5 Tips For Introducing Ski Poles
I always recommend you start your child off learning to ski without ski poles. In fact, don't bother introducing poles until your child is good and ready. This can be at different ages for different children, it's more about ability and comfort level. If they can stop in control and use their turns to control their speed, than they may be ready but, always check in with them and gauge their interest level first. There is no rush. Introducing poles too early can cause frustration and ultimately create bad habits. Truth bomb - the best skiers can ski without their poles anyway.
If your child IS ready to start using ski poles, these 5 tips will get them started off right!
Make sure your child's poles are the right size. You will know they are the right length if you turn them upside down and have your child grab onto the pole, directly under the basket. If their arm sits at a 90 degree angle, you've found the right poles.
This next one goes for you and your child. Take it from me and my ski patrol friends, don't put your wrists through the wrist straps on your pole handles. Just grab the handle and let the strap dangle or put the strap under the palm of your hand. Far too many unnecessary injuries have happened from people having pole straps wrapped around their wrists and when it comes down to it, they're just not necessary. If you own your poles you can simply cut them off like I do. Some of my tribe do, some of them don't. It's a personal preference.
Do not, at any point, let your child try to use their ski poles to stop themselves. Sometimes when we stick poles in their hands it becomes an automatic reaction to stick a pole in the ground to try and slow themselves down or stop. If you see your child doing this, give them a gentle reminder to always use their skis to stay in control, never their poles, that's not what they are for and it will trip them up every time.
When getting both on and off the lift, the easiest, most efficient way for them to hold their poles is in one hand, out in front of themselves. They do not need to keep their poles in two hands to move up and load the chair or to get off at the top because they have already learned to get on and off a chairlift without them. Keeping them in one hand, out in front of themselves, keeps them out of the way of others and assures they don't trip up on them when loading and unloading the lift. Fight the urge to hold their poles for them. If they are ready for poles they need to be ready for the full responsibility of using those poles.
Alignment is important! Teach your child how to hold their poles while skiing. This is not about teaching the "pole touch", we will introduce that at a later time. This is about making sure they are holding their poles in a position that helps them stay balanced and initiate their turns.
What does proper alignment look like?
1. Make sure your child is keeping their hands up in front of them, like they are holding the steering wheel of a car.
2. Make sure their poles are slanted and pointing behind them, close to their legs, not pointing out to the side like wings or straight up and down in front of them. Both of those scenarios can get dangerous.
3. I like to tell the kids to pretend they have flashlights or headlights coming out the top of their ski poles and their job, while they are skiing, is to keep those flashlights (or headlights, monster eyeballs, etc.) pointing down the hill.