RY Outfitters

The RY Outfitters Podcast EP 14: Panda Ski Poles – 100% bamboo & environmentally sustainable ski poles – Co-founder Tanner Rosenthal Sharing His Story

Panda Poles

Panda Poles

Panda Poles

Current poles dragging and slowing you down?

Join the Panda Tribe and pick up some poles that won’t hold you back with their “Zero Drag Powder Baskets”

To find out more behind how Panda Poles got it’s start and what’s in store for the future, Josh interviews Panda Poles cofounder, Tanner Rosenthal

More about the episode…

Josh sits down with Tanner Rosenthal The founder of Panda Ski Poles. Panda Ski Poles is a ski pole manufacturer that makes environmentally sustainable ski poles out of Bamboo. Since their start they have branched out to making trekking poles, selfie sticks, and apparel while maintaining a focus on sustainability and aggressively trying to make their production process more sustainable and reduce their carbon footprint. They are the first ski pole company to utilize “Zero Drag Powder Baskets” which reduces snags on pow, trees, and brush while riding. Panda Ski Poles has a lot planned for the future and are planning to do more with sustainable apparel. They stands by their values to make a product that is high performing, long lasting, and sustainably made.

Have an opinion? We want to hear it! Join the conversation and leave a comment, check out show notes, and get all the links mentioned in this episode below


Time Stamp

  • What is Panda Poles?
    • “We manufacture ski poles in southeast Idaho… I think what separates us the most would be our zero drag powder baskets and our grips…The zero drag powder baskets in particular is a product that hasn’t really ever been on the market…”
  • You’re originally from Idaho correct?
    • “Yeah, I grew up in Pocatello. I moved down to Salt Lake City to go to University of Utah – I did one semester… After a couple of years I was working at Snowbird in a boot fitting shop and that’s where I was when I got the idea for Panda Poles.”
  • How did you get started with Panda Poles to end up where you are now?
    • “I had competed in moguls from age 15… I had always had this concept in mind that I wanted to make recycled aluminum ski poles and reformat the whole sizing paradigm of ski poles…One night in the Spring of 2008 I was at my house at the base of cottonwood canyon… I had what some would say is a Shamanic vision – I had a spirit come down to me and there were these ski poles I can see them clear as day… This vision popped into my head and it was so profound that it stuck with me.”
    • The Next day I went to Oakly White-allen and I told him about this idea. He said ‘Dude, I wanted to make bamboo ski poles a while ago’ … It was enough of a connection there that he said ‘Yeah, let’s try to make this happen…’”
  • How much does a Panda Pole weight compared to a typical aluminum set?
    • “It depends on the piece of bamboo that’s being used… We’ve come up with a sizing system based off of how much the pole weights. We cut it to a certain length. So we’re not going to have our heaviest bamboo go out for a really long set…”
  • How did you come up with the name Panda Poles?
    • “When I got the vision of the poles it was kind of right there with it… It made total sense, panda bears eat bamboo and these are ski poles… However it came to me it was a flash of insight…”
  • What’s in store for the future of Panda Poles?
    • “We’ve tapped into the trekking pole market, We have our camera one which is like a selfie-stick. Those are a couple of our main products that came on after the ski poles.”
    • “We also added apparel items, we just started producing a bamboo facebuff, like a neck gaiter… eventually we’d love to be making full length ski suits… whatever the product is it would be awesome to do it out of natural materials…”
  • What is Panda Poles commitment to sustainability?
    • “…There’s a lot of waste that goes into manufacturing products that very few people are aware of unless you’re in the manufacturing industry.
    • “We are trying to produce products that will last a long time. We put a warranty on it so if it does break we’ll replace the bamboo…”
    • “We did this project a few years ago where we tracked our entire waste stream for the entire year… After a year we measured it and made a video about it called ‘Face the Waste’…we’re really trying to be as close to zero waste as possible, and we’re really trying to be aware of our waste stream as much as possible…”
  • At what point in your life did you become so interested in sustainability?
    • I can attribute almost all of it to my mom. She raised us with the utmost appreciation for nature… that became ingrained in my psyche…Because of that exposure early on, I became attracted to other people with that mindset and other people in industries that support that mindset
    • In 2008 I got trained to install solar with my step dad…That was my foray into sustainable living and practices…”
  • Has there been anyone who has helped mentor you with building Panda Poles?
    • “As far as Panda’s concerned my number one mentor was probably Oakley White-Allen…He was my original business partner… More than anything Oakley is a spiritual mentor. He has a very calm way of approaching life and this really peaceful demeanor that has really stuck with me…”
    • “Beyond that, almost everything I learned I’ve taught myself. When it comes to business, I haven’t really had anyone help me…”
  • Did you always know you wanted to start a business?
    • “My first business was when I was 12, I bought a bunch of fake Oakley sunglasses…I think it was some mail in program but, I mailed in, got 20 pairs of sunglasses, and just sold them to friends around town. I didn’t tell anyone they were real Oakley’s, I wasn’t trying to rip anyone off…”
    • “Over the years I always felt like working for somebody wasn’t the path that I wanted to go down…”
  • What kind of culture exists within Panda Poles?
    • “Around the office, we’re really laid back. One of the main things that I try to focus on is that everyone feels they’re appreciated, that they can ask me anything…In general I really try to operate very casually and I try to create an air of casual work…”
  • What has been one of the hardest things about starting Panda Poles?
    • “One of the most difficult things for me personally is to balance the demand with production…if we have a month that’s down our budget is totally based off of that…It’s gotten easier over the years as budget has increased, we’re able to buy more stuff so that we don’t come to situations where it’s a big rush and we’re behind…”
    • “Some of the challenges that continue to pop up would definitely have to do with lining up the parts and pieces. Right now we’re waiting on a bunch of labels, that’s the one hang up right now…”
  • What do you do for marketing Panda Poles?
    • “We didn’t really put any money into marketing other than providing poles for athletes. It was all based off of our videos and social media…Over the last few years that’s slowed down but instagram has been in it’s boom… They go through cycles, social media is not something you can totally rely on all the time for all your business…”
  • What would you say is your biggest fear with running Panda Poles?
    • “Of course, there’s the immediate fear of having the business be a failure and all the hard work that I worked on for years crumble into nothing…There are days when I think ‘this is doomed, this is done, it’s not going anywhere’ then I take a few minutes to breath and refocus my appreciate and my gratitude…even if it did crash today it’s mind blowing and such an honor to be apart of it…”
    • “On the day to day basis I think one of my biggest fears is letting down a customer or letting down a fan…”
  • What are some of the biggest mistakes you made?
    • “We missed the boat on getting our website mobile optimized last year. We should have had it done from the get go but our website wasn’t mobile optimized until August…”
    • “It’s such a difficult question because they’re are so many little mistakes…It’s hard for me to describe because to me mistakes are just opportunities for growth…”
  • What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a business in the outdoor sport world?
    • “Probably the most important thing is don’t let the business kill your joy of the activity… to me that is one of the biggest travesties I could imagine. It almost happened to me in 2013 I only skied 20 days, I couldn’t stand it…I vowed after that year that I would never just ski 20 days in a year…”
    • “Make sure you stay in touch with the sport you love. Even if you have a lot of stuff to take care of, it you’re not doing your thing then it’s pointless…”
  • What’s the best part about running Panda Poles?
    • “That I’m able to create my own flexible schedule. When it’s a pow day the office is shut down. If somebody tries to go to work on a pow day I’m mad at them…”
    • “We can build poles anytime throughout the day, but pow is only available from 9-4”


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