo Co has all the ski gear too. But I digress. Squirrel!
OK, back on topic. Ski pole length. The linked video and website above basically say that for a guy my height (6' 4") I should not only have bolts in my forehead and roam around moaning "master!" but I should have poles 145cm long. That felt right to me in theory since I have x-country skied my whole life and that is close to what I use for that. However, in reality, there were three things that didnt jive. First, my hands, which are quick to chill, were almost always blocks of ice on race and training days. God it is miserable and discouraging. It felt like the freeze that I get from keeping my hands over my head while ice climbing. Second, It was hard on the uphills because I was always kind of pushing behind me and not really leaning forward into the slope. This was subtle. Finally, on the downhills, that was a LOT of pole. Im a fair to middling skier and actually have to use my poles to ski so grabbing them half way down the pole totally does not work and using the wrist straps makes it very awkward. I was hooking my thumb through the strap to drop my hand as low as possible and still getting some push but they were still too long.
I wrote it off to inexperience with a self admonishment to "suck it up" for being so cold but by the end of the season I was less than impressed. A little while back, for some strange reason I found myself yet again trolling the internet for skimo stuff (a personal problem) and came across a video of La Pierra Menta, one of the "big three" skimo races in the Alps. This video caught my attention because of the clear view you get of pole length at the start line. Ive clipped that scene as a photo and it is at the top of the page. Here it is again with some arrows highlighting ski pole length.
After looking at this, I went home and hacked off 2 inches of my poles. Ive been out for one day on them and the temps were not cold enough to see if I get better circulation to my hands so Ill keep you posted. As for uphill, both on and off piste, I felt like I had a better body position and on the downhill I felt like I could use my polse much better on steep terrain both in the thumb drop as well as with wrist loops on. So, that now means Ive got 140cm poles as a 6'4" Frankenstein-looking guy.
Im guessing that what is going on is that Euros ski with shorter poles as Ive seen mentioned in a few places Im too lazy to go look up and this may or may not be because of the terrain they get in their races. When I tried it though, it felt a lot better and Im happy I did it. Bottom line, this is one thing to put a little more thought into than you might have once thought, especially if you are a punter like me who needs every advantage possible!