Bamboo is hot these days. The fast growing plant is considered to be a sustainable material you can eat, grow for aesthetics, write on, wear, use for ski cores, make music with — and use for building stuff. While some of those uses are more green hype than pragmatic (especially bamboo fabric), ‘boo does make an amazing “natural composite” material. Until recently (in the lengthy history of skiing) it was the material of choice for poles. Aluminum and carbon fiber are favored nowadays, but bamboo could make a comeback. It looks cool and it’s sustainable. Surprisingly, bamboo in this sort of application is equal or even better than aluminum tube in a number of ways.
Thus, we couldn’t resist acquiring a set of bamboo ski sticks from Soul Poles
While Soul Poles are a bit clunky looking, the scale told a different story. To our surprise, fairly long testers weighed in at just 9.8 ounces, while a pair of big-brand adjustable backcountry poles we have lying around weighed nearly 1/2 ounce more! Granted, a high-quality fixed length alu pole could be slightly lighter, but most we weighed were virtually equal to the bamboo.
But, are bamboo ski poles strong? Apparently, yes. Soul poles are said to be 25% stronger than alu poles, and comparable to composite. Perhaps that’s exaggerated. Whatever, even if they’re comparable in strength that is strong enough.
Ok, Soul Poles look cool and are somewhat sustainable, with the grips etc being made with mostly recycled material. But practical? I like skinny, fixed-length carbon fiber poles. They’re lighter than the Soul Poles and work better as probes. But if you’re thinking of something more sustainable than your adjustable aluminum sticks, Soul could most certainly do equal duty. Especially for the resort, cut a pair to length and enjoy. They have a pleasant shock-absorbing flex, don’t freeze your hands when you choke up your grip, and yeah, a lift chair conversation starter for sure. Heck, if I was single I’d depend on them for a pickup line along with a discussion of the bamboo floor you just had installed in your kitchen.
Only inherent downside I found with Soul Poles is the grip shape is a bit archaic, and the strap buckle loosens during repetitive uphilling motions. Swapping grips could be fairly easy, but in our experience is probably best done by ordering your poles fairly long and cutting to length as the stock grip is difficult to remove. For less waste creation, Soul would probably supply poles without grips. They seem like that kind of company.
In all, Soul Poles remind me of all the innovation going on with ski these days. Something old, something new = something hip. Perhaps every ski pole quiver needs a pair.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.