Unique bamboo Soul Poles bring the green to the slopes
For 10 years, Bryon Friedman skied on the U.S. Ski Team, eventually working his way onto the World Cup circuit, and competing at the Olympic level. For longer than that, he skied the Wasatch backcountry and the groomers of Park City Mountain Resort. Now, he and former U.S. Ski Team racer, Erik Schlopy, are on to a new competition: that of growing a unique small business catering to skiers.
As a ski racer, gear is of utmost concern. Types of skis, wax or poles can make the difference between levels of the podium, or not placing at all. These two have used their understanding of ski gear and the industry to create Soul Poles, a product that not only meets high race standards but also uses a renewable resource in its manufacture: bamboo.
When the duo first set out to create Soul Poles, they looked to the past for inspiration. For years, skiers in both developed and rural areas have used bamboo poles for their strength, abundance and ease of use. With more than 220 species of bamboo to draw from, and the fact that not much imagination is necessary to fashion bamboo as a walking or skiing accessory, bamboo seemed a choice material for the poles. Add to that bamboo’s durability and a breaking point of 309 pounds (aluminum bends permanently with 150 pounds of pressure), the pair was soon sold on bamboo and began ordering it in bulk.
While the bamboo is sourced from China, the rest of the recycled product can be found a bit closer to home. Tips are made in South Salt Lake City, handles are injection molded in South Carolina, and every pole is hand assembled in the 1,300-square-foot Park City shop, where Friedman and Schlopy hire employees locally—from full-time ski bums to kids at area high schools.
Growing year over year, the Soul Poles line has gone through five iterations, from the essential Original Soul Pole that started it all to the soulLite, which came from a Kickstarter campaign in 2014. SoulLite features ergonomic handles for gloved hands and interchangeable baskets for year-round use.
There are three pages of Soul Poles to choose from on their website, ranging from customizable DIY kits, where customers choose the tips, baskets and handles they want, and whether or not they want their poles engraved (mine say “Ski Like a Girl”) to streamlined singular color options. They’ve also partnered with a variety of organizations like SheJumps and the World Cup Dreams Foundation for special-edition poles.
For those searching for something truly beautiful, the R. Nelson Parrish Limited Edition poles (with a price point of $350), are hand painted with low VOC water-based paint and are customizable. In the Soul Poles office, hanging on the wall, is one of their Vibrant Soul Poles (similarly painted), inspired by the Wasatch sunrise.
For Friedman, it all comes back to skiing, “That’s really where this all came from,” he says, “I’m a skier at heart, through and through.” Making eco-friendly products for a community that has given him so much is at the heart of his business. “Call it our family, our friends, or our tribe,” he says, “we love working with awesome people doing awesome things.”
Soul Poles start at $99 and can be purchased by appointment at the shop. Soul Poles also offers build-it-yourself workshops at their headquarters, and mobile workshops at your home, business or hotel.
1490 Munchkin Road