Steamboat Living: Going grassroots with Grass Sticks
Bamboo pole company firmly planted in Steamboat
October 13, 2016
There's a growing bamboo movement in the 'Boat.
Born in a local garage in 2014 by engineer-turned-ski-instructor-turned-pole-builder Andrew Beckler, Grass Sticks has firmly planted itself as one of the country's leading bamboo ski pole manufacturers.
The brainstorm came from skiing more than 100 days a year. "We became fed up with our ugly, bent, kinked and broken poles," says Beckler. "There's no reason to trash three pairs of poles a season."
Bamboo, he says, was the perfect solution. It has the tensile strength of steel, the compressive strength of concrete and the perfect combination of rigidity and flexibility for a ski pole.
"It's the perfect pole," he says. "It's a beautiful, eco-friendly material with the lightness and strength of carbon fiber. And it won't snap or kink like aluminum."
Maintaining that traditional poles take a lot of energy resources to produce, bamboo per acre, he says, produces three times as much lumber as trees, absorbs more carbon dioxide and produces more oxygen than any other plant. Beckler's so psyched on the material that he won the 2015 business plan competition run by the Yampa Valley Entrepreneurship Center.
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"Grass Sticks was able to define value for customers based upon product function, bamboo's weight and strength relative to other materials, and the cost of their products versus other options," says YVEC Director Randy Rudasics. "He scored well on the written plan, presentation and financial viability of the business model."
Beckler has parlayed these pole accolades into a one-car garage operation off Routt County Road 44, with the help of employee Andrew Bowlin. With plans to double sales this year, Beckler's slowly eating away at market share owned by the country's only two other bamboo pole companies, Soul Poles out of Park City, Utah, and Panda Poles of Pocatello, Idaho.
"There's a reason we're all making them," Beckler says, adding they'll also improve your chairlift social life. "They're more sustainable and higher quality."
Each custom-made pole, which come in a variety of basket and grip combinations, is hand-sanded and finished with a UV-, moisture- and cold-proof clear coat. They also come with soft rubber grips, eco-friendly hemp straps, no-slip carbide tips, interchangeable baskets and a two-year, unlimited warranty.
And if he's not in his workshop building them, you can bet he's on the mountain testing them. "Steamboat's an awesome place to run a company like this," he says. "I cant imagine running a business anywhere else."