The finer points of a pole plant in skiing.

A good pole plant will make your turns both easier and better. A bad pole plant on the other hand can be completely detrimental to your skiing. In fact, it’s almost better for you to NOT pole plant than to do a bad pole plant. Again, like most things in skiing, a pole plant is a simple movement.

The first movement is to up-cock the wrist so the thumb is closer to the forearm. Medically, it is the abduction or radial deviation of the wrist. The second movement is constantly keeping your arms up. This involves the isometric contraction of muscles in both your fore and upper arms. 

What makes it a little more complicated is that there are other things we have to observe to make a pole plant ‘good’, although they aren’t strictly movements. 

The strap. If you’re going to have the straps on, make sure you do it correctly. It’s more a safety thing to avoid skiers thumb (a tear of the ligaments in the thumb) which usually happens when you land on your pole. When you fall, your first instinct is to release your pole. If you’re holding your pole grip correctly, your pole will fall below your hand when released. 

Wrong grip where the straps are above the thumb.
If you released the pole, it would stay there. 
Proper grip where the straps are under the thumb.
If you released the pole, it would fall below your hands.

The grip. All five fingers must wrap around the pole firmly at all times. Most importantly the ring and pinky fingers. 

The arms. They are out in front and to the side with elbows away from the body. It is very much like when you’re reading a newspaper. You should be able to see your pole grips just in the corner of your goggles. If you can’t, they are either too low, too far out or too close to your body. 


Elbows too close to body and arms
too low for an efficient pole swings.

Back to the movements; the upcocking of the wrist is the forward swing of a pole plant. The movement comes from the wrist and only the wrist. Not the arm or shoulder. And when we move the wrist, the thumb should be in line with our elbows. The wrist should only move in that plane of movement (abduction) and not to the left or right as well (flexion and extension of wrist). We also aim for the snow to the side of our ski tips. Remember to wrap the ring and pinky finger firmly as you swing the pole forward.

Weak pole grip where ring and pinky finger is released in the forward swing. 
This does not encourage the forward motion of the skier’s body into the new turn. 
The wrist also moves slightly to the right which is not required.

The backward swing. We should never have to focus on the backward swing. You’re going downhill. When you plant a pole in front of you, it’ll come back automatically. What you do have to worry about is not letting the snow make your arm drop. Arm discipline is achieved by flexing (isometrically contracting) fore and upper arm muscles after the forward swing. An arm dropping excessively can pull the shoulder back causing body rotation which in turn causes loss of edge grip.

Arm dropping may cause inadvertent shoulder rotation. 

Those are the physiological aspects of a pole plant. I’ll talk timing in the next post. In the meantime, go out and focus on moving the wrist only when you pole plant. After you pole plant, keep the hands up. Sounds simple but it usually takes awhile before you can do it automatically and in all situations. 

A pole plant is one of two movements above the hips that we need to perform in skiing. Our primary focus in skiing are the legs. As such, we need to get our pole plant to a level of mastery that we don’t need to think about them any more. Well that’s me anyway. I can only think of one thing at a time. At the moment it’s skiing 🙂

PS. I apologise for not posting for a few weeks. Past few weeks have been a little crazy. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my readers! All Rights Reserved.

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