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Why were ski poles so long in the 80s/90s?

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

 I binge watched a bunch of Stump movies yesterday to marvel at Plake and Schmidt ripping anything and everything and couldn't help but think why everyone's poles were so long? Nowadays people say poles that are too big get in the way/throw you in the back seat, especially in moguls. Competetive bump skiers now use poles that would be considered too short for all mountain skiing. Yet back then it didn't seem to matter. In fact, after watching pro bumpers like Jean Luc-Brassard and extreme skiers like Schmidt, it would seem to the non-skier that longer poles are better suited to the sport. If long poles were working for the best of the best back in the day, who came along and changed the whole conventional outlook?  

post #2 of 6

One of the reasons is because of the modern ski design we are skiing less up and down and more side to side. In the specialty environments, park & moguls, they are using a shorter pole, in Giant Slalom and other speed events, a longer pole, but that is more for just the skate at the top, rarely do you see them using them during the race. I am 5'10", I used to ski a 50" pole, now I use a 48"

post #3 of 6

Also, you need longer poles for ski ballet...

post #4 of 6

I think long ski poles force a skier to over exaggerate their pole plants almost moving their arms in 3/4 circle movements to initiate a turn. It's extra unnecessary energy expending movements. I have always thought that a simple flick of the wrist is all ya need to do to initiate a turn and any unneeded upper body movements are no beuno. I'm also a powder skier that developed my technique during the mid to late 90's when the free skiing style was dominated by smooth racer types and I'm sure I was influenced from that. I still prefer the quiet upper body style but I do enjoy watching a lot of the young skiers do things differently and really, really well. 

post #5 of 6

Tradtioooon!!!! Tradition!


Skiing has evolved from a mode of transportation to a sport with a variety of disciplines. When the two pole set up started it replaced a single pole which was used for steering as well as locomotion. Having two long poles made moving forward without the aid of gravity pretty easy. You got a long push from each pole stroke. This carries through to today where cross-country poles are pretty long; up to your arm pits when standing. As @Philpug pointed out, longer poles have advantages in alpine racing as well, more or less for the same reason. Good propulsion before racing speeds are attained.


Poles were very long, up to the arm pits, up until the 60's and 70's. Many skiers that had been using long poles didn't convert to shorter poles during that time. Racers were learning (at least I did in the '70s) that their athletic stance was aided by shorter poles; you could keep a good balanced stance easier with a pole that didn't force your hand over your head.


Buddy Werner - early 60's - note how high his right hand is; this was due in part to the length of the pole



Moi - 1976 - poles were shorter, but still longish; I'm reaching forward rather than up, though


Marcel Hirscher - 2013 - hand position about the same height is mine, but look how much lower he is to the snow.


The poles you refer to in the 80's and 90's were shorter, by quite a bit, than those of the 50's and 60's. Pole length in general has trended to shorter for decades resulting in 'the rule' (really just a guideline) of hold the pole upside down with your hand under the basket  to find the right length. For SL racers they may go shorter as they are rarely standing tall, especially when poling. GS poles come close to following 'the rule', SG and DH longer for better starts because you get better push.


Park poles are really short because when you land switch, you don't want your poles to accidentally engage the snow. Shorter poles are less likely to hit the snow.


All poles are balance aids as well as a means of propulsion. The emphasis on propulsion has declined except for racing, XC and backcountry so they are fit to be appropriate for you stance.

post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 

Very interesting stuff. Thank you!!

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