- Ski pole
Ski poles (sometimes called "stocks") are used by skiers to improve balance, speed and acceleration. They probably evolved from
walking sticks carried while travelingFact|date=March 2007, and possibly from spears as wellFact|date=March 2007.
In the days before turning techniques had been properly developed, one long pole was normally used on sloping ground. The skier would lean or sit on the pole in order to increase friction with the ground, so slowing or stopping.
In modern skiing one pole is held in each hand, and each pole has a circular "basket" attached close to the lower end to prevent the pole sinking significantly into deep snow. At the upper end of the pole a strap is attached, which is normally slipped over the wrist to prevent the loss of the pole in the event of a fall. When skiing the backcountry (off piste) in trees, the wrist strap is not normally used, since there is a risk of wrist injury if the pole should catch on an unseen branch or root. You can also ski without poles as some freestyle skiers do.
Cross-country and Alpine ski poles
When used in
cross-country skiing, poles enable the user to gain more speed than by using the skis alone, as well as offering improved balance.
Alpine skiers sometimes use poles as well. While they serve the same purposes as they do in cross-country, they can also help with the timing of the more advanced ski turns. By making contact with the ground between each turn in a process known as "pole planting", Alpine skiers are given greater stability as they move their mass down the hill, creating more acceleration and a tighter turning radius, but more force can be efficiently channeled down the arms onto the legs to allow for use of hands while skiing.
A ski pole is the correct length for Alpine skiing if, when placed tip to the ground at rest, the skiers elbow forms a
right angle. Longer poles are used for cross-country to enable a longer thrust. Poles used for ski touringmay be telescopic, so that they may be adjusted to suit snow conditions or the steepness of the slope.
Some racers in the high speed skiing disciplines (
Giant Slalom, Super Giant Slalom, downhill, speed skiing) use curved poles that are bent to shape around their bodies while they are in a tuckposition, in order to minimize air drag. Ski jumpingand skiboardingare the only varieties of skiing in which no poles are used.Ski poles were first used to test the snow you would be skiing over. That way you could get a rough mental picture of what you were skiing over. Now ski poles should be used as a timing device not for balance.
Ski poles are a crucial piece of equipment. For average skiers cheap metal poles are often sufficient. More advanced or specialized skiers can benefit from more technologically advanced materials. Poles made of carbon fiber, for instance, are very light and durable.
There are also more convenient alternatives to the traditional wrist strap - for instance "trigger" mechanisms that will come off in case of a crash to avoid injury.
There is some debate about what styles of poles should be allowed. Swedish skier
Gunde Svanadded more fuel to the debate by introducing the unipole. During summer training, he sat in a canoeand paddled upstream using two paddles. When he became tired, he switched to just one paddle and found that it was much easier, so he tested skiing using a single long pole. At the 1985 World Championships, he brought his homemade unipole and used it on a training day. Later the same day, the unipole was banned.
*In historic times the Finnish hunters and warriors used long ski poles that were also spears - there was a spearhead on the upper end of the pole.
*Skiing and skiing topics
History of skiing
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