Cross-country skiing | Jan 5, 2024

How to choose and use cross-country ski poles

Martin Bieswanger
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The length of your cross-country ski poles can affect your performance on the trails. After all, it’s the poles that propel you forward on the snow. Using poles that are too short is physically much more demanding because you lack the necessary push. If your poles are too long, the very things that should help you will probably end up annoying you.

So what’s the right length for cross-country ski poles, and are there any differences in terms of technique? We have done some research and compiled the most important facts for you.

How long should cross-country ski poles be?

The length of your cross-country ski poles largely depends on the technique you prefer. If you’re a fan of classic cross-country skiing, the poles should reach up to your shoulders. If you like skate-style cross-country skiing, the length of your poles should roughly correspond to the distance between the ground and your nose or ears.

© INTERSPORT International Corporation GmbH

How do I calculate the perfect length for cross-country ski poles?

Are you a numbers person? Then we’ve got two formulas for you that you can use to calculate the length of your cross-country ski poles:

  • Calculating the perfect length for classic cross-country ski poles: body height in cm x 0.83
  • Calculating the perfect length for skate-style cross-country ski poles: body height in cm x 0.89

Which materials are cross-country ski poles made of, and what’s the right one for me?

Cross-country ski poles are made of different materials, and models also differ in their weight, robustness and price.

  • Aluminium: This type of cross-country ski poles is particularly beginner-friendly and affordable. Due to their slightly higher weight, they are also very robust.
  • Composite: This type of cross-country ski poles is a compromise when it comes to costs. They are partially made of carbon, making them more lightweight than other options.
  • Carbon: Cross-country ski poles made of carbon are very stiff and lightweight. On the downside, they scratch easily and are susceptible to breakage. Carbon poles are the most expensive of the three options.

Are there any other differences in cross-country ski poles?

Cross-country ski poles also feature different types of straps. The straps secure the poles to your hands and are available in the following versions:

  • Permanently attached straps: As the name suggests, these straps are permanently attached to the grips of your poles. The straps should be adjustable so you can adapt them to your personal needs. There are also models with padded loops that ensure maximum comfort during cross-country skiing.
  • Detachable straps: This type of straps connects the poles to your gloves. Make sure to choose the right size and to adjust them correctly in order to avoid pressure points. The loops are either attached to the glove using pins or a click-in system.

Most pole straps for cross-country skiing are made of synthetic fibres or leather. Synthetic fibres are lightweight and robust. Leather straps are a bit heavier but feel nicer to the touch.

How do I correctly hold cross-country ski poles, and how do I use them?

The diagonal stride is a classic cross-country skiing technique, where you use both tracks of a groomed cross-country trail. You use both poles to push forward. The technique gets its name from the diagonal movement of your arms and legs.

© INTERSPORT International Corporation GmbH
© INTERSPORT International Corporation GmbH

When you push off with the left pole, your right leg is in a forward motion while the left remains extended backwards. The moment you push off, the left leg is brought forward, and the right leg is extended backwards. The position of the arms follows a contralateral pattern.

In classic cross-country skiing, double poling is used if you need more speed. This technique requires quite a lot of arm strength, as you need to push off with both poles simultaneously. Your skis are parallel, with your knees centrally aligned above them. The right length of your cross-country poles is particularly important during this motion. If the poles are too short, you don’t have sufficient thrust. If your poles are too long, you won’t be able to carry out the necessary movements correctly.

© INTERSPORT International Corporation GmbH


Are you ready for the cross-country trails?

Don’t shy away from cross-country skiing just because you lack the necessary experience or equipment! At INTERSPORT Rent, you can choose from a vast selection of rental products for cross-country skiing. The RENTertainers on site are happy to assist and give you some useful tips for your first cross-country skiing adventure.

Rent your cross-country skiing equipment!

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