Ski poles are simple but extremely useful tools used in nearly all forms of skiing. Depending on the type of skiing, they can be used for balance, turning, braking and even propulsion. Surprisingly, ski jumping, cross country, alpine and telemark ski poles all have the same basic parts. The size, materials and configuration vary a bit, but the essential pole is always more or less the same.
Tip and Basket
The tip is a pointed metal spike at the end of the shaft. Slightly behind the tip is a flat disk perpendicular to the pole called the basket. The tip and the basket work together to help the skier grip the ground. The tip digs into the snow, helping the skier to turn on downhill slopes and to propel herself on cross-country tracks. The basket prevents the pole from digging too deeply below the surface of the snow. Ski poles designed for deep, fluffy snow have bigger baskets, since the snow is easy to penetrate. Ski poles designed for hard-packed snow have small baskets, since the snow is compacted and the pole won't easily slip in too deep.
The shaft is a metal tube that forms the body of the ski pole. Shafts can be made out of a number of materials, including aluminum, graphite and carbon fiber. The length of the shaft varies by skier, technique and type of skiing. A skier may opt for a shaft that reaches his underarm or his chin when planted on the ground, select one so that his forearm is parallel to the ground when he grips it under the basket or just opt for one that is 9/10ths the length of his body.
The grip handle is just what it sounds like: a handle fixed to the top of the ski pole for the skier to grip. Grip handles are shaped so that they fit comfortably in the gloved hands. Grip handles have plastic hoops or straps attached to them that help the skier hold onto the pole. Grips can be made of plastic, cork or rubber. The type of grip a skier uses is largely a matter of personal preference, since the most important thing is that the grip feels comfortable and secure in his hand.