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Poles, crutch, savior or just nice to have.

post #1 of 43
Thread Starter 
Evey year about this time I pick on poles and every year Bob B slaps me and says "Whats wrong witchew Boy". This year I will let the chips fall where they may without damning them as a total crutch. Afterall I ski with them and won't just "hand them over to yah".
Poles for many skiers can be both a crutch and a savior. I see many pitfalls and dead end skiing caused by or facilatated as a result of poles. At the same time I see many uses and comfort gained by the're use.

Over dependence on poles garnered from the groomed can get one into trouble in very soft or hard condtions.
Whats you're opinion of them. I love them and hate them and don't use them the "correct" way either. [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]
post #2 of 43
Stand at the top of a steep bump run. Remove your poles and give them to your second. Ski the run with speed, grace and aplomb. Harder than it looks right! Four or five of these runs each week will help you develop better balance and less reliance on poles. Even so I have never met a skier who is willing to ski without poles.

The balance and rhythm assistance that poles provide is an immeasurable benefit. The flip side is that the misuse of poles can cause immeasurable detriment. I tend not to throw the baby out with the bath water, do you? My rule is simple, constantly work to accentuate the benefits and limit the detriments.

The “total crutch” statement was hyperbole, right?

post #3 of 43
Bob B took one look at my bump skiing yesterday and told me to ditch the poles. These were tiny two week old bumps. He said I was "blocking" and had too much rotary motion from the waist up.

I spent the whole day today skiing with my nine year old and I never touched a pole. Made much better turns all day.
post #4 of 43
Great topic... it's often overlooked. My personal story... I was a level 5-6 skier with upper body rotation/initiation when I became an instructor. I greatly changed and refined my skiing over the years, but everytime I'd get tense there's the old habit creeping in. Funny thing though, take away my poles on a steep groomed pitch, and wow!! my feet worked like they actually knew what they were doing. I was able to lay down almost perfect arcs the whole run. Do that enough and eventually the old habit virtually disappears. I've got the level 2 pin to prove it. It was psychologically tough at first, but now I love skiing without poles. One caveat, I still "need" them (ie crutch) in the bumps.

Here's something I do with my students... it's a variation on an old theme. If students are reluctant to let the poles go then make them do something else with them. Have them carry them at mid pole and glue the poles, open palm not closed fist, with their hands to their hips (can't cheat easily that way). Then use them as a visual lubber line for upper body alignment, the baskets (which I have them point down hill) are not allowed to point across or up the hill. Do this on a gentle slope. If I "lock" their upper body than they are forced to use their feet. This is of course an excercise and needs to be brought back to a more fluid total movement pattern.

PS as with many exercises, I've had resounding successes, and a few miserable failures (some people still don't get it) with this.
post #5 of 43
Dammit I'm NOT typing out those exercises again(guided discovery failed - ONLY Keetov even tried them!)

All I have to say is - Yes they are a hinderance at lower levels - I spent so long skiing without them at these levels that people are still bemused at how comfortable I am without poles

However - when skiing poleless i do hyperextend my fingers why? - I'll leave keetov to explain as you don't listen to me.

At higher levels they are handy for difficult situations & I don't ski much without them now - mostly when we are working on any new sensation as they distract me from the new 'feel'.

Again the reason they are 'handy' in bumps/steeps is easy to demonstrate in the lounge - but requires willingness to TRY.
post #6 of 43
Thread Starter 
Hey whats up with the frustration disski? We listen, for all of five minutes. [img]smile.gif[/img]

I don't need no poles for any size/shape/steepness of moguls on alpine or telemark. It can be done. Once you are comfortable with this the most fun is moguls after a freezing rain.

That said, I still ain't givin yah my poles.
post #7 of 43
No - only Keetov tried those things - no-one listened!
post #8 of 43
How very interesting a topic!

When coaching you spend a lot of time skiing around with something else in my hands (gates, drills, etc), so frequently I would just leave my poles somewhere. In between schlepping and having left my poles elswhere, I've done a lot of skiing miles without poles. I think that as a result my skiing mechanics have become independant of, to the point of being indifferent to, my poles most of the time. So I tend to be lazy about their use unless something demands their involvment.

When someone notices and reminds me (this omission attracts attention) I can present their use in some classical image aparently intigrated into my skiing. But I then feel like I am pretending they are contributing something they are not. When they are brought up, I pay attention for a while amused that I sometimes use them, and sometimes not (based on planetary alignment for all I can tell).

I used to feel they were intigral to my short turns, until I got on skis my feet could turn quicker than my hands really wanted to whip my poles to keep up (and then have to stop the whip).

We have traditionally identified poles with several uses:
Timing device: Primary or complimentry? (My primary's in my feet).

Lead the CM into next turn: Maybe, if you don't release it by releasing your edges with your feet?

Balance: Crutches for skiing with underveloped balance skills? Milage on snowblades has even diminished this function for me.
I teach beginners without them so they can't use them as crutches and develop skier specific balance quicker.

I used to blather that if your poles were not working for you, they were working against you. But I'd change it to be if they are working against you, they are not working for you. (Duh?)

I do suspect my traditional approach to bump skiing is probably habitually over-dependant on them and needs revamping.

I'd be in favor of everyone deciding to do (or not do) whatever they want to with them. I don't think we are somehow bound to the traditional image of skiing with a coreographed pole swing, but some people like it. I know we've been trained to expect to see it, appreciate when it is used well, and dis it when it is sloppy. So would a good rule be to use them well or not at all? (nah!)
But I think I would feel... ah, different without them. (oh no!)

I do like them for navigating lift lines and opening my bindings. And they are great in the lift line for nonchalantly planting between the feet of the urchin trying to weasel around you in the lift line. But I'm thinking form should follow function (as when we are leaning on them).

Yes, it is after three am, but I got home from my annual fix from the new Warren Miller movie "STORM" about one and was too cranked to sleep. And ya know, I don't remember noticing what any of the skiers in the flick were doing with their poles (though I did notice they were great with their feet).

[ November 09, 2002, 01:33 AM: Message edited by: Arcmeister ]
post #9 of 43
No Arcmeister - they do do something - try the original exercise I posted in the other thread & see why...
post #10 of 43
Let me quote myself (I'm too lazy to retype this):

I've heard that my LMDs (liftline maneuvering devices) have some use when I am sliding down the mountain but in many cases the uses have had more to do with tradition and "style" than with practicality. Why do we still teach pole plants? Because we been doing it for fifty years and we ain't going to stop now. If poles are such a great thing then how come boarders at the elete level haven't adopted their use. If I can learn to ski any turn I care to make and ski any terrain I want to ski without poles then are they really essential or just a cruch? If I need my poles to enhance my balance then maybe I need to work on my balance. Is the pole plant the important thing or are the subtle movements of the hands involved with the pole plant and the kenitic chain involved with these movements the important thing. Reaching down the hill for a pole plant winds up my body and helps move my skis into the turn at the release of the old turn. Why not just learn to use my feet and legs to guide the skis into the turn? Why is it that I can have students making pretty good progress and then see them regress when they ski with a different instructor who imedeately determines that they need a pole plant? In my experience why has taking the poles away from a student and teaching them a series of controlled hand and arm movements then giving them their poles back proven to be the most effective way to introduce "proper" pole usage? Why do so many new instructors have their skiing fall apart when I ask them to ski without their poles in a clinic? Gymnasts, divers, and arielests all use "blocking" to start stop and control rotation of vairous parts of their bodies yet they don't have poles in their hands nor any surface to "plant" against.
Just a few thing concerning pole usage that haved occured to me over the years.
If you are interested in more about poles and hands web page

post #11 of 43
I pretty much agree with Pierre, Roger, Ydnar, and others that it is more than reasonable to question pole use, especially in light of modern ski technology. But trying to be fair, I would like to add to the list of utilitarian uses of poles so here's a few different ones:

Climbing up with skins on skis.

Slogging along a long traverse (especially with some rise). (BTW, this is especially useful at Solitude where there is some great terrain both in-bounds and out-of-bounds which can not be gotten to without this tool).

Getting someone to eliminate up-down movements in their skiing by having them crouch down a bit and continually drag their poles on the ground behind them.
post #12 of 43
Hey Si how it going did you try the foot bed thin, how did it go?

On the topic I have one thought. If you watch someones pole use you can see some real symptoms emerge. Defensive skiers even ski pros with lots of seasons will lightly drag the poles after the touch. If you watch closly you can see pressure changes while the pole drags you can see slight differnces from one side to the other. What does this mean. Usualy that the movment into the turn was not as progressive as it could have been. if you do it "right" you balance on your feet not the poles.

This is a golden oportunity to bring more touch into someones skiing by trying to make the pole touch and keep the pole off the snow for the rest of the turn. The person will have no choice but to be more balanced in the feet to do this. it is a great exersize to polish it all. The next step that i like is the fake pole plant. Do all the moves of the pole and hand but do not touch the shnow or drag the pole. Easier if you "Choke up on the pole" lower the hand on the grip a bit. Check it out some time.
post #13 of 43
Once about a decade ago got a bout of tendonitus down from one thumb and had to forego poles a few days. Although I quickly figured out how to manage reasonably , I remember leaving that episode with a greater appreciation of the value of my sticks.

I'm not an instructor like many of the rest of you, have never had formal training though am reasonable well read. My style is similar to other advanced skier to some extent but is certainly more unique than usual in others aspects which is in part due to my wiry size and light weight. Over the years, there have been a number of items of skiing technique I have read or heard which for one reason or another did not ring with obvious logic. That was especially true in the mogul skiing arena which maybe for many years had considerable misconceptions. Accordingly while listening to accepted dogma I also explored my own body/ski mechanics to evolve my own technique into what worked and felt right. I have a number of ways to ski the same terrain and will at a whim look a bit different on one run than on another because I am more interested in having fun than always skiing with a certain style. Two particular items some may profess that I have long grated at is an over emphasis on maintaining a quiet upper body and facing too stiffly like a board down the fall line.

When one watches an animal on 4 legs climbing down irregular terrain on a slope the way they navigate with their leading legs becomes second nature. We humans being upright on two legs have lost that 4 legged necessity although it inherently comes out when we scramble about steeper terrain like talus. My poling may sometimes go to sleep but generally my subconscious mind set is to some extent like an animal climbing around on 4 legs. Much of the time the movement may be an easy wristy pendulum but other times like a critter reaching out planting a fore leg.

My general style in advanced terrain is to maintain movement at a more dynamic level than may be required because that gives me more of a tool to work with from turn to turn. One aspect of that is though normally subtle, I often like to initiate turns with a leading tip of the hand and top of my head movement. That is the quickest way for me to initiate the left to right change in body movement which is thence pulled along. Accordingly having poles in my hands provides a slightly greater weight than no poles which provides more of a tool to work with. And as an upright critter, I can't reach the snow with just my hand. Simple as that. -dave
post #14 of 43
So what's wrong with having a crutch when you need it?

The first time I skied with Pierre eh!, just before he went for his Level-3 he wasn't using any poles, he said he forgot them at home, no problem. And he did a great job, making all the right moves.

As this picture, a bad one at that, from the 1970's shows, I did a lot of skiing with my camera and bag when covering races. Here I am slipping down a slalom course just coming to a stop.

But I don't feel whole again until I have my poles.


post #15 of 43
I gotta ask:

Are most of the exercises, tips, cues, and myrid of teaching stratgems we focus around pole use to help this, cause that, etc. really addressing the cause of what it is the student most needs to learn? Or, as I'd suggest, do they just put bandaids on symptoms and deflect their focus even further away from where it should be?

We are too often miss-led by the fact that everything we do works.
People have an amazing capability for learning in spite of how and what we teach them. But this dubious fact that everything we teach works isn't self-justifying, it doesn't mean it is the best thing to be teaching. Modifying appearance of an outcome is not the same as changing what fundamentally causes the outcome.

I'll suggest that if I'm focused on issues with poles, it better be with a skier that can already to just about anything on skis without them, and who wants to add some frosting to their cake.

This is kind of a frosting thread, are the ingrediants of our cake what we need them to be?

Don't fertalize a pole plant, lest it take root and grow.....

[ November 09, 2002, 09:21 AM: Message edited by: Arcmeister ]
post #16 of 43
Thread Starter 
Arcmeister commented:
>>I'll suggest that if I'm focused on issues with poles, it better be with a skier that can already to just about anything on skis without them, and who wants to add some frosting to their cake<<

This has been my contention all along. Incorrect pole use and poles all over the place are usually symptoms of movements that start somewhere other than the feet. For every inefficient action, there is a corresponding inefficient reaction and that reaction is easily seen in the arms and hands. Correcting pole useage with this type of student results in a skier focused on his hands and totally static in his skiing.

Pole usage comes into play when you see someone skiing very well but the poles just upset the rhythm or don't seem to be doing anything. I see way to much focus in lessons placed on correcting pole useage.

Don't get me wrong here. I do use pole useage to help develop rhythm and timing in short turns. Its not my first choice but it is in the bag of tricks. If I see someone with poles all over the place my tendency is to remove the poles not work on pole plants.
post #17 of 43
Originally posted by Pierre eh!:
Incorrect pole use and poles all over the place are usually symptoms of movements that start somewhere other than the feet. For every inefficient action, there is a corresponding inefficient reaction and that reaction is easily seen in the arms and hands. Correcting pole useage with this type of student results in a skier focused on his hands and totally static in his skiing.
Bullseye Pierre,
The movement analysis function is to track the symptom (arm, hand, pole disfunction) back to the root cause. What is going on (or not) at balance home base, da feet, and ripple effecting throughout the body's kinetic chain. When we focus on the symptom, we end up teaching "compensating movements" as bandaids for lack of efficient core movements.

Like I said above, if they are hurting you they aren't helping you , so sure, we need to quiet down "Hi Mom" waving arms and hands, but this all points back to a fundamental balanced stance or core movement issue. The waving should be seen as a obvious signal that says "I need help with my stance and core movements". Not "make my wave look pretty".

Our teaching profession has historically made a science out of creatively inventing a gazillion compensating fixes, tips, exercises, right down to specific muscle contractions that just herd our students around in circles that may tightly surround, but usually miss the core movement bullseye.
: [img]tongue.gif[/img]

[ November 09, 2002, 11:35 AM: Message edited by: Arcmeister ]
post #18 of 43
Oh, just put your hands in your pockets for a few runs and keep them there, it will show up problems in your footwork.

post #19 of 43

That one is a classic eye opener.
Suddenly, no balance crutches.

I usually have them hold their arms across their chest, just to keep mass of arms close to normal fore/aft weight distribution.

post #20 of 43
Thread Starter 
Arcmeister check you PM's
post #21 of 43

Nice Hat!
post #22 of 43
Originally posted by mosh:
Hey Si how it going did you try the foot bed thin, how did it go?
Mosh, sending you a PM in response.
post #23 of 43
Great topic. I enjoyed reading everyone's posts. My thinking is running bsicaly along with most here. It's good to get reimforcement from those who ore time in than myself.

I never really spent much time skiing without poles until my daughter started skiing regularly and I came back to alpine. I spent one year skiing with her without poles, and it was really the best thing I ever did for my skiing. When I started teaching skiing I don't think I taught more than a couple of beginer lessons before I started as a matter of course, taking poles away from all beginers, and I don't teach any pole use until a student has a solid parallel going, which means some good basic skills going down at the feet. Personaly I think low level skiers progress much faster without something in their hand. for that matter, so do more advanced skiers. I will readily take poles away from my advanced students also, especialy those in our programs, who I see for a number of days through the winter. I will say though, that I'm in the minority in our ski school because I teach beginers without poles. A positive of my ski school is that I'm allowed the freedom to teach in my own way.

I to have seen regression of people given just from giving them their poles. It seems to take a long time to tune in to them for many, and some seem determined to use them as a crutch. I try to work good hand and arm position into my students right from the git go, and you don't need poles to do that.

After saying all that, I still ski with poles except, when I'm working on something for myself, or teaching a group without poles, which is almost daily at least for an hour and a half.

Other than certification, no one has ever said to me to teach differently. Interesting. thanks.
post #24 of 43
I think what Arcmeister said is right on. Poles are either helping you or they are hurting you. For my students, I see many of them using poles as crutches because many times I think even with lessons they start skiing without instruction on how best to use them. for a new skier if we are focusing on our feet and the movements we need to be doing down low and they have poles in their hands, they will find something to do with them. They won't skate on the flats, they'll push, they won't learn to finesse their edges to navigate the lift line. All these patterns and habits seem to only grow with time, and just like the breaking wedge, become so hard to discard later on.

I don't want anyone to think I force my students to go without poles. If they are so attached to them they can't give them up, we work with that. they've gotta be comfortable with it. In the end most enjoy the exploration, and appreciate what they learn, and find a sense of accomplishment. [img]smile.gif[/img]

I did have my poles stolen from under a pile of my students poles winter before last. Mysteriously the turned on employe ski day at the end of the year. so I guess they borrowed them for the year.

[ November 12, 2002, 05:50 AM: Message edited by: Ric B ]
post #25 of 43
I think the lighter the pole the better. I have these carbon jobs that work well.

Poles are also a great way to drag that snowboarding friend along a flat spot because those dirty-kneed knuckle draggers can't propel themselves. Then I don't have to wait for them to buckle and unbuckle and scoot and grovel in the snow for a while then...
Just kidding snowboarders. I do pull my buds along though.
post #26 of 43
Some people look just plain rediculous with their poles. Too much swinging motion, planting them in the snow like you're killing fire ants at a picnic. Others just drag them through the snow, others hold them too high. Many sins out there with those crutches. Good bump skiers are ones that use their poles properly. Good racers use them to push the gate out of the way. Good powder skiers use them for rythem. There are a lot of good uses for poles. Wacking a gaper in the lift line. I like to ski without poles sometimes. Mostly when the resort isn't crowded and I can make big screaming carves. Sometimes when i'm working on technique, it helps me get back to the basics of using my edges. I always use them in moguls, rythem and balance as well as turn initiation. I also lean on them while trying to catch my breath after a long bump run. Another good use for poles is pulling snowboarders on a long traverse. Lifties like to use poles to keep people in line when the lifts get backed up. Poles are also good while snowshoeing or hikeing. Poles can be helpful when used properly. They can be a crutch when not used properly. How's that Pierre Eh?
post #27 of 43
Originally posted by Lars:
Some people look just plain rediculous with their poles.
I think people look plain ridiculous 'without' them - especially the euro-carve weenies. I know I feel incomplete without them. Taking away my poles presents as much of a handicap as iced up goggles, a torn out edge, or an injured leg.

The benefits of using poles as SENSORS to enhance your feel for the environment around you... the benefits of poles used as extensions of your arms _in conjunction_ with your skis for body placement... these far outweigh any liabilitys I can possibly think of.
post #28 of 43
Thread Starter 
Cheap seats said:
The benefits of using poles as SENSORS to enhance your feel for the environment around you
AS in---- stabbing a gapper as Lars said?
post #29 of 43
It always amazes me that more people don't mistakenly plant a pole in the face of a bump and take the grip right in the forehead or ribs, sending them directly into never-never land. Whats with the name change?

[ November 12, 2002, 06:39 PM: Message edited by: Cheap seats ]
post #30 of 43
Thread Starter 
Cheap Seats the exclamation point in my name caused problems with the new format.

I have taken a pole in the face in bumps as well as a ski tip in the face in bumps back in the 70's. Twas our GLM training.
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