Ski poles are one of the most important — and often most overlooked — winter sport accessories out there.
Here at RAVE Reviews, we have one pair in particular that we recommend, hands down: the G3 Carbon Via Adjustable Ski Poles. They are lightweight, collapsible, multi-purpose, and best of all, crazy durable. And we actually recommend nine additional ski poles, too — so hold on, it’s going to be a fun ride!
Going skiing? Let’s take a quick inventory of your gear. Skis? Check. Gloves? Check. Ski poles? Uhhh… If you have always assumed that ski poles are an accessory reserved for the pros, you’re not alone! It’s a common misconception. But ski poles are for everyone.
Ski poles provide a crucial boost to your overall performance. They keep you balanced, give you faster turn response, and position your body into active alignment. Trust us, after you find a pair of good ski poles, you’ll never hit the slopes again without them.
Here at RAVE, we put in some solid research hours to find the 10 best ski poles for your next ski trip. Some of them are for the hard-core backcountry powder maniacs among you, and others are more utilitarian and multi-purpose in their design. But what they all have in common is a destiny for adventure.
Buying a pair of ski poles can’t be that involved, right? To a lot of people, it might seem that way. After all, they are a pretty unassuming accessory in your overall skiing get-up. But once you dive into the uses, features, and ranges of ski poles available out there, you’ll quickly realize that you have more to consider in the process besides which ones “look cool.”
Of course, aesthetics are important, but there’s a lot more to it. Below, we’ll walk you through some of the other helpful — and crucial — steps to take to pick out ski poles that will become your new best friends on the mountain.
Components of the Ski Pole
First things first: the basics. What are the key components of a ski pole? The actual structure isn’t that complicated, and is composed of four major parts:
Unbeknownst to many people, the debate over ski pole straps is a hot one! The strap on a ski pole serves a dual purpose. One, straps aid with building momentum. They give extra support and a push-off base for your wrists. Two, they keep your poles from falling or slipping.
This second point, however, is controversial. To some skiers, the strap can actually be dangerous in certain situations. If you are literally leashed to your pole, you run the risk of getting yanked down if your pole gets caught in debris, potentially leading to injury.
It’s hard to come down hard and fast on whether or not straps are worth it in the end — that decision is up to you. Most, if not all, modern ski poles come with straps, and many offer at least the option to remove them per your preference.
At the top of your ski poles, you’ll find the grips, most of which are ergonomically designed to fit your hand comfortably. Ski pole grips are typically constructed out of synthetic plastic, rubber, or cork. You’ll notice that grips are smaller on freestyle ski poles, mostly to make it easier for skiers to do fancy grabs.
The pole itself is the main event. Ski poles are constructed out of a variety of materials. Here are the three most common:
- Aluminum: This trusty material is tough and cheap. You’ll typically find aluminum shafts on beginner ski poles. While it is durable, aluminum tends to be heavier than other materials.
- Composite: This catch-all category is for ski poles made out of a variety of materials — fiberglass, resin, bamboo, you name it. While composite poles tend to be more flexible (and longer-lasting), they can be even heavier than aluminum.
- Carbon fiber: You’ll find carbon fiber on higher-end ski poles. This material is lightweight, shock-absorbent, and tough as hell. The only downside is that carbon fiber tends to be more expensive.
At the bottom of the ski pole, there is a small disc called a basket. The basket is a crucial element that keeps your pole from sinking straight down into the snow. Baskets vary in size and diameter, and you’ll find that higher-end baskets are slightly larger, but still lightweight.
Using Ski Poles
If you’re going to bring two extra items with you on your skiing adventure, you should know how to use them! So what are the best ways to use your ski poles?
Gripping the Poles
First of all, you need to know how to hold your poles properly. Some people slide into the strap from above, but that’s actually not the best way — it can lead to a wrist or thumb injury if your pole gets caught. Instead, slip your hand into the strap from below, so the strap is against your palm, offsetting some of your weight and preventing injury.
Pushing Off, Balancing, and Turning
Next, you can use one or both of your skis to push off the ground and start moving. Put the skis in front of your body and pull yourself through.
Once you have some momentum, your skis will provide balance overall (think guardrails or bumpers on a bowling alley) and as you make turns. Finding the right rhythm and timing in a pole-assisted turn can be tricky, but you’ll get the hang of it.
Basically, lightly plant your ski pole in the snow as you make your turn. It’s a way to give you balance and also improve the accuracy of the turn. Think about a rope connecting your belly button to the tip of your ski pole. With every plant, the center of your mass moves with it. As logic implies, use your left pole for a left turn, and your right pole for a right turn.
What to Avoid
Also important: what not to do with your ski poles. Never try to stop yourself using just your poles. Some people try to plant their poles in the ground to slow down, which can easily cause injury.
Our methodology to find the best ski poles on the market took a multifaceted approach. After all, there are a lot of options. Our data considered both tangible, objective elements as well as the more elusive, subjective elements. Here’s a closer look at how we came up with our top 10 best ski poles:
- Reputation: We started by taking inventory of ski poles that are commonly praised and used among the intended community: ski pros and outdoor enthusiasts.
- Consumer and Product Reviews: What are consumers saying about these products? How do they perform in the real world?
- Durability: We considered the types of materials used for these products. Are they constructed well? How long do they last?
- Weight: We favored ski poles that won’t weigh you down on the mountain. You want a pair of poles that will help you go faster, not slow you down.
- Adjustability: A ski pole is only as good as how well it fits. We placed value on ski poles that are customizable or adjustable.
- Price range: While we never penalized a pair of ski poles for costing more than the next pair, we tried to answer a crucial question: Does the price match the product?
The Best Ski Poles
G3 Via Carbon
The G3 Via Carbon Adjustable Ski Poles top our list of the best ski poles for their stand-out versatility, durability, adjustability, and overall style. While they were originally made for backcountry skiing, you can use the G3 Via Carbon poles for spring and summer hiking, too.
In fact, most of the features on these ski poles were designed with dual-purpose in mind. For instance, the basket is an asymmetrical powder basket (to help reduce drag and snow build-up), but these poles also come with extra hiking-specific baskets.
Plus, the grip comes in two different designs. One is an ergonomically shaped dual density plastic, and the other is a more basic and lightweight grip specifically for side-hill skiing. And, the strong and durable carbide tip is a beast on both ice and rock. To top it all off, these ski poles are constructed out of lightweight carbon fiber.
- Versatile and adjustable
- Strong carbon fiber shaft
- Multiple baskets and grips
- Strap is stiff and bulky
Leki Spitfire S
A high-end ski pole for winter sports nuts who want to go off the beaten track, the Leki Spitfire S will be a close companion no matter how deep the powder is. One of the most unique features of this pole is its grip design.
The Spitfire S uses a Pro G grip, which is a slimmed-down, extra cushy surface to boost control. Even more, this pole uses the trademarked Trigger S system, which is made for quick release of the straps. Conversely, it also lends itself to an easy click-in attachment. The straps themselves are expertly designed with full 360-degree coverage.
The Leki Spitfire S comes with two different baskets — the Cobra Alpin and the Big Mountain. Neither requires any tools to swap out. The Cobra is great for skiing on regular slopes, while the Big Mountain lives up to its name and is ideal for backcountry adventuring.
- Pro G extra soft grip
- Two different powder baskets
- Go Pro can be attached to grip
- Aluminum shaft material
- Shaft is not adjustable
Atomic Backland FR
A ski pole designed by ski legend Chris Benchetler, the Atomic Backland FR poles are built for some serious touring. If you want to freestyle and explore in the same day, one huge plus is that these poles are easily adjustable. You can switch them from 110 centimeters to 135 centimeters in one quick move with the trusty power lock system.
The shaft uses a 7075 aluminum alloy pole technology that yields durable results but still gives you ultimate tensile capabilities. At the bottom of your Atomic Backland FR poles, you’ll find 97-millimeter powder baskets, which are ideal for backcountry freeskiing. The grip is a rounded Atomic FR design.
Want to know the coolest feature on these poles? Embedded inside the shaft, you’ll find a tiny, 9-millimeter Phillips screwdriver. This tool will come in handy when you’re up on the mountain and want to adjust your ski bindings.
- Quickly adjustable
- Embedded screwdriver in shaft
- Grip is larger than most
- Ideal for experts
Salomon MTN Carbon S3
The Salomon MTN Carbon S3 could easily become the backcountry skier’s next best friend. It has all the qualities you need for unknown terrain: a carbon shaft, super-comfy grip, adjustable settings, an auto-release safety strap, and more. Let’s dive in.
First of all, this pole uses the highest quality material out there: carbon fiber with kevlar reinforcement. The shaft is lightweight with easily adjustable settings. The grip is made out of a foam and rubber fusion and extends nearly double the length down the pole for steeper trekking. The S3 safety strap is designed to automatically detach in the event of an avalanche or crash.
Another great feature of the Salomon MTN Carbon S3 is the articulated baskets. The baskets aren’t fixed, they rotate to match the surface. So if you’re on a steep slope, these baskets give you maximum surface area to launch forward.
- Articulated baskets
- Soft and extended grip
- Durable carbon fiber shaft
- Most expensive on list ($148)
- Strap release isn’t consistent
Volkl Phantastick 2
The Volkl Phantastick 2 ski poles will certainly catch your eye… and those of others on the slopes, regardless of your skiing abilities. These bright orange ski poles make a great first impression. Aesthetics aside, the Volkl Phantastick 2 also makes a good impression in performance.
In some ways, the Volkl Phantastick 2 keeps things classic. The shaft is made out of fixed length 18-millimeter aluminum alloy, which is durable and lightweight. In addition to the original baskets, these also come with a set of powder baskets.
The Phantastick 2 stands out for its unique grip design. This Soft Touch clear grip includes five finger grooves intended for easy fit and heightened control, which is great for folks who fit the grip. But for skiers with smaller hands, it can be a deal-breaker. Overall, this pole is an attractive option that will keep you steady on the mountain.
- Bright, attractive exterior
- Extra set of powder baskets
- Extremely affordable ($59)
- Grip isn’t for small hands
- No adjustable shaft
Black Diamond Expedition 3
Advertised as a ski pole for “four-season use,” the Black Diamond Expedition 3 lives up to its reputation. Whether you are a skier or a hiker (or both!) the Black Diamond Expedition 3 delivers adjustability, portability, and versatility.
Users of the Expedition 3 poles are most excited about its easily compatible qualities. The aluminum shaft is constructed in three segments which collapse to a portable 25 inches. The foam grip extends almost fully down the first section for more versatile use.
The best feature on the Expedition 3 — its adjustable shaft — is also where it picks up some flack. Some customers report that while the Dual FlickLock system is reliable, you have to reset your poles a few times throughout the day. But overall, this product is a huge crowd-pleaser.
- Three-section adjustability
- Extended foam grip
- Powder and trekking baskets
- Snow easily sticks to the grip
- Baskets are hard to put on
- Shaft needs to be reset
Line Pollard’s Paintbrush
As the name implies, Pollard’s Paintbrush by Line is the mastermind project of freeskier pro, Eric Pollard. He designed this ski pole with optimal skiing ability in mind. As such, this is a ski pole made by a skier, for skiers — the little features on the Paintbrush poles make it obvious.
For example, Pollard included what he calls a “Screw it All!” tip on the pole grip that lets you adjust your ski bindings without the hoopla of taking off your gloves. Another sweet feature, the BMX-style grips are slim and stylish.
The aluminum shaft is adjustable with a 30-centimeter range of extension or retraction. You’ll find two Screw Off baskets with the Pollard’s Paintbrush, one at 60 millimeters and another at 95 millimeters. Overall, this trusty pair of poles is ideal for alpine and backcountry exploration.
- Slim BMX-style grips
- Screw it All! tip
- 30-centimeter range
- White poles easily lost
- Baskets may break easily
- No quick-release straps
Black Diamond Razor Carbon Pro
Black Diamond is a beast in all things snow sports, and it brings the “beast mode” to the Razor Carbon Pro ski poles. Unique to these poles, the Razor Carbon Pro uses hybrid materials for its adjustable segments. The upper is lightweight aluminum, while the lower is a carbon fiber segment, balancing each other out perfectly.
The gateway between the two segments is a strong FlickLock Pro system that makes adjustments easy and fast. Up at the grip, you’ll find a brilliant one-touch SwitchRelease technology (also lockable) that will prevent you from injuring your wrists in a tumble.
The Razor Carbon Pro pleases both backcountry riders and touring junkies. In the upper shaft just below the grip, there is a Soft Touch coating, which works great for skiers who need to quickly choke-up on the pole in steeper terrain.
- Aluminum upper, carbon lower
- SwitchRelease on straps
- Soft Touch grip for touring
- FlickLock latches may snag
- Strap adjustments not lockable
- Strap placement is awkward
Rossignol Stove Pipe
The Rossignol Stove Pipe ski poles are first on our list for their most shining feature: affordability. You can purchase these ski poles for less than $40 (and even less at select outlets). But the Stove Pipe ski poles still hold their ground in overall quality performance.
These poles don’t go out of their way to unveil groundbreaking grip technology or out-there shaft designs. Rather, the Rossignol Stove Pipe does classic elements extra well. The fixed-length shaft is made out of 18-millimeter dural aluminum. It’s a winner in lightweight categories at just 8.6 ounces per pole.
The grip on these ski poles is ergonomically designed and uses a hybrid bi-material for a firm hold. Some customers complain about the nylon straps — mostly that they are not very comfortable. But for the price of these poles, a slightly bulky strap is an acceptable trade-off.
- Most affordable on list ($39.95)
- Great for beginner skiers
- Ergonomic grip
- Shaft may break easily
- Straps loosen easily
- Complaints about strap comfort
Grass Sticks Original Custom
A fully unique product that does not resemble any others on this list, the Grass Sticks Original Custom uses a natural material that actually holds up to its metal counterparts: bamboo! This eco-friendly ski pole works surprisingly well out on the slopes. Bamboo has the strength of steel but with enough flexibility so that it won’t snap.
The grip on the Grass Sticks pole is made out of rubber and includes a recycled polyester strap. You can choose between a fixed-length strap or an adjustable buckle strap. You also have options when it comes to the basket, which you can customize by color, size, and type. The baskets are also easy on/off with just one screw.
Don’t let naysayers convince you otherwise — these Grass Sticks bamboo poles will do the trick for your skiing adventures. While they don’t have the bells and whistles of adjustability and quick release technology, they are both sustainable and functional.
- Eco-friendly bamboo shaft
- Customizable basket and grip
- Lightweight material
- Shaft not adjustable
- Straps do not release
- Higher flex
Is there a difference between men’s and women’s ski poles?
While there are technically ski poles marketed specifically to men and women, most ski poles work just fine for either. Some women’s ski poles have smaller grips (for women’s dainty little hands? Excuse my eyerolling) but, in general, the sizing is comparable for both men’s and women’s poles. Ultimately, you should choose a pair that fits you well.
How should you get fitted for ski poles?
Ski poles aren’t one-size-fits-all products. Make sure you buy a pair that actually fits you! Adjustable ski poles are easier to fit, since you can do some of the fine-tuning yourself. But for fixed-length poles, here are a few tips on how to size them.
First, put on your ski boots (or at least a pair of shoes). Flip your ski poles upside down. Hold the poles so your hands are just below the basket, with your thumbs coming up against the basket. If the pole is fitted correctly to your height, your elbows should be at a 90-degree angle.
Most ski poles offer a few different size options. Find one that works for you! Your shoulders will thank you after a long day of skiing.
Which type of ski pole is better, fixed length or adjustable?
Ah, the age-old debate of the adjustable ski pole. Just kidding, it’s not that controversial. When it comes to deciding between a fixed length or adjustable pole, the short answer is… it’s totally up to you. However, there are some pros and cons to each system.
Adjustable ski poles allow you to customize the fit. Even in one skiing session, you might want higher or lower pole settings depending on your terrain. And the fact that they can compact down to a smaller size helps with packing and the overall unwieldy task of carrying around sticks.
Fixed length ski poles, on the other hand, cannot be adjusted. Some say that fixed-length poles are sturdier and more reliable — there’s just less potential for the mechanics of the pole to break.
If you’re searching specifically for adjustable ski poles, here are six options from our list:
- G3 Via Carbon Adjustable
- Atomic Backland FR
- Salomon MTN Carbon S3
- Black Diamond Expedition 3
- Line Pollard’s Paintbrush
- Black Diamond Razor Carbon Pro
What if my ski poles break? Is there a warranty?
One inescapable hazard of skiing is that ski poles break! It just happens sometimes. You take a turn too fast, clip a tree going downhill, or take a tough spill and *crack*! There goes your ski pole.
There’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news is that most ski poles have at least a 1-year warranty. The bad news, however, is that these warranties don’t always cover everything.
For example, if your FlickLock latch pops off your adjustable ski poles, you should be covered for a replacement. However, if you take a tumble and your aluminum pole gets dinged up on a tree, it’s unlikely to be covered. Just make sure to read the fine print and know exactly what is covered in your warranty.
What are the best ski poles?
There you have it! We collated 10 of the best ski poles on the market and ultimately chose the G3 Via Carbon Adjustable Ski Poles as the best of the best. The other nine options are still amazing products.
If you want to filter your search to specific materials, here’s a breakdown of which ones are constructed out of aluminum alloy versus carbon fiber:
- Leki Spitfire S
- Rossignol Stove Pipe
- Atomic Backland FR
- Volkl Phantastick 2
- Black Diamond Expedition 3
- Line Pollard’s Paintbrush
Carbon Fiber Poles:
- G3 Via Carbon Adjustable
- Salomon MTN Carbon S3
- Black Diamond Razor Carbon Pro
Ski poles aren’t the only thing you need for your next backcountry skiing trip. Check out a few more products that we can’t stop raving about:
- SWIX Biodegradable Ski Wax ($17): This temperature-targeted wax is perfect for alpine, Nordic, and freeride skiing. The best part is that it’s super environmentally friendly.
- OutdoorMaster OTG Ski Goggles ($19): Protect your eyes and look stylin’ doing it with these over-the-glasses ski goggles. You’ll be UV protected, and you can fit these goggles on any helmet.
- PROBAR Bolt Organic Energy Chews ($21): A great on-the-go energy bump, these chews are dialed in to give you maximum power. They pack away easily in a coat pocket or day bag.