Tested and Reviewed: The 10 Best Ski Poles of 2022

We spent time inbounds and in the backcountry to find the best ski poles

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There are a surprising number of factors to consider when picking the best ski poles for you. What type of skier are you? How many days do you ski in a season? Do you spend most of your time in resorts, the backcountry, or both? Not only are there a lot of factors to consider when picking ski poles, but also just a lot of ski poles on the market. Not to worry, we've spent days and weeks skiing and testing poles to find the best available now for a variety of skier abilities. These are the best skis of 2022.

Best Overall: Black Diamond Vapor Carbon

Black Diamond Vapor Carbon

Black Diamond

What We Like
  • Very light

  • Wrist strap lays flat when not in use

  • Extended foam grips

What We Don't Like
  • Hybrid baskets don’t have as much float as powder baskets

Built with a carbon fiber shaft and an ultralight foam grip, Black Diamond's Vapor Carbon ski poles have enough swing to give you rhythm as you carve down the mountain. But they’re also so light it's almost like holding onto air. I used these poles primarily for alpine skiing but I also took them into the Vail side-country. A thin cord attaches the pole straps to the poles. If you don’t ski with straps (I don’t) it’s easy to cut. But because I also wanted the option to tour with these poles, I left the wrist straps intact.

Thanks to the cord attachment, the pole straps laid flat against the pole, which made it more comfortable to grip. Touring, the lightly lined wrist straps were comfortable, even in spring conditions when I wore them against bare skin. Side hilling, the foam grip had plenty of real estate for choking up my grip. And on the way down, they never weighed me down. The carbide tip gave me grip in icy conditions. For deep powder, I’ll swap the included three-quarters baskets for true powder baskets. That’ll add a few grams, but make my powder day more pleasant. They’re available in five lengths, 115 centimeters to 135 centimeters.

Shaft Material: Carbon fiber | Basket: 75-millimeter, three-quarter baskets | Weight Per Pole: 165 grams (115 centimeters)

Runner Up, Best Overall: Dynafit Tour Vario Pole

Dynafit Tour Vario Pole

Dynafit

What We Like
  • Grip is articulated to unclip ski boots and engage heel lifters without bending over

What We Don't Like
  • One length only

  • Paint chips easily

Made for ski touring, Dynafit’s Tour Vario was a joy to ski with whether I was out for a quick lunchtime mission or skinning all day. Made with an impact-resistant aluminum upper and a light and stiff, easy-to-swing carbon lower, the Vario felt light in hand. It uses a dependable and easy to open and close locking mechanism that lets me adjust the pole from 105 to 145 centimeters, a length range that covers me in all terrain.

An EVA grip extension on the foam handle gave me a good hold when I gripped the pole on its shaft on a traverse. I liked the solid feel of my hand resting on the grip’s pronounced nose, and the in-molded articulation in the foam grip that supported the underside of my palm and kept my hand in place. While the EVA grip zone didn’t extend as far down the pole as in some other models, it was far enough. The Tour Vario’s powder baskets flexed with the terrain, and I loved the ultra-low-profile pull-to-tighten wrist straps. The smooth webbing didn’t chafe my wrists spring skiing without gloves. 

Shaft Material: Aluminum, Carbon | Basket: Powder | Weight Per Pole: 224 grams

Best Budget: Blackcrows Meta Ski Poles

black crows Meta Ski Poles

black crows

What We Like
  • Fun pattern

  • Lots of colors and sizes

  • Solid grip and powder baskets

What We Don't Like
  • Still expensive for a budget pole

While it’s not the absolute cheapest pole on the market, the blackcrows Meta was by far my favorite budget pole. With six colors, six sizes, and an eye-catching Chevron pattern on the shaft, the aluminum Meta was not just fun to ski with but it got me compliments in the lift line. The dimensional grip has Black Crow’s logo in-molded for extra hold. The 90-millimeter basket, which is wide enough for float in powdery conditions, is flexible so it contours to the terrain. Instead of a carbide tip, the Meta has a toothy steel tip that didn’t dig into the hardest hardpack but was good in most conditions. The simple webbing wrist strap is adjustable. Since I will only use this pole for resort skiing, I cut the strap off, which saved a few grams, and got the strap out of my way. Available in 110 to 135 centimeters.

Shaft Material: Aluminum alloy 5083 | Basket: 90-millimeter flexible powder basket | Weight Per Pole: 230 grams (115 centimeters)

Best Value: Volkl Phantastick Carbon Ski Poles

Volkl Phantastick Carbon Ski Poles

Backcountry

What We Like
  • Great price for a carbon pole

  • Lots of lengths available

What We Don't Like
  • Pink grips and baskets may turn some skiers off

A stiff carbon pole that swings with pendulum-like confidence, Volkl’s Phantastick Carbon rings in at under $100, and it’s made for use and abuse. The pole isn’t the lightest on the market, but it’s rugged and imparts the stiffness, bend-resistance, and shock absorption of its more expensive carbon cousins. The laser textured rubber and plastic grip have a pronounced nose for flipping buckles when you’re on the lift and need to release pressure by undoing a boot, or any other time. It’s shaped to keep your hand from sliding down. Pull-to-tighten, quick-release pole straps were easy to get on and off. After more than a month of regular use, the Phantastick’s carbon shafts show some superficial scratching, but the pole is going strong and should last. 

This pole shipped with a race basket only, though the website says two sets of baskets are included. Available in 5-centimeter increments from 110 to 135 centimeters.

Shaft Material: Carbon | Basket: Race | Weight Per Pole: N/A

Best for the Environment: Grass Sticks Original Custom Ski Poles

Grass Sticks Original Custom Ski Poles

Grass Sticks

What We Like
  • Eye-catching

  • Flexible

  • Customizable

  • Affordable size swaps for kids

What We Don't Like
  • Not everyone likes the earthy look

Light, strong, and fun to ski with, Steamboat Springs-based Grass Sticks swing smoothly and effortlessly. They’re crafted with a bamboo shaft that’s hand-sanded and coated with marine-grade UV, moisture, and cold-proof clear coat. Because bamboo is flexible, Grass Sticks poles won’t snap as easily as carbon or aluminum. That also makes them a compelling pole for kids. Plus Grass Sticks lets you swap a kid’s pole up to five times for a minimal fee as your little one gets bigger. Bamboo has the tensile strength of steel and a compressive strength greater than concrete, it also absorbs more CO2 and produces more oxygen than any other plant. Grass Sticks are highly customizable.

You pick basket size and color, as well as your grips and straps. The ergonomic foam grip comes in six colors and cork, and interchangeable baskets come in eight colors and three sizes that cover all snow conditions. Grass Sticks have an ice-biting carbide tip. The polyester wrist strap is recycled and comes in fixed length, adjustable, and prints. Get your Grass Sticks engraved. Add extended foam grips for touring. Once they’re delivered, you have 30 days to decide if you like them or not, and the poles come with a two-year warranty. I’ve skied with a pair of these for eight years, and love them as much as the day I got them. None of my aluminum or carbon poles have lasted that long.

Shaft Material: Bamboo | Basket: Pick your own basket color and size, 2 to 4.75 inches | Weight Per Pole: N/A

Best for Snowboarders: G3 Pivot Trekking Pole

G3 Pivot Trekking Pole

Backcountry

What We Like
  • Fast and intuitive assembly

  • Quick release pole straps

  • Magnets in the handle keep folded pole sections from splaying

What We Don't Like
  • Powder baskets sold separately

Strong, durable, and appropriately stiff, G3’s three-section Pivot Trek pole is made from aluminum, with an extended foam grip with a pronounced tab at the top for flipping open buckles and clicking heel lifters up and down. The Pivot Trek is a superb pole for split boarders because it’s compact—35 centimeters for the short length and 38.5 centimeters for the long length. So when a snowboarder packs their poles away for the descent, they tuck out of the way instead of jutting awkwardly from the pack. Folded, the pole clips into its basket and magnetically attaches to the pole’s grip.

The Pivot Trek was a top pick for anyone who travels to ski or ride because it packs small and is easy to tuck into a checked bag. The extended foam grip has a metal ring at the bottom that kept my hand from slipping off the end of the foam. The wrist strap comes off with a quick-release buckle. The clever design lets me detach straps for front-country days, and attach them for backcountry days. The pole was also one of the easiest to assemble. Poles that use a click-lock are sometimes hard to lock into place. Several testers all commented on how easy this one was to click in. The Pivot Trek does double duty as a hiking and trekking pole and the dense foam grip was comfortable in any season, and the packability was always appealing.

Shaft Material: Aluminum | Basket: Trekking basket–all-mountain; basket sold separately | Weight Per Pole: 287 grams (short)

Best Do-Everything Pole: DPS Extendable Ski Poles

DPS Extendable Ski Poles

Backcountry

What We Like
  • Extended foam grips have a hand stop

  • Contrasting color baskets look like snowflakes

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive for a carbon/aluminum hybrid

For skiers who need a pole between 110 and 140 centimeters, DPS Extendable Pole is a superb option well suited for both backcountry and resort. The Austria-made pole combines an aluminum upper with a carbon lower with playful snowflake-inspired baskets for a great blend of stiffness, flex, and float. The poles are instantly adjustable with a flip-lock lever that can be tightened or loosened with a Phillips head screwdriver when needed. A tab on the wrist strap let me tighten and loosen them with a tug.

The pole’s foam grips have a slightly exaggerated handshape that was comfortable with gloves of any thickness. Climbing a steep bootpack, my hand stayed put on the extended foam grips. The rubber was tacky, and a stop at the bottom kept my hand from slipping off. The carbon/aluminum blend gave these poles a confident swing. They didn’t get as beat up looking as some others because only the top section is painted. And the carbon lower section resisted scrapes and other minor impacts.

Shaft Material: Carbon/aluminum | Basket: Powder | Weight Per Pole: 280 grams

Best for Kids: Swix Techlite Junior Pole

Swix Techlite Junior Pole

Sun & Ski Sports

What We Like
  • Available in 5 centimeter increments from 70 to 100 centimeters

What We Don't Like
  • Boring color options

  • Scratchy wrist straps

Kids grow out of their poles as quickly as the seasons change. This pole is priced so that parents won’t stress about always having their kiddo skiing with the right size. The pole is simple–made from aluminum with a kid-sized grip and an inbounds-friendly basket. If your little ripper is already a powder hound you might want to find a pole that will give them float in powdery conditions. The Techlite Junior’s tip is proportionally narrower than an adult pole.

Our six-year-old tester, Sam, said that he liked the “handles” (grips) because they fit his hands well. He also said he “wished the straps were less strappy because they are hard to get on at the top of the hill." His dad translated: Even though the straps are adjustable, the webbing felt scratchy to this little ripper who used them slaying groomers at Vermont’s Middlebury Snowbowl and hitting backyard kickers. In the month Sam tested these poles, they maintained structural integrity, while other poles he tested were bent.

Shaft Material: Aluminum | Basket: Race | Weight Per Pole: N/A

Safest Pole: Leki Peak Vario 3D

Leki Peak Vario 3D

Sun & Ski Sports

What We Like
  • Tool-free adjustment

  • Releasable wrist straps

What We Don't Like
  • One size fits most

  • Poles are dedicated left and right

Skiing with wrist straps keeps you from dropping a pole on the descent. But pole straps can also cause injury. If your pole gets caught on a tree as you ski through the woods, or you somehow manage to get your pole caught under your ski, you can get hurt. Leki’s Peak Vario 3D is the safest pole because its pole straps release under any unnatural pressure. Leki’s Trigger 3D system straps velcro tight around a skier’s hand. If your pole gets caught in a tree or some other obstacle with enough force, instead of jerking you to a halt, the wrist strap releases.

The Trigger system was recently updated to be easier to click in and out of. It also releases in more direction, and the clip that holds the wrist strap releases the wrist strap four times more effectively under pressure. The adjustable poles have a Speed Lock adjustment that flips open so you can lengthen or shorten the pole. Tightening or loosening it is tool-free. So if you find your pole sections are slipping mid-ski, you don’t need a screwdriver to fix it. Made for all types of skiing, the 110 to 140-centimeter adjustable Leki Peak Vario comes with alpine and powder baskets, making it a great choice for any snow conditions, front-country or backcountry.

Shaft Material: Carbon, aluminum | Basket: Race and powder baskets included | Weight Per Pole: 285 grams

Best for Touring: Scott Aluguide Ski Poles

Scott Aluguide Ski Poles

Scott USA

What We Like
  • Strong

  • Durable

What We Don't Like
  • Adjustment clip is stiffer than some others

With loads of adjustability–Scott’s Aluguide pole goes from 105 to 140 centimeters. Constructed with a two-section aluminum shaft, Scott’s Aluguide is a workhorse of a ski pole, ready for many seasons of snowy adventures. Aluminum helps keep this pole affordable, but it still has all the bells and whistles of a high-end touring pole, including a super comfortable, ergonomically shaped foam grip that extends about halfway down the pole’s upper section. Flexible powder baskets come stock. So does an aggressive tip that dug into the ice. The wrist strap is velcro-adjustable for on-the-fly fine-tuning, which I appreciated when I switched gloves mid-day. A single press-to-close locking clip secures the pole sections at the length you choose. It’s stiffer than some, but also adjustable with a flat head screwdriver. 

Shaft Material: 7075 Aluminum | Basket: Flexible powder basket | Weight Per Pole: 268 grams

Final Verdict

Black Diamond's Vapor Carbon (view at Black Diamond) wowed us with its extreme lightness, even with foam extended down the upper part of the pole shaft. While it's primarily a resort ski pole, the extended grip gave this pole the chops for side-country exploring. But it was this pole's balanced swing, good float, and featherweight that made this the pole we all wanted to ski with when we loaded a chairlift. A lot of poles are hard to differentiate. This one stood out. 

What to Look for in Ski Poles

Length

We'll touch more on how to find the correct size of ski pole for you in a bit, but the most important aspect to look for in a ski pole is the length, or size. If a ski pole is the wrong size, it can do the exact opposite of what it's intended to do and throw off your balance. If you're dipping further than you should to make contact with the snow because your pole is too short, it'll throw off your balance. Likewise, if you're making contact with the snow earlier than expected because it's too long ... you guessed it, your balance will get thrown.

Adjustability

Most poles come in set lengths. But some come in adjustable lengths (think like hiking or trekking poles). Unless you're spending time touring or in the backcountry, it's unlikely you'll need poles with adjustable lengths. But if you do plan on spending any time in the backcountry or touring, it's probably worth looking into adjustable poles.

Baskets

Ski poles come with snowflake-shaped, saucer-sized powder baskets, with smooth-edged silver dollar-sized disc-shaped baskets, or with both. Powder baskets work in all snow conditions. They’re slightly heavier than disc baskets, which are suited for groomed trails only. Disc baskets will float on corduroy but punch through powder.

Grip and Wrist Straps

In addition to picking a pole with the right length, adjustability, and basket for you, choose one with a comfortable grip. Grips come in foam, cork, and plastic. Because when you’re skiing you’re nearly always holding your pole with a glove or mitt on your hand, the grip material matters less than it does in a trekking pole. But the grip shape should be comfortable in your hand.

Pole straps are the last consideration when it comes to picking the best pole. If you wear pole straps when you descend, consider a pole with a strap that releases, so if your pole gets snagged on a tree or caught under your ski, you won’t injure yourself. For touring, pole straps can reduce fatigue and increase efficiency. Choose a touring pole with a strap that’s comfortable when you lean your weight on it.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Are carbon or aluminum poles better?

    One is not necessarily better than the other, but each has some pros and cons. Ski poles are primarily made from carbon fiber, aluminum, or a combination of the two. Occasionally poles are made from bamboo as well. Poles that use carbon are usually more expensive and lighter, while poles that use aluminum are usually more affordable, but they can also be heavier. Some skiers prefer aluminum because it bends instead of breaking. Other skiers prefer carbon poles that are less likely to bend, but that can snap under severe impact. Consider what type of skier you are and where you'll be skiing the most. If weight doesn't matter, but durability does, go for aluminum. But if lightness is what you're looking for, carbon is probably for you.

  • Do ski poles matter?

    If you ski, you need poles. While ski instructors will sometimes have first-timers and small children ski without poles so you can focus on your feet, most skiers ski with poles all the time. Freestyle skiers doing advanced tricks frequently ski without poles because they get tangled doing flips and other tricks, and could cause injury if the landing goes awry. But for most skiers, ski poles do matter and are helpful

  • What are poles useful for?

    Poles help a skier maintain rhythm and balance, especially in steep, bumpy, or technical terrain. They’re a tool for reminding you to point your body down the ski slope. In the backcountry, poles help a skier propel themselves uphill. Both uphill and downhill, poles are also a great assist at rest stops. They’re also a handy post for holding gloves or mitts when you need bare hands to eat, drink, or relieve yourself.

  • How can I tell if a pole is good or not?

    A pole should feel good in your hand, and swinging it should feel natural. Always get sized before you buy. If your pole is too tall, pole planting will be awkward and will interfere with your flow on the mountain instead of enhancing it!

  • How long should my ski poles be?

    That depends on your height. To choose a fixed-length pole that’s the right height for you, hold the pole upside down and grip the pole under its basket. Your forearm should be at roughly a right angle to the floor. To choose a pole that’s the right height for touring, pick a pole that can be skied at your fixed pole length that can also be extended.

    Backcountry skiers typically prefer adjustable poles or a pole with a non-slip comfortable grip that extends down the upper shaft. Depending on terrain, many backcountry skiers vary the length of their poles and where they grip their poles depending on whether they’re hiking up, skiing down, or traversing. Poles with extended grips and adjustable poles both work for boot packing ascents where you’ll be using your poles in front of you as you ascend a steep slope. Fixed-length poles often won’t be long enough for maximum efficiency touring with skinned skis. 

Why Trust TripSavvy

Berne Broudy is a Vermont-based writer and photographer. She has been reporting on environmental issues, gear, and travel for two decades, and has acted as a catalyst for change through her work with various consumer and trade publications as well as the Outdoor Industry Eco Working Group. She skis 100 days a year at ski resorts and in the backcountry in New England, the Rockies, and beyond. Each of these poles was used at a minimum of two resorts, and when appropriate, in a variety of backcountry conditions.

Broudy covers hiking, biking, skiing, overlanding, travel, climbing, kayaking, and anything else you can do outdoors plus the gear you need to do it for category-leading publications in the US, UK, Spain, Germany, and beyond. She frequently travels on assignment and on scouting trips to far-flung destinations including Mongolia, Iceland, Greenland, Ghana, Norway, Nepal, Peru, Jordan, Indonesia, Namibia, Mexico, and Alaska. 

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