The Best Ski Poles in 2021

Ski poles. Even if you already know a lot about poles, the options still seem endless: do you need poles that connect directly to your ski gloves? Should you go for some really lightweight carbon poles or would aluminum poles be a better fit? Maybe small features like a hook on the grip that can easily leverage the buckles of your ski boots are a must-have.

It is enough to make anyone want to chuck off their ski helmet in frustration. But don’t worry – we have your back! We have laid it all out for you with a breakdown of the pros and cons of some of the various top poles on the market complete with a buying guide to help you find the best ski poles with ease. Take a look!

black diamond compactor ski poles
  • Material: full aluminim
  • Shaft width: 18mm, 3 sections
  • Weight: 1.3 lbs (pair)
  • Baskets: ¾ powder
  • Type: backcountry
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These poles live up to their name and can be collapsed into 3 sections of aluminum shaft making them only 16.3 inches long – small enough to fit in your touring backpack. The Flicklock Pro adjustment system provides 8 inches of length adjustability and is recognized as the best locking system in the industry, providing the most hold and stability. The Efficient Series grip and strap help keep these poles lightweight but are still very comfortable.

Most importantly, you won’t have to fuss around trying to get them assembled: they feature a rubber-coated metal cable that connects the 3 sections and is specially cone-shaped to make assembly fast and convenient. After a given amount of use the cable can become somewhat stretched out, but the tension can easily be adjusted as needed. The baskets are ¾ meaning that they provide great function while being much more packable than a full basket would be.

The one downside is that the powder baskets must be occasionally realigned as the lower 2 segments of the poles can rotate slightly while skiing. All in all, the Black Diamond Compactor’s are exceptionally compact stable poles that will serve any backcountry skier, splitboarder or hiker well.

Pros:
  • very compact when collapsed
  • great stability
  • versatile for all-season use
Cons:
  • cable needs tension adjustment
  • lower 2 pole segments can rotate

Leki Stealth S Ski Poles

The Best Quick Release Aluminum Poles

leki stealth s ski poles
  • Material: full aluminim
  • Shaft width: 16mm
  • Weight: 1.2 lbs (pair)
  • Baskets: powder – exchangeable
  • Type: downhill (+ backcountry)
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These poles are a great option for the all-mountain skier: tough enough for the resort, but lightweight enough for the backcountry. They have a robust construction which is fully aluminum meaning that they will bend on high impact rather than break or splinter like a carbon pole. The ergonomic grips have 4 finger grooves, providing a comfortable and natural feel. The baskets are relatively large, designed for powder, and can be easily changed – tool-free! The carbide tips are also very durable and ensure a secure pole plant even on hard-packed snow and ice.

The Stealth S’s feature Leki’s unique strap system, the Leki Trigger S, in which the strap can easily and quickly be disconnected and reconnected to the pole. This feature allows your straps to stay perfectly fitted on your hands while you quickly disconnect from your poles to adjust a ski boot, grab your lift ticket or anything else. While you might not actually save a noticeable amount of time, it is very convenient! If you love the system you can also buy ski gloves designed to directly integrate with the pole – no actual strap necessary! – or if you are not a fan, you can easily replace the quick release strap with a standard buckle strap and use it as per usual.

Pros:
  • durable
  • ergonomic grips
  • innovative Leki Trigger strap system
  • tool-free basket changes
Cons:
  • pricey for an all-aluminum pole

Scott Punisher Ski Poles

The Best Downhill Poles for Aggressive Skiers

scott punisher ski poles
  • Material: full S3 aluminim
  • Shaft width: 18mm
  • Weight: 1.7 lbs (pair)
  • Baskets: standard – fixed
  • Type: downhill
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These all-aluminum poles are designed to withstand a lot, at 18mm diameter they are super tough and can probably handle whatever kind of adventure you have in mind. Definitely an ideal option for aggressive skiers or those who like to hit big features! They are on the heavier side, but this is the tradeoff for the tough construction and wider shaft.

The Scott Punisher poles feature their new Safety Release System which automatically disengages the strap from the poles under pressure: this adds a new degree of safety should your pole get caught in the ski lift, a tree or take a big hit should you happen to crash. The notch grip is comfortable and feels secure even with light grip pressure. The ice tips are likewise standard, but very functional for a secure pole plant even on ice.

Pros:
  • super tough, durable build
  • convenient strap system
  • Scott Safely Release System
Cons:
  • only one basket available
  • heavier pole

Backcountry Access Scepter Carbon Ski Poles

The Best Adjustable Ski Poles

bca scepter adjustable carbon​ aluminum ski poles
  • Material: carbon, aluminumm
  • Weight: 1.3 lbs
  • Adjustability range: 41 to 57 inches
  • Baskets: powder – flexible
  • Type: backcountry
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These adjustable poles offer all the versatility needed for backcountry touring, splitboarding or offseason use on the hiking trails. They are easy-to-use and all-around very comfortable in-hand. The grip is not only comfortable, but it has a one-of-a-kind scraper feature designed to easily remove accumulated snow or ice from your skis or splitboard. The extra scraper hook on the grip can easily be used to flip open bindings as well. The flexible basket is also ideal for touring and won’t cause your poles to slide out on icy or hard-packed skin tracks but still floats nicely in powder. The releasable strap is also an appreciated safety feature.

2-piece construction is stable and easy to use. The clamps can be conveniently operated without removing your gloves. The clamps are a fairly simple plastic lever, but they perform well, are reasonably durable and open easily even when covered in ice, water or snow. They are relatively lightweight featuring an upper shaft made of aluminum and a lower shaft made of carbon.

One downside for splitboarders is that the Access Scepter poles don’t pack down small enough to fit inside a backpack so they will need to be strapped onto the outside.

Pros:
  • releasable strap
  • unique scraper grip
  • easy and convenient to adjust
  • durable construction
  • good swing feeling
Cons:
  • no quick release strap
  • minimal weight advantage over the aluminum model
  • mediocre packability

evo Way Out Adjustable Ski Poles

The Best Budget Adjustable Ski Poles

evo way out adjustable ski poles
  • Material: 2-section aluminum alloy
  • Shaft width: 18mm upper, 16mm lower
  • Baskets: powder
  • Type: backcountry
  • Length: 105-145cm
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These are simple, functional adjustable poles. Designed for the backcountry, these evo poles don’t have all the bells and whistles – which in this case is a good thing! A super solid, dependable option for backcountry adventures that won’t break the bank. The 2 segments slide together easily for easy transport however, the minimum length is 100cm which is longer than many other telescoping poles.

The two-part aluminum shaft is connected with evo’s Powerlock 3.0. The locking mechanism is really sturdy and easy to operate even with bulky mittens. The extra-long foam grips are somewhat unique but are comfortable and a good fit for any hand size. While the powder baskets are flexible and ideal for the backcountry, the quality isn’t great.

Pros:
  • Telescoping backcountry poles
  • Sturdy, simple locking device
  • Long comfortable grips
  • Wide straps
  • Simple & functional
Cons:
  • Poor basket quality
  • Minimum size is longer than most

Black Diamond Fixed Length Carbon Ski Poles

The Best Fixed Length Carbon Ski Poles

black diamond fixed length carbon ski poles
  • Material: carbon with Kevlar reinforcements
  • Shaft width: 14mm
  • Weight: 1.1 lbs
  • Baskets: 75mm free ride – exchangeable
  • Type: all mountain
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These poles are among the lightest and toughest all-mountain poles available in full carbon. Their strength is in part due to the fact that they are not adjustable, as well as the Kevlar reinforcements wrapping around the bottom portion of the pole which helps protect the carbon from shearing off if they do take a hit on your ski edge. Designed for downhill, these poles are still light enough to take into the backcountry.

The Power Series grip is comfortable and features a hook shape that can easily be used to leverage the buckles of your ski boots (and maybe save your cold fingers some work). The padded Power Series strap is also comfortable and easy to slip in and out of.

Altogether, this is an awesome pole for lightweight resort skiing, the occasional backcountry adventure or other winter activities such as snowshoeing.

Pros:
  • lightweight
  • very strong construction
  • comfortable grip
  • comfortable strap
  • exchangeable baskets
Cons:
  • no quick release strap

Grass Sticks Original Bamboo Ski Poles

The Best Bamboo Ski Poles

grass sticks original bamboo ski poles
  • Material: bamboo
  • Weight: 1.2 lbs
  • Baskets: powder – exchangeable
  • Type: all mountain
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If you are looking for environmentally friendly, super strong and lightweight poles then look no further. Bamboo’s exceptional qualities have resulted in it gaining momentum as a building material over recent years, and the ski pole industry is no exception. With more tensile strength than steel and more compressive strength than concrete, you won’t need to worry about these poles bending like aluminum or shearing off like carbon.

Not only are they light and strong, but they deliver on snow performance as well. The flexible baskets easily retain their shape and the carbide tips stand up to the wear and tear of pushing ski bindings open or closed in addition to providing perfect hold, even on ice. The grips are made of a soft, almost sticky rubber that feels secure to hold in the backcountry and the 100% recycled polyester straps are comfortable for inbounds skiing.

Pros:
  • lightweight
  • very durable
  • environmentally friendly
  • available in custom colors
Cons:
  • not adjustable
  • no quick release strap

Leki Artena S Ski Poles – Women’s

The Best Women-Specific Ski Poles

leki artena s ski poles womens
  • Material: aluminum
  • Shaft Width: 14mm
  • Weight: 0.9 lbs (pair at 155cm)
  • Baskets: standard – exchangeable
  • Type: downhill
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While most poles are unisex, the Artena S’s are specifically designed for women. The compact grip is ideal for anyone with smaller sized hands and the rose gold or white color schemes add a nice feminine style. The Leki S compact grip is not only sized down, but it features a first finger contour and is very comfortable.

Leki’s unique strap system, the Leki Trigger S, can be easily connected or disconnected from the poles, conveniently saving you time whenever you want to remove your poles – whether you are grabbing your phone or itching your nose. The system has an automatic safety release and can also be operated with compatible gloves (no straps at all!) or outfitted with a regular buckle strap if you so prefer.

The on-snow function is on par as well: the 14mm aluminum shaft construction is tough enough to handle a few bumps and bangs without worrying but remains aerodynamic and super lightweight. The baskets can be easily exchanged, tool-free, for those powder days and the carbide tips ensure a great pole plant even on the iciest days.

Pros:
  • innovative Leki Trigger strap system
  • lightweight
  • durable
  • comfortable, compact grip
  • safety release function
Cons:
  • not adjustable

What to Consider When Buying Ski Poles

Like most equipment, most ski poles are designed with a very specific function in mind, which means that not every pole is suited to every skier. Let’s go over some of the main considerations in finding a ski pole that meets your personal needs.

Shaft Material

The most common shaft materials are carbon and aluminum. Bamboo is also making a comeback and there are several carbon composite materials available as well. It all comes down to the tradeoff between durability and weight.

Aluminum has the benefit of being cheaper than carbon; it also tends to bend or kink on impact, which means that a bent ski pole can usually be bent back into position and continue being used. It is definitely the pole material of choice for anyone who tends to be tough on their equipment or likes to hit big jumps or drops.

Carbon has very clear pros and cons and is often incorporated in carbon composite materials used for lightweight poles. It is simply the best for cutting down weight – much lighter than aluminum – and that makes it an attractive option for anyone touring. The downside is that it tends to shear off on high impact and can be damaged much more easily than an aluminum pole. A few too many hits on the ski edge can sometimes be enough to do irreparable damage. Carbon poles can be repaired but it requires time, effort and know-how. If you are at home in the backcountry or planning long ascents carbon poles are likely ideal.

Bamboo is still the least common pole material, but its tensile and compressive strength has resulted in several companies specializing in bamboo pole construction over the past 5 years. Bamboo is also environmentally friendly as it is a plant opposed to a mined material. They are super lightweight although they are bulkier in size and often have a knobby appearance. At this point, bamboo poles are fixed length and likely more suited to the resort than the backcountry.

Weight

Lightweight poles will be more important for backcountry, sidecountry or touring skiers, not to say that a light feeling pole isn’t great in the resort as well. The main consideration here is the shaft material and diameter. A thicker pole is of course heavier but also stronger and as mentioned above, the shaft material is the determining factor in a pole’s durability. Lightweight always comes with a tradeoff in terms of strength and durability – so choose wisely.

Adjustability

This feature is usually most important for ski touring as a shorter pole length is recommended for the ascent and a longer pole length for the way down as well as any flat terrain. Adjustability makes poles versatile and often suited to hiking or snowshoeing as well. The tradeoff here is slightly reduced stability due to the need for a clamping mechanism and the potential of having more moving parts that could get iced up or broken. Collapsible poles take it a step further with the benefit of being very packable whether they need to slide in your backpack or fit into the corner of your closet.

Baskets

This is really quite simple: larger baskets are better for powder but are bulkier and less aerodynamic. Standard baskets are ideal for groomed runs and hard-packed conditions but may allow your poles to sink too deep in soft conditions. If you tend to ski in a wide variety of snow conditions, make sure you choose a pole with interchangeable baskets.

Grips, Straps and Safety Releases

For the most part, grips are a personal preference – they should simply feel good in your hands. Some grips have contours for one or more fingers while others do not. The good news is there is no ‘wrong’ decision here.

Straps are also not too complicated. The most important consideration is that they can be adjusted to fit your hands well (which essentially all straps are designed to do). Padded straps can provide more support along the hands and a more comfortable fit; however, with bulky ski gloves, many skiers don’t feel like padding makes a huge difference.

Some companies have unique systems in which the straps stay on your hands and can be easily clipped in or out of your poles: a convenient and innovative system, but something that falls into the ‘nice to have’ category for most skiers. The exception is if you ski really hard: the click systems feature safety releases which could be a serious consideration of you like to ski hard and fast or hit big features regularly.

Pole Length

Having the right length poles is really important as it can significantly impact your ski technique and balance. The simplest way to make sure your poles have the perfect length for you is to put on your ski boots and stand with your elbows along your ribs, bent a 90° angles, so that your hands reach out in front of you. Now measure the distance from the floor to your hands, and voila – this length you have just measured is ideal for resort skiing.

If the backcountry or the snow park is your jam then you may actually want shorter poles. Here is a great overview of how to choose your pole length including a sizing chart and a video breaking down the benefits of various lengths for various types of skiing.

Happy shopping – hope to see you out on the hill soon!

About The Author

AthletePath Staff

We are a team of enthusiasts and professional athletes thriving to provide you with helpful advice on buying everything you may ever need to become a better athlete.

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