For Nordic ski poles, size does matter. You should choose the length of Nordic or cross-country ski poles depending on the style of skiing you prefer, the terrain on which you are skiing and your height. For skate technique, lightweight poles with relatively small baskets are more efficient than heavier poles as you will be lifting them thousands of times over your ski day. Recommended pole lengths are just a starting point. Experiment with renting poles before you buy to determine the precise length that is most comfortable for you.
Measuring Ski Poles
Nordic or cross-country poles are measured from the tip to the top in centimeters. Thus for several methods of calculating your ski pole size, you'll need to know your height in centimeters. To calculate this, multiply your height in inches by 2.54.
Poles for traditional or classic diagonal stride technique are slightly shorter than skating poles. A simple rule of thumb is that you should choose poles that fit just under your armpits for ungroomed snow and ones that reach the top of your shoulder for groomed tracks. Alternatively, multiply your height in centimeters by .85 or subtract 30 from your height in centimeters to determine ski pole size.
Touring and Adjustable Poles
Touring poles are either the same length as ones used for classic technique or 5 to 10 centimeters shorter. One way to calculate length is to multiply your height in centimeters by .83. Backcountry skiers may prefer adjustable poles that can be shortened for use on hills and lengthened for level stretches. Some adjustable poles have rubber caps that can be pulled over the metal tips for Nordic walking or backpacking.
Skating poles are designed for skiers using skating technique on groomed trails. If you place skating pole tips on the ground, the tops should reach somewhere between your chin and your nose. Another way to determine skate ski pole length is to multiply your height in centimeters by .90 or .91 or to subtract 20 from your height in centimeters.
Carol Poster began writing professionally in 1974. Her articles have appeared in "Outdoor Woman," "Paddler," "Ski Magazine," "Women's Sports & Fitness," "Dance News," "Show Business," "The Athenian," "PC Resource" and "Utah Holiday," among other publications. Poster holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from Eastern Washington University, as well as a Ph.D. in English from the University of Missouri.