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Ski Tips with Dan Egan: Pole planting is the key to upper body stability

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The focus in “All-Terrain Skiing” is on keeping your motion going in the direction of gravity. Pole-planting initiates the skier’s motion down the hill. A problem occurs when many pole plants are angled in the direction of the ski tips or across the hill. Your poles should always be planted at right angles to your feet.

At my Dan Egan Steep Camps at Big Sky Resort and around the world, we explore these four points:

  1. When you reach downhill with your pole plant, your shoulders square off to the fall line.
  2. When you move your hips and core toward your downhill pole, you’ll move your body out and over your feet.
  3. What you discover in these movements is how the skis seem to release and flow into the fall line.
  4. When you plant your pole in the direction of the fall line, your eyes are looking down the hill.

Planting your pole down the fall line will set up a chain reaction that makes you more efficient, expends less energy, and makes skiing more dynamic.

In my new book, “All Terrain Skiing II” the pole planting drills are in the Upper Body Section. For the best demonstrations download the All-Terrain Skiing app, available on both Apple and Google app stores.

In this article I’ll share two drills from the book that will help you achieve better pole planting techniques. “Pole Point” and “Mogul Pole” these drills will help make you more efficient and get you skiing at your maximum potential.

Upper Body: Pole Point

A skier demonstrates the first step in the Pole Point drill. PHOTO BY DEGAN MEDIA

The Pole Point drill is intended to teach how to use your poles properly.

Get yourself on a comfortable slope with your hands holding your poles out in front of your body in a relaxed position. Now, point your index fingers downhill.

Begin skiing the fall line. As you move forward, extend the tip of one pole by cocking your wrist so your index finger points up. Plant the tip of the pole in the snow. As you do so, your index finger will level out. Ski past the planted pole, so your index finger is pointing down at the snow. As you turn, repeat the motion with the other pole. Keep your index fingers pointed to give you a reference for the proper motion.

The skier demonstrates the drill’s second step. PHOTO BY DEGAN MEDIA

Plant one pole tip, moving your arm forward to the extent of your reach. Point the opposite pole tip out in front of your body and repeat the motion. Chant this mantra: Point, plant, push. Continue this smooth, rhythmic motion until you have a natural feeling of wrist movement. Keep pointing until the motion becomes muscle memory.

Pole Point further emphasizes the isolation and separation of body parts, in this case the arms and wrists. This drill reminds you to always keep your hands out in front, where you can see and use them. You’ll now be skiing more naturally, and you will have more confidence.

Upper Body: Mogul Pole

This exercise elevates the upper body drills to a new level and you’ll see how effective pole pointing can be.

Mogul skiing depends on a quiet upper body. Mogul Pole teaches how to use your poles to maintain upper body poise while your feet and skis fly over and around moguls. Begin skiing a small mogul field that is not too steep. Face your upper body downhill, holding your arms out in front. Grasp the poles gently and point your index fingers down the fall line.

Plant a pole and use the same movement you learned in the prior drill: point, plant, push. Move your wrist forward as you aim for the back side of the mogul. Keep your hands visible. Always try to plant the tip of your pole on the back side of the mogul.

Planting on the back side has many benefits: it allows natural hand and arm movement; keeps your shoulders square to the hill; allows you to better anticipate the mogul; and forces you to reach down the hill, which keeps your body perpendicular to the hill.

You should experience a flowing sensation as you ski with your pole plants from one mogul to the next. Notice on the videos on the ATS II App how smoothly and quickly the skier moves from bump to bump. Concentrate on your hands and your feet will follow. You’ll see your skiing skills improve dramatically!

A skier demonstrates a mogul pole plant. PHOTO BY DEGAN MEDIA

Extreme skiing pioneer Dan Egan coaches and guides at Big Sky Resort during the winter. His 2022/23 steeps camps at Big Sky Resort run Jan 11-13, March 1-3, and March 8-10. His book, “Thirty Years in a White Haze” was released 2021 and his newest book “All-Terrain Skiing II” was released this past November, his books and worldwide ski camps are available at

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