I've noticed that when I'm focusing on what my feet are doing, I tend to stop using my pole plant. It doesn't seem to throw anything off. I've also noticed some strange things with my right hand appearing "lazy." Recently an instructor picked up on the "lazy" right hand issues, but couldn't figure out exactly what was going on with it. She said it didn't seem to be throwing off the rest of my skiing, but it almost looked like I wasn't pole planting at all with that hand.
So all of this got me thinking about what that pole plant is really doing for me, or for that matter anyone else. I remember when I learned how to pole plant all those years ago, it was a movement that seemed to initiate everything else. However, as I look at the concept now, having a much better understanding of skiing, it seems to me that our movements shouldn't be dependent on that pole plant.
I have also noticed that most terminal intermediate skiers rely on the pole plant. It allows them to maintain the illusion that their skiing is good enough to leave it alone. To be clear, the terminal intermediates I am referring to are the people we see linking pivoted/skidded turns gaining speed at every turn because they just can't get any control our of their turns. I believe that without their poles, most of these skiers wouldn't be able to pull off this type of skiing.
In comparison, I have been teaching my girlfriend how to ski over the last 3 seasons, along with some professional instruction. The approach I have taken, which seems to agree with any professional instruction she has received, has been to focus on a good stance, edging and releasing, and rotary skills. Notice that I didn't say anything about teaching her a pole plant. The difference I see is that she has better control of her speed, more fluidity, and a better turn shape than most of the intermediate skiers that have been taught to pole plant.
Now before I am crucified for my thoughts on the pole plant, I should say that I'm not suggesting that anyone stop pole planting, or that we should all throw away our poles, or that people who use a pole plant in their skiing are bad skiers. I'm simply sharing my thoughts based on my experiences and asking others to share theirs.
So where do you stand on the topic? Are pole plants a necessity or a crutch? Maybe somewhere in between?