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When should kids start using poles?

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
I've got a 6 1/2 year old daughter that is in her second year of skiing here in the Chicago land area. We made it out about ten times last year and we're easily going to make that this season. She can ski down all of the hills at Alpine Valley with no problems and is actually getting bored of the place. She is constantly asking me when she can get poles because she sees a lot of other kids using poles. I feel that poles at this early age are not necessary. She does good turns and has her feet parallel after her turns. I'm going to head to the local ski shop next week to get her some shaped skis. They're going to be on end of year clearance. The shop said they're taking the boots out of the package so it will be skis, bindings, and poles. Can any of you guys give me some hints on what I should be looking for in her skiing before I give in? I think she does alright without them for now.

Thanks for the help.
post #2 of 27
I did a mistake with my older kid by letting her ski with poles too early (before she developed the right-foot-left-hand body position. The result was that when she got poles she kept making turns with her upper body, just added the pole that was along for the ride. I think the right time for poles is when she starts showing the hip angulation in turns. If you give her poles then, she will use them more naturally. With shaped skis, hopefully she will progress there faster, and before the end of this season will be able to use poles [img]smile.gif[/img]

On second thoughts, the right-foot-left-hand body position is probably sufficient for her to catch up with poles; plus poles give her more balance at higher speeds.

But if all kids her age are using poles, perhaps she is feeling left out. Then she needs them too.

[ February 12, 2003, 10:43 AM: Message edited by: AlexG ]
post #3 of 27
Let her try them now and see if they get in her way, if they do she won't want to use them. If she can ski with her hands up and the poles behind her and they don't hurt her turns any buy her a pair that you can adjust longer as she grows. I'm a Colo. kids ski instrutor and father of four.
post #4 of 27
My son started at seven and a half. the following season at mid point he was solidly matched/parallel with no sign of the wedge left.

That's a good point to start the poles, to accent the "forward flow" and, to develop timing.

Buy the kid a lesson from a good instructor and stress that the lesson is to be on the use of the poles.
post #5 of 27
I do not attempt to incorporate pole use into a person's skiing until the tipping of the feet can cue the pole. Ultimately, I want the pole swing to cue the tipping of the feet, of course, but I find that it slides into place most easily from the bottom of the kinetic chain rather than from the head down.

I see many people who don't use their poles properly. I believe the reason their pole swing is functionally irrelevant to the actions of the skis is because it was added before establishing the movements it is supposed to acccompany.

My advice: get your daughter some poles and let her copy the big kids, but do not ask for a lesson on pole usage until her skiing enables it.
post #6 of 27
Nolo: I agree with you regarding pole usage, however, the questions is when to give a child poles. It will be a while before I can teach my child when to "correctly" use poles, with that definition of "correctly" being using the pole in the initiation of the turn. Pole introduction, however, begins at a much earlier stage.

I gave my 6 year old poles for the first time yesterday. My determing factors in handing him his poles were the following:

1) Skill level: Is your child making relatively consistent parallel turns and can he/she do a decent hockey stop? If you're child's not, he's not ready for poles. Trying to evolve from wedge to parallel gives him enough to think about.

2) Desire: Is your child asking for them? Andrew would ask every ski day when he can have them. That desire has to be present. Although the class he skis with every week isn't using poles, I didn't choose that as the standard for him.

3) Achieved goal: Andrew earned his first NASTAR gold last week without poles. Consider setting a challenge for your daughter so she can "earn" her poles. For me, that gold medal was a good "reward" for having reached an achievement.

4) Responsibility: The child must be ready to care for his own belongings. If you have a kid who loses his gloves every week, trust me, the poles will be dropped off the chairlift the first day with him.

Problems you'll encounter. A position I call "chicken hands" - the elbows bent, poles pointed out. You must stress that they keep the hands down by the side, prentending they don't have poles. Poles at this level are used only for pushing along when they've stopped. Andrew (my little one) had his poles up at one point, caught the tip, and jammed it into his chin. Not a pretty sight, and I had to bribe him with candy at the bottom to stop him from crying. Be prepared. Carry candy WITH you!

One day with the poles, and she'll be fine! [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]

[ February 13, 2003, 07:31 AM: Message edited by: VailSkiGal ]
post #7 of 27
Quote:
Originally posted by nolo:
My advice: get your daughter some poles and let her copy the big kids, but do not ask for a lesson on pole usage until her skiing enables it.
I agree with the rest of your post, but by the time they start skiing well enough to use poles, their hands have already "memorized" the wrong "chicken position", because the poles have been dragging behind all the time as an extra weight. That will take a while to unlearn. One of my daughters and my wife started skiing with poles too early, when they were technically not ready for them yet. Now they both plant their poles at best in the control phase of the turn, instead of initiation.
post #8 of 27
The issue of when to introduce pole usage to people has to do with motor development, chiefly upper/lower and right/left separation. Obviously, pole usage requires fine motor skills, so any age skier who depends on gross movements is better off without them.

When a child is able to rub their tummy and tap their head, poles may be introduced with some expectation of success. I invite instructors to check out the Spring 2002 issue of The Professional Skier and Scott Mathers's story about skiing with his young son with photos to see for themselves that young children can learn proper pole usage.

I agree that the child's request to have poles is reason enough to provide them, if only for propulsion on the flats. Poles are great props for games and exercises too. I have tied balloons and streamers to the pole handles, decorating them like the handlebars on a bike, to help get the hands up and ahead with the wrists open: trottle up swings the basket forward, throttle down brings the basket back.
post #9 of 27
Poles. Freqently, I like to take poles away from people who are in lessons level 3-6. Why? Because all too often I see that poles are a crutch. People say to me "oh no... I need them to balance".

As so many of you have noted, poles have many great uses. Propulsion, turn ititiation, etc.

Sadly, I see way more people doing "bad" things with their poles (ruddering in the snow, double pole planting, or create too much upper body movement in an attempt to "use" the poles).

I understand the kid's peer pressure thing and chosing to give poles is probably a personal choice. Expecting your child to use the poles properly? LOL... I agree with the experts, here... that will only happen as your child's skiing improves.

Furthermore, your child has to want to use them properly... I teach kids and adults. Kids don't want to think of skiing as "school"... it takes the fun out of it! [img]smile.gif[/img]

good luck!!
kiersten
post #10 of 27
When to give kids poles and when to teach pole use are two different things.

I like to give kids poles as early as possible. That means it is a bit different for each kid, but if kids are 6 or so I will give them the chance to start out with them, since they can attend to more than one thing at a time by this age (in general).

Once kids can turn and stop reasonably I see no reason to keep the poles away from them. Why? 'Cuz they are an integral part of skiing. I got my son and his ski pard (both 5) poles on the second day of this season. Instantly their hands stabilized and they began skiing faster and more parallel. Their skiing improved over the previous season by close to 80% in that one single day because it connected their hands and upper body to skiing for them. I wished I had gotten poles partway through the previous season.

Sure some reminders about keeping them up is necessary, but it was even more necessary without the poles. They use them for propulsion across flats. generally, poles give them an earlier independence. I vote for early pole use with a little guidance
post #11 of 27
bump.....I think this was before I joined epicski. When do you as instructors introduce your students (especially kids' instructors) to pole usage?
post #12 of 27
I helped work with my niece at W/B who was given her poles at 4 who makes a solid parallel turns and now is working on a strong pole plant with proper timing. When we go out and she is being lazy, with the poles dragging along, they are gone.
As for when to give them, get them in a strong parallel turn, and beforehand work on a strong hands forward position.
If she's bored at the hill find ways to challenge her, get her skiing backwards, if doing hockey stops, get her flipping to 180's, increase speed.
Maximum speed, minimum terrain.
post #13 of 27
My son started skiing last year at 3 and began clamoring almost immediately for poles. My instinct is to let him ski maybe another full season without them. But if he keeps clamoring, should I just give in? Is there any disadvantage to learning early with poles?
post #14 of 27
Yep, when they aren't ready for the poles they use them as a crutch, push with thier poles rather than skating on the flats, which they move for 10 feet, get tired, whine until you come back to where they are to give them a tow. While sking if they aren't using the poles properly they just get dragged along behind, dropping the hands to the hips which in turn drops the whole centre of mass rearwards. At W/B our lessons are grouped from 1-6 and my saying was the best way to turn a level 3 skier to a level 2 is give them poles.
My opinon after teaching kids for 10+ years is once the child can make a strong parallel turn with NO STEM on a moderately difficult blue run then they are ready for poles.
post #15 of 27
I hold out my thumb like a hitchhiker and ask the kid to grab it. If he/she can grip it with any amount of dexterity & strength I get them poles and go through a few games/activities on how to use them for walking, climbing and gliding. If they cannot grip, they are not ready. It's that simple (to me).

I find that if the child uses the poles for upper body turning it is because I have taken them too far up the hill, on terrain to steep for them to feel safe or some other situation that makes them feel unsafe.

Since I accepted the idea of teaching to pole use from day one for any and everyone who can hold poles I have discovered how valuable a tool they really are for all ages and ablitiy levels; especially for young kids who have trouble climbing/walking etc. I realized that my former instinct to take the poles away or keep them away was a self-centered coping skill on my part, as a teacher, and that by not teaching people about them a I was doing my guests & children a dis-service.

It's not just kids, though. If I see people overusing poles for turning & stopping, it is simply because they feel unsafe in the situation, that is the problem, not the pole use. Now I see it as rediculous to take the poles away from somebody in this situation and demand thay they continue to try and learn despite the situation.

It might not seem immediately like there are many activities to teach pole use to the child or beginner, but when you begin to discover them, it's pretty much inifinite.

Homework: Spend a little time watching some novice/beginner childrens instruction groups in which some kids have poles and others do not. As the teachers walk/climb around the teaching area see which kids can keep up and which cannot. Watch which kids fall down more often, and which ones can get up on their own more successfully.

I would make the assignment to watch for teachers who actually teach kids to use poles, but you would be more than lucky to find any, since it is pretty much common practice to keep them away from kids, or to take them away if the kids show any signs of "pole mis-use." I know it's not popular opinion, but that "common practice" is an instructor/adult centered habit, as opposed to student/child centered.

edit: (wow, i just re-read my last post in this thread from 2003! I guess my opinion/experience has developed some since then, even though I can see it was headed this way back then! Interesting!)
post #16 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by prickly View Post
My son started skiing last year at 3 and began clamoring almost immediately for poles. My instinct is to MAKE him ski maybe another full season without them. But if he keeps clamoring, should I just give in? Is there any disadvantage to learning early with poles?
I edited that one word for you.

Could he hold/grip poles? Developmentally that is the only real concern(imho). As far as any disadvantages are concerned, the key lies in the word 'learning.' If you take a little time to do a few things which will help your young one discover the advangtages of poles he will not experience anyone else's perceived dis-advantages. The advantages far outnumber and outweigh dis-advantages
post #17 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by icanseeformiles(andmiles) View Post
bump.....I think this was before I joined epicski. When do you as instructors introduce your students (especially kids' instructors) to pole usage?
I don't teach kids so my opinions are untested (woe be it to any person who tries to tell me my untested opinions dont work), but I would give poles to any child who can muster enough energy to carry them. While I agree with the gross/fine motor argument mentioned I think that holding poles even without planting w/ them can teach kids valueable skills. For one you want to accustom them early to the sensation of having poles and keeping them in the right positions instead of giving poles to them later and having them drop the poles down by thier sides where there hands are probably at now. Poles can also serve the purpose of making hand position easily visible to instructors orr parents and reinforcing proper positioning with kids.
post #18 of 27
As soon as they can safely ride the lift with their poles, let them do it. If you're carrying the poles for them, that's a bit different. The development stages and the gripping the the adult's thumb as a test is interesting.

Make some fun drills for the kids without poles so they don't learn to use the poles as a crutch. Take my wife...well, just for a ski run anyway...who uses her double poling to get started after a stop either as a bad habit or to drive me nuts....
post #19 of 27
I know instructors that give poles to the littlest of kids, as long as the poles don't get in their way. I'm talking 3 and 4 year olds.

They get so proud when they have their own pair!

For a 6 1/2 y.o. without question, get them. Even if you hold them on the lift ride.
post #20 of 27
If they are easily distracted poles will be exactly that. Age is less relevent than developmental stage. Same hold true for adults. In fact I know an adult hiker that insists on using poles. She hunches over and worries about the damn things instead of just standing up and walking.
post #21 of 27
I gave my kids poles at age 5, but I carried the poles on the lift for a couple of years. At 5 & 6, my daughter would sometimes give me her poles for her last couple of runs if she was getting a bit tired. (And I preferred to carry them rather than have her dragging her hands behind her when the poles were "too heavy.")

When working with groups of kids younger than about 7, I usually require that they not bring poles, so they have both hands free for getting on the lift, and I have both hands free to help when needed.
post #22 of 27

bump

 

Have been a few parents asking about poles lately.  Good stuff here from the early days of EpicSki.

post #23 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by justanotherskipro View Post

If they are easily distracted poles will be exactly that. Age is less relevent than developmental stage. Same hold true for adults. In fact I know an adult hiker that insists on using poles. She hunches over and worries about the damn things instead of just standing up and walking.


Probably the best answer of the bunch.

Kids who do not have to think about their skiing--they've been at it long enough to become mostly "automatic" about using turn shape to define their intentions--will have little difficulty adding poles to their skiing, and may begin to benefit from their use.

As Bob Barnes likes to quote one of the Mahre brothers: "If poles were important, we wouldn't call it skiing."
post #24 of 27

Could this be a chicken and egg question from 2003?  Does the kid progress faster with the poles, or does the kid progress faster without the poles (that may in the way) for the time being?  An instuctor in a group lesson decided my then 5-year old was ready for poles, but after the first day he was stabbing the snow, sometimes starting a turn with the wrong pole.  The next day I skied a couple of hours with the little guy having him try some double pole plants, which he agreed to do after telling him that's what Bode does in the GS.  His hands stayed forward and he started to swing instead of stab the poles.  A few days later he took another lesson and the single pole plant then made sense.  The new instructor was a really interesting 60-something guy that was more interested in results than using a teaching method.  He had my son play games like "punch the bad guy" after planting the pole to keep his hand forward.  At first, the poles made him ski worse.  Then the poles made him better.  His hands never dropped back again. 

post #25 of 27

Quote:

Originally Posted by Kneale Brownson View Post
Probably the best answer of the bunch.

Kids who do not have to think about their skiing--they've been at it long enough to become mostly "automatic" about using turn shape to define their intentions--will have little difficulty adding poles to their skiing, and may begin to benefit from their use.

As Bob Barnes likes to quote one of the Mahre brothers: "If poles were important, we wouldn't call it skiing."

Nice. The quote is more like, "If poles were so important, we would call it poling instead of skiing."

 

I agree with the above though.  The one big advantage of poles at early stages is moving on the flats and stopping at the lift line to get on the chair.

 

Also, for the poles themselves, the best poles - most functional that is, allow one to put the top of the pole in the palm of the hand. Way too many kids poles, and a fair number of adult poles, have a top of the handle that is a large circle or hexagon or pentagon. It's nigh impossible to fit it into the palm. This doesn't allow them to push behind their feet with their poles in an easy, strong manner when ascending up in herring bone fashion. It also prevents doing a bullfighter turn which is useful to change the way you're pointing without going downhill.

 

This is my huge peeve about poles that isn't addressed by the industry. One could simply cut the tops off most of these things. Most racing poles for kids allow the palm in the hand for tucking. Get those or cut and grind the tops off the others.

 

Here's Scotts "Notch Strike Grip" - for adults. They make junior Notch Grips also. Note the small top. This works in the palm. This type is what you want

 

http://www.scott-sports.com/global/en/products/2165040006081/pole-scott-wc-sl-green-125/;jsessionid=636A342826A833B3587A5782EB416D1C

 

 

Here's the Junior Notch Grip. This will work like above for kids.

Quote:

 

 

 

Now this is their other kids grip, the "Junior Joystick" grip. It's hard to tell from the photo, but "joystick" usually means a large top. It may not fit in the palm. You have to see.

Quote:

Put down your video games, grab onto the Joystick grip and go skiing. SCOTT’s anatomically engineered Joystick Grip is the answer for smaller hands.

http://www.scott-sports.com/global/en/products/2241990006076/pole-scott-jr-hero-green-105/;jsessionid=636A342826A833B3587A5782EB416D1C

post #26 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by prickly View Post

My son started skiing last year at 3 and began clamoring almost immediately for poles. My instinct is to let him ski maybe another full season without them. But if he keeps clamoring, should I just give in? Is there any disadvantage to learning early with poles?

 

About time someone asked the kids opinion.  I still remember getting on skis the first time, when I was four or five.  I wanted poles.  I would have been pissed if I couldn't have any.  They gave me poles and I had so much fun that all I wanted to do was ski from then on.

post #27 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by newfydog View Post

 

About time someone asked the kids opinion.  I still remember getting on skis the first time, when I was four or five.  I wanted poles.  I would have been pissed if I couldn't have any.  They gave me poles and I had so much fun that all I wanted to do was ski from then on.

My daughter has been the opposite.  She has been skiing since 4 and is 9 now.  This is the first year that poles haven`t gotten in her way and/or that she didn`t want to give them back to me after a run or two (even if she had asked for them at the start of the day).  Before going out this season, I had her jump on a mini tramp with poles and I think this helped her get used to them.  Unfortunately, it seems as if she wanted to ski a lot more during the years that she wasn`t using poles than she does now.  

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