Tuesday, November 19, 2013

I have been having second thoughts on the limited 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!):
On a side note, if you have not checked out 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.
Keep in mind this is a 10,000 vertical foot race. No sprint distance here!

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!


  1. Great idea for a site. Keep up the good work!

    1. Layne,
      Thanks for the encouraging words! Im glad you like it. If you have thoughts to add/rebut etc on any of this stuff Id love to hear about your experiences.

  2. Hi Jesse, good to see another site promoting skimo, it's a great sport!

    I have to comment on your article since you took quite a stab at mine :)

    Firstly, calling something "limited" while it covers way more than just length as you are doing here is misleading.

    And secondly, which is more important, the length you ended up with after experimenting is exactly what I suggest in my "how to choose skimo racing poles" article.
    Therefore, I find it really unfair and untrue to claim that "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."

    I provided very specific formula/advice for anyone to figure out their skimo poles length and for your category that is: "if you are 190cm+ tall (6’ 3” +) buy 145cm and you can either cut them or keep as is"

    For each person I provided the upper limit from which they can cut after experimenting. I am not going to say buy 140, then add an inch if it feels too short.

    I also clearly stated that to figure out the right length "...it will take some time (maybe even few seasons) to find your ideal."

    Absolutely feel free to write anything and have opinion on other sources, but please, don't say things that are not true.

    Thank you ;)


    PS: This is the article if you care to read it again http://www.skintrack.com/skimo-racing/racing-101/how-to-choose-right-length-kind-skimo-racing-poles/

    1. Stano,
      I totally didnt mean to come off like I was dissing you and I can see how you would have taken it that way. Please accept my apologies! I really appreciate your website and am a regular reader.

      Just to clarify for all, the "limited" was not your post, just the limited info available (as in no one else talks about it but you and Im glad you did because Id have been completely in the dark without your advice as a great starting point).

      Second, the advice you give is technically the same as what I was saying, I was just trying to put some numbers other than max pole length out there. The bolts in the head thing was just me knocking myself for being tall and I see how that could have been taken as claiming to paraphrase from your post or the video. Just my poor to middling grasp of the English language at play. Sorry!

      Finally, since I do this as a hobby and have only so much time, I do my best to put out good stuff but know I don't always hit high standards of journalistic excellence. I really appreciate you taking the time to set me straight and doing so in a good-natured way. From across the internet you sure seem like a cool guy both on and off the skintrack!

  3. Hi Jesse,
    No need to apologize but I appreciate that you accepted my constructive criticism ;)

    And I understand that to write a quick post (say a collection of immediate thoughts) can sometimes read way differently than what the author meant to say. That's why these days I take way toooo much time when writing something.

    But I am also a big believer that if it is your/mine website you can say whatever you want. Just need to be fine that commenters can do the same :)