Don’t become a missing link

Back to the basics. Pole plant, people. Why, where, when and how.

Back to the basics. Pole plant, people. Why, where, when and how.

Just because you see the “new schoolers” with pants around their ankles using knee height poles and not pole planting, does not mean that the sport is evolving that way. These skiers are actually missing a link in their own skiing evolution and it will catch up to them. The best and most versatile freeskiers have a great pole plant and will tell you how important this little link in the chain is.

I will start with why. There are at least three reasons: one is for timing, two is to move your weight forward and down the fall line, and three is to further unweight the ski and help initiate the next turn. Without these three things you will not be skiing your best whether in a course or in the trees.

The where is down the hill from you. Where you plant your pole is where you are moving your body weight. If you are skiing the steeps then you are trying to ski as fall line as possible, so plant your pole in the fall line below you, not up by your ski tips but down below your boots or even back by your tails if it is really steep. If you are in the bumps then right on top of that next bump.

When? Plant your pole at that magic moment right at the end of one turn and the beginning of the next. You will feel your ski release at the end of the turn and you will naturally extend so that your stance becomes taller. Now plant and begin the next turn.

Now the how. I find that I am telling people to plant their pole using their shoulder rather than just a weak wrist movement. This way the upper body is moving forward and down the fall line, and the skier can put some actual weight on the pole when it is planted. Weight is key as it helps get the skis to pop and the next turn will initiate that much easier. This applies on the steeps and also in the deep powder where you need to get your skis up near the surface to get your new turn started.

The next time you are watching a big ski flick with those beautiful, fluted Alaskan peaks you can choose who is more impressive — the new schooler knuckle-dragging and straight-lining top to bottom, or the one who is turning and pole planting and milking the slope for all its worth!

Dylan Henderson is the head coach of the Whitewater Ski Team. His column is featured weekly in the Star. Head to for more information on Henderson and the team