Are you actually reading this article? If you are, you are either: 1) interested in the hot guy in the opening shot [he’s taken], 2) a person that deeply appreciates renewable and sustainable practices [excellent], 3) a hipster that’s intrigued by the throwback style of the bamboo poles [it’s a start], or 4) an actual skier [no way]. I surmise it’s 1, 2, or 3. Because -- and this makes my mind melt a little -- only 11% of native Utahns actually ski. Rich people fly from all over the planet to ski this stuff. It’s a 30 minute drive to seven world class mountains. Seven. There is literally no other city on earth with that proximity. My husband dragged me off of Venice Beach to buy a place here to ski. Initially to my chagrin. That’s no longer the case.
Unzip your jacket, tilt your face towards the sun, cocktail in hand.
I learned to ski in Vermont. It’s mostly lousy. It’s icy. Wet snow falls while you’re on the lift and it’s 13 degrees. Not Utah. Utah is packed deep in diamond powder that dazzles. It’s dry, and throws rainbows in every direction when the sun hits it. In laymen's terms, for those not as keen on the snow yet, it looks exactly like Edward Cullen's dead skin. Apres-ski on the east coast doesn’t exist like in the west. Here, it's a James Bond movie in real time. Caribbean blue skies, your face and neck hot [actually hot] from the sun as they bronze. Unzip your jacket, tilt your face towards the sun, cocktail in hand. Your goldened visage exudes, “I ski the West.”
It’s an envy-inducing winter calling card. And out here, there are a lot of companies catering to that. But Soul Poles is making good on making you look good in a thoughtful, earth preserving fashion. World class competitive skier, manly, bearded musician, Bryon Friedman, is one of Utah’s finest. Park City raised, Bryon represents athletics, music and environmentally-conscious entrepreneurship. A former U.S. Ski Team racer competing at the World Cup and Olympic level, Bryon imbues Soul Poles with a true athlete's hard-core requirements for high-performance gear. He also happens to be rather smart and sees the bigger picture. Soul Poles credo is, “No Snow. No Ski.” Behind the retro sleek designs and adorable employees is passionate, realistic knowledge of global warming and disappearing alpine snow. SLC’s horrific pollution problems not withstanding, Bryon sources bamboo in China every summer and sees first hand global air deterioration. As a responsible athlete that is genuinely uneasy about our future quality of life, he took some onus and created something that will lighten the load on Mother Earth: lightweight, flexible, super-strong bamboo ski poles to take up residence in Soul Poles cozy workspace in Park City. You can buy them online and customize them without ever needing to be in Utah, but if you’re here, go. It gets you above the inversion layer and it’s an engaging activity that comes with a sweet reward: you walk out with a customized pair of poles under your arm.
They ramp you up to get on the slopes and the laughs come fast and easy.
Definitely nothing wrong with a workshop that has a huge blowtorch that flambe’s bamboo poles into art. It’s an upstairs/downstairs art-filled space with that intangible cool-skier vibe. Snowy winter glory is prime time for them. There is an in-house artist, R. Nelson Parrish, who will ski with you, take pictures of your runs, then hand paint the experience onto your poles. Bring your entire work crew for workshops and everyone leaves as comrades with poles that make them feel cool as hell. Or score them from their groovy, tricked-out mobile van. It goes on the road where they make poles anywhere: at a convention or in your driveway. It’s an ideal couple of hours for a ski lover, or one in training [like myself], hanging with the Soul Poles crew of smart, cool guys. That they resemble a mountain version of a hot Williamsburg band is icing. They ramp you up to get on the slopes and the laughs come fast and easy.
There’s the the tangible accomplishment of hammering, grinding and glueing, but you get to indulge your creative ideas: picking through the different bamboos to see which one feels right in tone and weight; warm or cool, freckled or clean, choosing the colors for your grips and baskets, and finally the laser-engraving process. They work with you on fonts, designs, and any artistic ideas you're entertaining. Each pole is a snowflake. No two are the same. The laser quietly sparked as it danced over each of my poles. I went simple: my name on one, and on the other, a quote inspired by "Coming To America"...Just Let Your Soul Glow. You should see me on the hill.
Do I have enough soul to carry off Soul Poles? Be nice. It’s too late since I’ve skied with them three time already. Soul is something that every person inherently has, and, with the right environment and mentality, can be nurtured. Soul isn’t measured by how hard you rip, it’s about having fun, looking good, and feeling like you are a part of something bigger. The mountain is our canvas and that is where we plant our soul. Soulful and sexy are one in the same. They’re already in us. Some things just help us bring it them out more.
I thoroughly dug making my poles. Being able to customize them is narcissistic. And entirely satisfying. What’s the coolest thing anyone has ever put on their poles? The best part about our workshops is seeing the creative side of our customers. Everyone does something different and makes it their very own. I’ve seen hash marks like a football field torched into the bamboo, heart-shaped stencils cut from tape torched into the bamboo, but, bar none, the coolest poles I have ever seen have to be our signature artist, R. Nelson Parrish’s, hand-painted poles for actor Rob Lowe. They literally ooze Soul.
What did you see during modern competitive skiing that made you feel that a retro looking bamboo ski pole actually contains technical advantages? Competitive skiing is a technically-driven sport. As a racer, you are constantly adjusting to course conditions. Choosing the correct wax, skis, and goggle lenses, can be the difference between winning and losing. At the end of the day you end up with a lot of “stuff,” of which little is sourced environmentally or socially responsibly. Connecting this fact with the receding glaciers I was skiing during the summers led me to consider developing a product for the emerging sustainable ski industry. As for the technical advantages of our poles, I would say the primary advantage is the strength of the bamboo. Based on independent strength tests, bamboo is 20% stronger than your standard aluminum poles. Nevertheless, we’re not going for a technical advantage. The real advantage to using soul poles is up to you. If you care about choosing a renewable resource vs. something mined from the ground, then they are advantageous. The Soul brand is not about making “technical” products it’s about making “sexy” products that work just as well if not better than other “technical” offerings.
How did growing up in Park City impact you and Soul Poles? I’m a skier through and through. I was raised in the Wasatch Mountains, and the more time I spend in Utah, the more I realize how lucky I am to have grown up in this beautiful place. Here in Park City, adventure is literally out your back door. With over 7,000 acres of preserved open space and 350 miles of trails in the surrounding area, there is no better place to be if you like to be outside exploring and seeing new things, and, at the end of the day, that’s what Soul Poles is about. This business is a trip, an adventure, and we’re out there exploring every day.
The design of the poles is a chair lift conversation sizzler. That they are high performance while looking so throwback has got to be catnip for foreign markets like Europe and South America. Where do you want to go next? There is no doubt our beautiful, durable, and renewable poles would find their niche on the international ski scene. This movement is hardly confined to North America. Japan seems to be getting slammed with snow this year and they have an inherent interest in bamboo. There is definitely a market there; however, for us, we hope to Spread the Soul wherever snow falls.
You all have a lot of hair. Have you considered creating a hair product like Soul Glow? Soul Pole Glow? I’m glad you asked. We actually created our very own proprietary oil blend that preserves our bamboo by keeping it hydrated in extremely dry climates. Similar to Soul Glow, we keep our poles well lubricated.