"The pole plant or better yet, pole touch is more of a timing and reference point than a physical need."
I couldn't agree more with that statement, and the entire post as well. After switching to shaped skis and "relearning" how to turn, I had gotten away from using my poles. I kept associating them with the "weight-plant pole-unweight" school of parallel turning I had known for years. After having my son video tape me coming down a series of blues (backwards on a snowboard...him, not me), I realized my upper body had gotten stiff, even though my weight was about right where it should be. On steeper blacks, once again I was weighted right, but slow in turning, causing me to pick up too much speed. Then, something I read in this forum (I don't recall what thread) made me remember how important poles are to proper balance and timing in making quick turns. As dchan says, not a plant, but a touch is all it takes. The result was a marked improvement. I now tend to think of them as my antennae, like some hideous skiing cockroach. But it works!