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Steamboat Magazine

(Grass) Sticking it to the Status Quo:

01/26/2024 07:00AM ● By Casey Hopkins
Featured in Steamboat Magazine Ski Edition 2023-2024

Steamboat Springs, CO - There are a few things Steamboat Springs is known for: Champagne Powder®, Strawberry Park Hot Springs, Fish Creek Falls, world-class recreation – just to name a few – but if you take a look at any mountain ski rack during ski season, you’ll likely see a number of bamboo ski poles with colorful handles and baskets. They’re Grass Sticks, a pioneering ski pole (as well as paddles and plungers) company that’s a favorite of locals and visitors alike, and they’re based right here in Steamboat.

After moving to town in 2010, Andrew Beckler worked typical ‘starter’ mountain town gigs as a ski instructor, raft guide and bartender, giving him the freedom to ski 100+ days a season. Normally made of aluminum, graphite, fiberglass or composite material, ski poles have a tendency to bend and break over time, especially if you’re hitting the steeps as often as Andrew does. After getting fed up with constantly having to restock his sticks, he decided to introduce the world to a new type of pole – he just wasn’t sure what kind yet.

“In 2014 I had the idea to quit the ski school job and try to make ski poles that people cared about; something different,” Andrew says. At first he attempted to find some kind of bi-product from a local manufacturer to build his new pole, but in the end, bamboo seemed to be the obvious choice. By the spring of 2015, Andrew had a product that he was happy to take to market. “It makes a perfect pole,” Andrew says. “It’s light, it’s strong and it’s relatively renewable compared to everything else.”

As the company points out, traditional carbon fiber and aluminum ski poles are mined from the earth, industrially manufactured and mass produced, placing a burden on the environment through the amount of energy that it takes to create the poles. But bamboo, per acre harvested, produces three times as much lumber as trees, absorbs more CO2 and produces more oxygen than any other plant.

The bamboo that Andrew uses is sourced from India and grows up to 30 or 40 feet in about four years. Andrew uses the thinner sections of the bamboo for the ski poles, and portions of the thicker, bottom sections for his paddles. After placing an order a year ahead of time, each batch of bamboo is harvested, gets a quality check, then gets dried and cured before it’s shipped to Steamboat where it’s finally put together and sent to one of Grass Sticks’ many loyal customers.

While Grass Sticks continues to grow (pun intended) from its humble beginnings as a small ski pole manufacturer to a business whose product is used worldwide by amateurs and professionals alike, remaining a local, independent shop is just as important to Andrew as it was almost a decade ago.

“I definitely want to keep Grass Sticks in Steamboat,” Andrew says. “Obviously we believe in our product and I love our product. I ski with it every day. That’s where it came from, my passion for the sport. We get to live the lifestyle of a ski-bum and river-rat then build products that we’re passionate about and get to use everyday. That goes for me, that goes for all my employees and that’s why we’re here.”