In this blog we encourage, as the great Ron LeMaster used to say, skiing “from the snow up”: the most important movements are with the feet and legs first, and then the rest of the body. But once the skier has good foot/leg work, and their parallel turns are becoming increasingly dynamic and rhythmic, it’s time to introduce the pole usage. And never stop using it. My advice is to practice until it becomes second nature and you no longer need to focus on doing it.
Briefly touching the snow with the pole on the same side of the upcoming turn is very useful anywhere on the mountain, but crucial when skiing short turns, steeps, bumps, or powder. A good pole plant will make your turns both easier and better.
Hands position while skiing
While skiing down the mountain we should be always looking ahead, of course, and our hands should be just inside our field of vision. In other words, we have to see our hands in our peripheral vision. That’s a quite good indication of correct hand position. They shouldn’t be that far ahead, but definitely never down beside our body.
Pole plant action
The pole plant is done predominantly by a “flick of the wrist action”, and little to no lower arm motion. Arms position should be always in front (never arm swinging), but relaxed.
Actually, the pole plant is more of a pole “touch” than sticking the pole in the snow. Pole planting doesn’t need to be over-exaggerated to be effective. A pole plant can be everything from the lightest touch in high-speed GS turns to much more pronounced punches in bumps and steeps. But the pole action is there in almost all cases. It remains a fundamental part of solid ski technique.
Pole plant usage
- Propulsion when skating on flats (poling)
- Balance: it is important to remember that the pole plant is merely an aid to balance. It does not mean that we should support ourselves on the pole itself. We don’t put any weight onto the pole, the pole is just another sensor for us, regarding terrain shape and/or steepness.
- Helps stabilize the upper body
- Helps move forward for the upcoming turn (re-centering)
- Adds control to our skiing
- Rhythm and flow: the pole plant really helps to link the turns together. The pole plant is a timing device to keep a constant rhythm.
- Perform various ski drills
- To avoid running into people in the narrow lift lines (as a brake)
And don’t forget that one of the most important uses of poles is tapping them together immediately before you push off for a killer run. Tapping your poles clicks your mind into very focused committed skier mode.
Pole plant timing
We have to associate the pole plant with the end of the existing turn, not with the start of a new turn. By getting into the mindset of planting early at the end of the turn, we get all the benefits of it.
We have to place the pole into the snow when we start to decrease the edge angle of the turn we are finishing (before the edge change).
I like to think of the pole plant as kind of the first movement to prepare to start a new turn, but it actually occurs at the end of the previous turn. That’s the most efficient way.
We could think of the pole plant as a signal to start to move our body weight to the new turn.
Marcel Hirscher at 2017 Kitzbühel (AUS) Slalom pole planting way before edge change
Alice Robinson pole planting at 2022 Kranjska Gora (SLO) Giant Slalom
Pole plant placement
As a general rule, the pole is planted on an area towards the front of the ski (between the binding and the ski tip). But in short turns and in the steeps, the pole will be planted in a direction more towards the valley (straight downhill). Take a look at the image bellow.
See you on the slopes!
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