How Snow Skiing Equipment Works

Ski Poles

Some people name their cars; if you're looking to name your ski poles, you might consider the names Georg Bilgeri and Ed Scott. Both men were incredibly influential in the development and use of ski poles.

Georg Bilgeri was an Austrian army official, a co-worker of the famed ski instructor Mathias Zdarsky. Zdarsky taught Austrian troops to ski with just one pole, which was standard prior to the year 1905 [source: Fry, "1905"]. Zdarsky believed that a good skier needed just one pole, which would serve both as a propelling force and as a steering device. Bilgeri countered that a pole in each hand would allow for more efficient turns. Zdarsky treated Bilgeri with derision, even challenging him to a duel [source: Fry, "1905"].

Bilgeri's method won out, but we have Ed Scott to thank for making ski poles user-friendly. Ski poles used to be extremely heavy; Scott said they were "as heavy as a croquet mallet" [source: Fry, "Poles Apart"]. Scott created a thinner, lighter pole that makes fast turns as simple as pie.

But are poles completely necessary? Not necessarily -- you could ski without them, and some ski instructors believe that misuse of poles can encourage bad habits, such as not using the lower body to initiate and make turns [sources: Nelson; Rogan, Campbell]. When used properly, however, ski poles can provide stability, momentum and balance on the slopes.