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Bryon Friedman in Guangzhou, China

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Skinny alpine skis may be passé, but when you spot a pair of bamboo ski poles this season, they won’t be nailed decoratively to the wall of your condo. Bamboo is back, thanks in part to Park City’s Soul Poles.

During his 10-year stint on the US Ski Team, a couple of things stuck in Bryon Friedman’s curly-haired head: how many thousands of ski poles were wasted each season, and how those broken shards of aluminum and carbon littered resorts until the end of time. “Wouldn’t you rather see a piece of bamboo on your hike than a piece of metal?” Friedman asked.

Plus, bamboo is biodegradable, lightweight, and fast-growing; it absorbs more CO2 and produces more oxygen than any other plant, and it has tensile strength equal to, if not better than, aluminum. “I can do pull-ups on these things,” attests Friedman, a former downhill racer.

So three years ago, he started sifting through the more than 2,000 bamboo species before he met a farmer in Guangzhou, China, whose family had been handpicking stalks for fly-fishing rods for three decades. “I finally found the right recipe for Soul Poles,” Friedman says.

The canes are first dry-kilned like pottery at Soul Poles’ Silver Summit warehouse to prevent cracking in Utah’s arid climate. The rest of the process is completely personalized. Weekly build-your-own-pole workshops cover gluing tips and grips, pounding in baskets (using materials made from 100 percent renewable resources and/or recycled postconsumer waste), torching, and engraving. Soul Poles’ $135 tag is a bit pricier than a Park City T-shirt, but it’s well worth the cost of having a souvenir with style, substance, and, well, soul.

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