For many skiers, ski poles are the most misunderstood and underestimated pieces of equipment. But as humble as they are, it’s hard not to admire their utility.
Ski poles are a versatile addition to your arsenal of ski gear, and despite the common perception, a ski pole isn’t meant to be a source of propulsion across the flats or into the lift lines.
Instead, a good ski pole generates rhythm and timing when skiing, especially in moguls and tight areas. The poles also add the much-needed balance to your runs and provide you with extra stability, regardless of where you like to ride, and can truly make you a better skier.
While ski poles may not seem necessary to a beginner, they’re incredibly vital both on-piste and out in the backcountry. They’re particularly vital in small radius turns and when skiing steeps.
For the seasoned skiers having a good pair of ski poles will offer an occasional supplement to a polished skiing technique.
But with a gamut of ski pole options in the market, choosing the right pole for you can be a challenge.
Fortunately, we’ve scoured the internet to come up with a list of the best ski poles out there. We shall also share with you a buying guide to help with the purchase process.
Table of Contents
The Best Ski Poles For The Money
#1 Salomon MTN Carbon S3 - EDITOR'S CHOICE
The Salomon MTN fits the bill for a lightweight, easy to use and practical ski pole.
It’s our favorite option, and we’re sure you’ll love it from the word go.
At first glance, the Salomon seems like the complete package sporting a simple adjustment system and durable carbon construction.
But is it the right option for you?
Features and Benefits
After several seasons of using the S3, you’ll be pleased with the pole’s durability, thanks to the sturdy carbon construction.
Whether you need to toss the pole into your car’s full trunk, strap them on your back to boot the terrain, or exert pressure when getting both up and down the mountains, you’ll not have any need to replace anything on the S3.
Also, at a combined weight of 538 grams, the S3 pair is not the lightest, but you’ll hardly feel it because they’re well balanced, so you won’t have to worry about fatigue.
The bulkiness is also a plus on the hard and refrozen snow as they inspire more confidence, letting you feel more glued to the snow.
Need a ski pole for out-of-bound use?
Not a problem with the S3.
The S3’s external locking system allows you to adjust the pole’s length, so it’s easy to compress the pole’s length for uphill maneuvers or easy stowing and extend the length when navigating downhill.
The greatest disadvantage of telescoping poles is the failure to hold or the possibility of unexpectedly collapsing when planted but not an issue with the S3.
The locking system is safe and secure, and you don’t have to wrestle changing the length, only for it to get knocked out of position later.
The S3’s rubber and foam grip are comfortable and grippy enough to let you ditch your gloves during the warm sunny days.
The S3’s extended grips are double the traditional grips’ size, so you can always drop your hands to the rubber section when the track becomes steeper for greater efficiency.
Articulated BC Baskets
Now into the meat and potatoes of the pole, the S3 features innovative articulated baskets that rotate to match the slope of the ground.
The baskets are challenging to use at first, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll appreciate how they effectively reduce slippage and increase security on a slope, especially when steep skinning.
Safety straps are necessary to ensure the pole stays attached to your arm if you slip or let go.
But if your pole gets stuck by debris under the snow and with the momentum and force of skiing, it’s easy to injure your arm.
Fortunately, the S3 overcomes this challenge by utilizing a safety strap that automatically releases a slide or forceful crash.
In theory, the safety strap gives you the security of your pole in the backcountry yet gives you the ability to release the pole when necessary—double win.
#2 Black Diamond Expedition 3 Ski Poles - Best for Splitboarders and Mountaineers
Black Diamond is a great option for mountaineers who value durability over packability and low weight.
It’s a fantastic workhorse suited for skiers who need a pole that balanced portability, sturdiness, and weight.
Features and Benefits
In general, three-section poles are less durable than the single piece or two-piece poles and are prone to snapping.
With Expedition 3, we didn’t encounter any of that, and I guess it’s because of the solid aluminum construction and quality craftsmanship.
Like any other aluminum-made pole, we were also concerned with not extending Expedition 3 quickly because of the kinks and bends. It’s not a problem either for this pole and while it can’t match the flexibility of the Salomon, it’s not too rigid and doesn’t risk snapping.
When it comes to the weight, the Expedition 3 isn’t the lightest, though not the heaviest. At 19 ounce per pair, it’s roughly the average pole’s weight, and swaying the pole forward shouldn’t be fatiguing.
The weight is only a deal-breaker when working your way through tight, steep turns.
The Expedition 3 has—you guessed it—three adjustable sections, offering an extensive range of usable length.
But is the 70cm+ adjustability necessary in a pole? Not exactly, but it can be nice for several scenarios.
Users find it quite useful to have the option to max the pole when skating out for the flats or simply to push.
On the other hand, the shrunk length is necessary when going downhill.
Either way, the adjustable length gives you greater possibilities for using Expedition 3 in different scenarios.
Our concern with the adjustability of the Expedition 3 is the collapsible length. It collapses at a length of 62 cm, far greater than what daypacks can accommodate.
While you’ve the option of strapping the pole on your backpack, it often gets snagged, especially in the rough backcountry terrain.
By opting to use foam for the grip primarily, the folks at Black Diamond have shaved a significant amount of weight for each pole.
The foam also helps extend the overall comfort, allowing skiers to hold onto the pole for extended periods without feeling fatigued.
This is not to mention it’s grippy, and though it absorbs some moisture, the foam makes it easier to grab and hold onto the pole even if the handle feels slippery.
#3 Backcountry Access Scepter Carbon/Alum Ski Poles
If you’re in the market for an affordable, adjustable, and reliable ski pole, the BCA Scepter makes the best choice out there.
While I’m not a huge fan of the sprayed texture grip, the presence of a scraper makes the compromise worth it.
Features and Benefits
I’m not particularly gentle on my gear, and I generally go by the “tools, not jewels” mentality regarding equipment.
With the BC Scepter, a cold-blooded use doesn’t do much of any harm. The carbon pole has natural flex under lighter pressure and didn’t break even when skiing in the obstacle-filled terrain.
Along with the durability, the pole is lightweight, with the Scepter titling the weight at 235 g per pole. Though not ultra-light, the well-balanced design makes it easier to swing the pole with ease when performing tricks.
Additionally, you’ll hardly feel the weight of the pole when stowed into your backpack, so it won’t fatigue you even when carrying it for extended periods.
As I mentioned in the introduction, BC Scepter uses grippy spray on the upper shat instead of a choke-up grip. Think of a low grit skateboard grip tape.
While the spray grip saves on the overall weight and seems innovative, it wears out fast, rendering the pole unusable without gloves or when slippery.
The Scepter greatest draw is the scraper grip.
See, if you’ve skied in deep snow, you already know the snow stuck is the greatest weight addition.
This isn’t a problem anymore with the Scepter.
The ski pole comes complete with a scraper grip, so when skinning, it’s easy to flip over the skis and remove what feels like pounds of snow.
I also love the scraper grip as it helps me preserve my ski’s top sheet, as I tend to tap the skip tip with my pole to remove snow, which has left a few dings and dents. The scraper easily removes the snow without the need for banging your skis.
Another awesome use of the scraper is palming down on it while skinning. The scrapers offer a comfortable and stable platform for skinning, hard to achieve with the traditional poles.
#4 G3 Via Carbon - Best Backcountry Ski
While G3 might not have the brand recognition like some of the manufacturers on our list, it’s reliability in backcountry skiing can’t be matched.
A testimony to this is the G3 VIA Carbon, one of the best ski and mountaineering ski poles.
Features and Benefits
The VIA Carbon is built to last, with the solid carbon construction allowing the pole to take on the rugged terrain head-on.
From the reviews, the VIA Carbon doesn’t suffer any reliability issues, and you’ll feel confident making the high-impact pole plants or even banging the snow off your skis.
The carbon construction also helps with the weight and tilting the weight at 500 grams; you’ll have no difficulty swinging the pole. You’ll also at no time feel the pole is sluggish to swing even when making the turns.
Ease of Use
The VIA Carbon is easy to use, with an ergonomic grip along with a small hook over the forefinger, helping the pole stay locked in your hands even during the wildest descents.
Plus, the grip features an excellent contour that fits most hand sizes.
The ability to adjust my ski is not a feature I use much while skiing, but when I do, it’s critical the pole adjusts easily and holds easily to the locked position.
The G3’s QuickLock clamp works reliably, with the need for clamping force.
Additionally, the pole gives up to 35 cm of range, letting you go as low as 110 cm for tele runs and 145 cm when skating across the flats and needing extra momentum.
The greatest issue with the VIA Carbon is portability.
With its two-section telescoping design and 12 inches of length adjustment, this ski pole doesn’t pack small, and when fully collapsed, it doesn’t fit into a backpack and can’t be used for split boarding.
The ingenious G3 basket, consisting of six plastic leaves alternating long and short, offers a larger surface area for floatation in fluff.
Additionally, the short fingers let you climb with greater authority, especially when side-hilling.
#5 Leki Tour Stick Vario Carbon - Versatile Option
The Leki Tour Carbon Pole hosts a plethora of great features and offers a solid performance.
While it might not exactly offer a quick way to transition from skinning mode to riding mode, it has everything you would need for a fulfilling skiing experience.
But is it the right ski pole for you?
Features and Benefits
After several seasons of use, you’ll hardly encounter any durability issues with the Tour Stick, and you’ll not need to replace anything from the pole.
It’s largely because of the aluminum/carbon shaft design, offering the possibility of hard use without the possibility of breaking.
Away from the durability, Tour Stick is a cinch to use, pulling down to a measly 42 cm. It’s a fantastic feature for split boarding, allowing you to collapse the pole and strap it onto your backpack for a descent.
While the pole isn’t the most slender, it doesn’t stick out from the side of most daypacks.
Ease of Use
Along with the collapsing design, Tour Stick features a z-style construction, collapsing and extending like a tent pole.
A simple lever lock helps with the control, allowing the easy and fast release of the different shaft sections.
When it comes to the grip, you’ll love how it’s ergonomically contoured, fitting most of the hand size for a comfortable and less fatiguing grip.
On the other hand, the foam extends down from the main grip to form a secondary grip, perfect for traversing and side-hilling. It also comes with an oversized and rounded top, perfect for pushing down from above when climbing.
Using the Tour Stick is a delight, as it’s comfortably contoured, and the large handles fit most of the hand sizes.
The foam is equally soft and a joy to gold even with bare hands.
While it might be a bit expensive, it’s a total package, and for the price, you get a sturdy carbon pole with a fantastic grip.
Best Ski Poles Buying Guide
In this guide below, we shall share some of the essential tips to consider when making a ski pole purchase.
But before I share the tips with you, let’s first look at the different types of ski poles in the market.
Different Types of Ski Poles
To keep it grossly simple, ski poles come in three different forms, which include;
General Use Poles
These poles feature small, standard baskets, and as their name suggests, they’re all-around options, though most suited on the groomers and in the moguls.
If you’re a recreational skier, chances are the general use poles are fine for you.
Race poles feature an asymmetrical design and come with a shield to protect your hands from race gates.
Though the race poles are cool, they’re expensive and not worth the average skier’s purchase.
Powder poles are designed from lighter materials such as carbon fiber and are suitable for backcountry touring.
The powder poles are less likely to sink into the snow because they come with large baskets for floatation.
Features to Consider when Selecting the Best Ski Pole
Ski poles are made from different materials, choosing material to determine the durability and riding style.
The three main materials used for constructing ski poles are:
The carbon fiber pole is common because the material is both strong and lightweight. It’s particularly a great option for backcountry skiing.
The carbon pole is flexible, so they can bend almost entirely and snap back into normality.
They’re expensive, though.
Aluminum is yet another popular pole material and often preferred for its lightness, strength, and affordability.
They make for good beginner ski pole options.
However, they’re quite rigid, meaning they can bend and snap, making them less durable.
Our last option, the bamboo poles are strong and can withstand the different conditions and terrains. They’re slightly heavier than the metal poles but extremely difficult to break or bend.
Baskets on a ski pole refer to the circular ring at the end of the pole.
They’re critical to the pole’s functionality as they prevent the pole from slipping directly into the snow.
The baskets offer a large surface area for you to plant your pole, thus creating both balance and propulsion.
Baskets are interchangeable, which is nice because you can change their size depending on snow level.
The grips on a ski pole are the top part of the pole where you place your hand.
Normally, grips are made from a softer material than the pole itself, so you can grip the pole all day without any discomfort.
Additionally, the grip materials don’t absorb moisture, and some are ingrained with components to add to the overall grippiness.
The straps ensure your pole stays attached to your hand in case you fall, slip, or let go.
They’re normally affixed to the top portion of the skip pole and are typically a nylon fabric with a loop for your wrist to pass through.
Some ski poles come with a telescoping design allowing adjustment to different lengths.
It’s a desired option because it allows you to change the ski’s length for different situations.
The adjustable ski poles are also perfect for kids because the pole’s length “grows” with them.
However, if you choose an adjustable ski pole, ensure it comes with a high-quality locking mechanism to keep the pole securely locked in the desired height.
Gender is also crucial when considering a pair of ski poles.
For instance, Poles for women are shorter and slimmer and come with smaller grips made for the smaller hand.
On the other hand, the ski poles for men are long and tend to be bulky.
There’re also ski poles made for kids, and this comes with shorter lengths and has smaller grips to it the kid’s hands.
The correct size of a ski pole depends on your height.
To determine the correct height, flip the pole upside down and hold it by the tip.
If your arm is elevated less than 90 degrees, then the pole is long for you and will result in discomfort.
However, if your arm is perpendicular to the ground or elevated slightly than 90 degrees, then it’s the right size for you.
All poles might look similar to the inexperienced eye, but each pole is designed for a specific use.
For instance, the all-mountain poles are an all-around solution suitable for any user, regardless of age, gender, or expertise.
The freestyle poles are shorter than the all-mountain poles and are popular for their flexibility. They’re ideal for seasoned skiers who need greater maneuverability.
Wrap Up: Our Choice
It’s hard for a ski pole to stand out from the market, but after our comprehensive review, it’s not a surprise the Salomon MTN Carbon S3 is our editor’s choice.
It’s our favorite option, and we would recommend the Salomon for its practicality, ease of use, and value for money.
The sturdy carbon construction enhances the overall durability, while the ergonomic grip and handles make the pole a joy to use.
It’s not expensive either, and considering all it has to offer, I bet you’ll also love the Salomon MTN Carbon S3.