Q: When should I pole plant?
But too many skiers have no idea how to use ski poles, some don’t even use them at all, even though poles are an important weapon in a skier’s mountain arsenal. And I don’t mean as a sword - no matter how often you want to use them against a snowboarder or whatever snow creature you may come across.
Here are SnowSkool’s tips to pole plant more effectively:
To start with, do not think of a pole plant as just sicking it in the ground whenever you feel like doing so. Introduce the pole plant as a timing device to keep a constant rhythm and to help stabilize your upper body. Your arms should be up while skiing, with your shoulders facing down the hill. Not flailing by your side, swinging about with each turn; If you do this then you’re doing it wrong!
Skiing with your arms down by your side is no good. If you are constantly moving your arms from down by your side, then up, and planting your pole with each turn you will be unintentionally using your upper body to help turn. This is called upper body rotation, this is what you do not want to do. The turn should come from your legs. For a pole plant that leads to a turn from the legs, your arms should be up in a position similar to if you were reading a large book - in front and ready for each turn.
Start to associate your pole plant with the end of your turn, not the start of a new turn. By getting into the mindset of planting early at the end of the turn, you will start to establish the balance over the edges of your skis – and gain more commitment to skiing down the slope too.
Your lower body alone should be in control of the direction you ski. And you will find that turning will be much easier and natural if there is what’s called ‘separation’ between your upper body and lower body. This means the distinction between your upper body movement and lower body movement.
Separation makes the whole turning process easier and more fluid: when your skis turn across your body, your body then coils like a spring so that when you make the next turn your skis will slide into position and turn under you. This is because your skis and legs naturally want to re-position themselves to point in the same direction as your shoulders.
We can see this separation happen when our skis are pointing in the direction we want to go and our body is open and facing downhill, with both shoulders pointing in a downward direction. The only time your skis and shoulders should be facing in exactly the same direction is when skiing straight down the hill.
Remember you will need to be bending at the hips and knees to allow your legs to move independently from your torso.
You may be thinking, Ok I get what separation is, what it does and why it is important - but what does it have to do with this blog and using my poles?
Answer! By pole planting at the end of your turn (as we mentioned earlier) you are committing your shoulders over your downhill ski. This also means your shoulders will be facing down the hill as they should be, allowing that separation to happen, which all adds up a better ski technique and overall awesomeness on the slopes!
A great way to push your ability to the next level, is through completing a ski instructor course, where you’ll learn the best ways to upgrade your technique, from the best teachers. You will also learn how to coach other skiers, giving you a far greater understanding of how to develop your own skiing. - If you can teach others to improve, you can definitely further your skill and technique!
Learn Great Technique with a Ski Instructor Course
Another great way push your skiing ability to the next level and learn proper professional technique, is by completing a ski instructor course. If skiing is a love of yours why not learn to instruct and spend 11 weeks out in the mountains, on what is effectively a fully catered skiing holiday! Completing a ski instructor course can be one of the best ways to improve your technique and confidence when skiing or boarding, plus it’s an amazing experience to meet like-minded people who’ll become friends for life! SnowSkool runs ski/snowboard instructor courses in Canada, France and New Zealand. At SnowSkool we also run snowboard instructor courses.
If you want to learn more on ways to develop or improve your skiing have a look at these other SnowSkool articles: