Pole dragging

Pole dragging on Pocaterra

This post was also known as ” Man drags poles, creates cloud of snow, which is funny to watch, but he isn’t doing anything wrong. After trying to go slow, he decides to race when passed by a girl.”

Do you try and slow yourself down by dragging your poles on the downhills? The skier in this video was ahead of me on the fast and fun(and straight) stretch of Pocaterra, but look at where his poles are.

Watch the video

He was scared of going too fast, so he was dragging his poles to slow himself down. Caroline skied up behind him in the same tracks, but didn’t feel comfortable changing lanes while going so fast. On the next uphill, she passed him. The trail then resumes a quick downhill, at which time the pole-dragger started racing with her, and shouting at her from behind. It was bizarre.


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  1. Last year I used to pole drag when I was scared of a downhill portion – but always outside the tracks where I’d normally plant the poles. I didn’t know any better and when I tried slowing down doing the half-snowplow I’d just fall down as the skis would just slip from under me. Then I got new skis (that actually had an edge) and got a lesson on the half-snowplow and also hopping out into the skating lane (and controlling speed and direction there) so now I don’t pole drag since it doesn’t seem that effective. Generally if I’m not comfortable I don’t go on that trail or sometimes I’ll just walk down the hill if there’s just one section I’m not comfortable with, or if there are not many skiiers on that hill I’ll let them all pass then use it to practise my speed control – slowly.

  2. A friend first told me about using this technique after seeing it used by experienced skiers in the Norwegian Birkebeiner. At about the 40 km mark there are three steep pitches. If you arrive there after 5,000-10,000 skiers have already gone down them, they turn into parallel luge runs – icy and fast. So, if you want to 1) survive intact, 2) actually be able to slow your speed, and 3) have any wax at the bottom of the hills, then riding your ski poles is actually a very sound idea! If you don’t, you may end up riding the skidoo to the finish with a broken ski or some bodily injury!

  3. Wow, you guys n girls are so fun to read, I would hope that the groomers will remember to lift the tracksetter on the fast downhills to give people a chance to slow down. A minor slope that was no problem on the cold days can be a screamer when it,s warmer! I hope your back gets better soon Bob,.

    Thanks. By the time you get back and resume tracksetting, I’ll be there to greet you with my skis on. Will I recognize you with that deep tan?-Bob

    • A little track setting 101 here. When we track set we set the trails so the average skier can stay in the track without fear. If the track is lifted it means steep hill or sharp corner. Learn to trust the track even as a beginner you will find it is easier than trying to snowplow with one foot out of the track and far easier on your poles than trying to use them as an anchor.

      • words of wisdom. I learned this early on and have found out that you don’t second guess the track-setter! Few face plants taught me right quick!

      • While I find the track setting excellent everywhere I’ve skied in Alberta (and it does help me relate the terrain to ski-ability, and takes a lot of the guess work out of what to do), I still think beginners like myself need to learn, and practice ways to slow themselves down and be able to stop while in the tracks. Trusting the track won’t work when after 200m of coasting, there’s small children who’ve fallen on the track and are blocking you path. Much better to know how to stop then being forced into a “yard sale” fall (Bob, you can take my picture as long I’m not crying). In addition, if the track is set for the average skier (which obviously it should be), it’s worth noting that almost no one is average. Half of us are above average, the other half below. I practised the “half plow” all day Saturday at PLPP, and I find myself now being able to go down any track set hill with much more confidence knowing that I’ll be able to slow myself or stop if I have to. Thanks to everyone on here for all the great help.

        • Good points Dave, we also take notice of what’s going on on the trail eventually if enough people are one foot snowplowing they will fill in the opposite track. This is an indication to the groomers to not set the downhill track as aggressively. As John mentioned snow and air temperature play a key to the speed of the snow and in most cases that is taken into consideration not only on the downhills but on the uphill track as well. The key to the average skier is based on the rating of the trail. Beginner trails have less track expert more. I would suggest learning the sideways slide stop much the same as skating or downhill skiing, this is by far the best way to stop in a hurry and once learned can make you far more confident on all of the downhills

  4. I am wondering if you informed this gentleman that he was included in a video record of your ski and if you asked his permission to post it on youtube?

    Can you identify him? I have another video showing his face but I didn’t post it. It shows him yelling at Caroline. Being a public place, there’s no law saying I need his permission unless I was charging people to watch it. Perhaps I should post it? -Bob

    • No I can’t identify him. But if I was from the area and a frequent skier the chances are good that I might. People often wear the same clothes skiing and become recognizable.
      This post provoked some thoughts about personal privacy in a public space. I remember advice about taking photos of people while traveling. It was that one should always ask permission. This man became the topic of your post on this blog and also on a Youtube posting. Sure there is no law, but do we have to legislate all good manners? I expect you ask permission to take still photos of skiers you don’t know, so why not on the video as well?
      The post has sparked some great discussion and shared information. I am grateful for the link to the video of the Atlai people skiing. Since most people give permission when asked, why not, when your intentions are about “giving facts, and not making judgments.”

      This skier displayed some awfully bad manners and belligerent behavior by shouting at Caroline. He seemed quite proud of himself, so I doubt that he cares about the video. I was wearing the video camera on my head, so maybe he was putting on a performance.

      I’ve posted hundreds, if not thousands, of photos on this blog and never once had anyone complain. I would gladly delete a photo of anyone identifiable if they asked. You’re creating an issue where none ever existed.

      You’ve brought a lot of attention to a skier who you wanted to remain anonymous(even if he didn’t). -Bob

      • Actually, you can take pictures/videos of people in public spaces and sell them and/or charge a viewing fee without their permission. What you can’t do is use their image in marketing (i.e. to promote a product/service) without permission. If that wasn’t the case, then the paparazzi would be out of work very quickly.

  5. Rodney Dangerfield

    Great Video Alf!!!

  6. If you want to get a glimpse of the historical origins of using poles for steering or slowing down, check out this video. It’s an ancient method of skiing that pre-dates proper ski lessons, good ski equipment or trail grooming.
    The Atlai people likely invented skiing even before the Norwegians.

    • Cool video, Alf! But I didn’t notice any of those guys dragging their poles between their legs like in Bob’s video! It seems like they use it more like a steering rudder, like in a canoe! It looks fun! And I like their outfits and hats – beats a flash of spandex flying by you!! I hope that guy in Bob’s video isn’t planning on having any children any time soon! It’s so cool to see you on this blog, Alf! I can remember going on trips with you way back when I was in University in the ’80s!! Glad to know you’re still around!!

    • Great video Alf. It was also neat to see him construct the ski.
      Their sledding down the forest glade left me thinking of the sledding scenes in the Fearless Vampire Killers.

    • How on earth did I miss this post last year? This reminded me of when we were kids and roller skating – you know, on the old-fashioned skates with two wheels in back and two on front. We were maybe 7 or 8 years old and going down paved roads on steep hills. Those freaked me out, so my friends and I developed a method of where we ‘sat’ down on brooms between our legs to slow ourselves down. It was great fun. I’ve never seen, nor thought of anything like this being a possibility for skiing, but the video sure was interesting and educational. Would be interesting to ski with those types of historic/traditional skis one day just to see what it would feel like.

  7. Rodney Dangerfield

    Hi Guys….Glad to see that we are all enjoying the humour and having a good chuckle with this “Pole Dragging” post!!!!

  8. Bob… mission accomplished! You managed to stimulate (or aggravate?) some conversation here. We have all seen new or old-school or downright bizarre behavior out there. Sometimes it creates danger (real or perceived) and/or may be construed as rude. What I do kindly and respectfully ask of all you readers out there is: When you are coming up on other skiiers, or being passed, please act with courtesy and predictably. That might include slowing down, maybe holding your line, say “Hello” or “passing on your left”, or restraining yourself in whatever manner necessary. We’re all out there for fun, nobody is going to win or lose the Sunday World SkiHere Championships. Thanks for reading my rant.

  9. Youtubed, One of my worst fears. I think its a funny video except I didn’t care for the music. Maybe something from Tchaikovsky’s ” The Nutcracker” would have been more suitable. Bob –You should add an other category on your site — Funny ski stories. I’LL give you one. Many many years ago there was a try out for the Canadian Olympic Biathlon team right on the slopes of Nakiska. It was definitley more wilderness then and hunting territory in the early winter.Well the Canadian Military thought it would be a good experince for about a 100 or so of their boys to get some ski and shooting experience. So they issued these boys with these big white slats and told them to go for it. That they did with real guns not the pop guns they use today. Multiply all these soldiers with twenty shots apiece and you can imagine the racket. Lore has it that the hunters in the valley thought war had broken out and cleared out of the valley pronto.

  10. Hi, new to the site and to XC. I was wondering, what IS the best method of keeping a slow speed on these long down hills that are track set? I stick to the easy trails since I’m a beginner, but I find on even easy trails there’s often long downhill sections where you’re at the mercy of gravity. Case in point is Moraine Lake road. I tried the “one foot snow plow” with the other ski in the track, and then when I was particularly unnerved, got into the massive skating lane and snowplowed (still improving in both these methods). There’s not always a skating lane, and I have it in the back of my head that the one foot snowplow was destroying the track for other people. While I’d like to be able to just rocket down without any fear, I get the willies and am just not at that level yet. And the thought of running someone over because I’m not skilled enough to stop or step turn kinda makes me sick to my stomach (I’m 200lbs). Thoughts? Suggestions? Snide remarks? Thanks.

    Snide remarks?! Dave, I think you’ll fit right in. 🙂 Welcome to the site.

    Spend lots of time practicing your lane changes where it’s safe, and as your ability and confidence grows, you will be able to get in and out of the tracks at higher speeds. It also would be good to get some instruction on the technique involved in doing this. When George Smith(CNTG) gave me a couple simple pointers, it made it so much smoother and easier. I’d like to tell you what they were, but it would be more effective to have someone demonstrate. Stop me on the trail if you ever see me and I’ll be happy to show you. -Bob

    • Dave, I share your terror and am amazed at the speed and ease of passing others display. An instructor at Nipika taught me to really bend my knees and try to dig in the inner edges of the top half of my skis when I snowplow on XC skis. And if needed, I shamelessly drag my poles to my sides to aide in slowing down. More miles on my skis has improved my snowplow skills.

    • No snide remarks here, Dave, that’s a good question. You’re on the right track (pardon the pun) with the ‘one foot snow plow’ – it’s common and does little damage to the tracks. If that doesn’t slow you enough, a full snow plow is called for. In situations where a collision is imminent it’s prudent to fall on your own which often happens naturally as you hastily try to apply the brakes.

  11. Guys don’t like getting ‘girled’. Hurts the ego. As a girl, I don’t like getting what I call “old manned’: getting passed by old dudes in saggy 1970s lycra, knickers, sweatpants, you get the picture. Trouble is, some girls go faster than some guys and some old men go faster than me (sigh).
    Thanks for the post, it was quite entertaining.

  12. Dragging your poles between your legs was actually an old method of slowing down before all the modern grooming. I doubt that if you went back an hour later you would even be able to tell where it had occurred. What is next chastising people for herring boning up the uptrack on Elk Pass or falling and not filling in their sitzmark??

    Calm down. I’m not chastising anyone. I just thought it was kind of funny, especially the cloud of snow he was creating. Read my post again and you’ll see I was giving facts, not making judgements. You’re the one who’s doing that. Are you the skier in that video?

    I agree, dragging the poles does no harm to the tracks, and the thought never crossed my mind until it was brought up here.

    If there was any point to this, it was how this skier was trying to slow himself down until Caroline passed him, at which point he was no longer afraid to go fast and skied like a man possessed to catch her. I’ve changed the title of this post in order to clear up any confusion. -Bob

    • Rodney Dangerfield

      Come on people where’s your sense of humour???

    • “If there was any point to this, it was how this skier was trying to slow himself down until Caroline passed him, at which point he was no longer afraid to go fast and skied like a man possessed to catch her.”

      Sounds eerily similar to old men in baggy cycling shorts .

    • I am calm but lately you have been making mountains out of molehills about other skiers on the trails. Not sure if this is for editorial purposes to stimulate comments or if you are trying to make a funny at other peoples expense. And no it was not me that you passed.

      If you haven’t noticed, this is a cross-country ski blog. All the incidents I describe are relevant to this activity and if it stimulates discussion, that’s a good thing. A good example is Dave’s question. You are the only one making mountains out of molehills. -Bob

  13. At first I thought you were being too critical of another skier’s style here, Bob. Whether another skier feels like dragging their poles or not shouldn’t be a matter for public scrutiny. However, then I watched the video and understood your point better – it’s the fact that the poles are being forcefully dragged in the tracks themselves. Yes, that’s not the best trail etiquette.

    So the point should be that if you’re going to drag your poles because it’s more comfortable for you, please do so out of the tracks to one side or the other. Alternately, perhaps consider your trail selection better to avoid the long downhills that unnerve you and necessitate pole-dragging.

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