It isn’t often that ski poles makes an impact in the ski world, but Poleplant are an exception. With their sustainable and environmental focus, they are a forward-thinking brand and a hit with many of New Generation’s instructors! We sat founder Gabri down to explain what makes his poles so special.
Hi Gabri! Can you tell us about yourself?
Ciao! I am Italian, from Catania in Sicily. That is where I started skiing (yes, you can ski in Sicily, on Mount Etna, an active volcano!). I moved to the UK to pursue my career in the music industry when I was 20, but despite my good achievements I felt there was something vital missing in my life, so I became a ski instructor and moved to the French Alps!
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Leaving everyone and everything behind, especially a gorgeous place like Sicily, was not easy. Luckily I succeeded in the career I was chasing, and I managed to tour the world with amazing artists of worldwide fame, like U2, Kings of Leon and quite a few others..
But I am VERY proud of choosing to reunite myself with the mountains, as the balance between my rock n roll lifestyle and my ski seasons is the best thing in my life!
Who inspires you /are you most passionate about and why?
There are a lot of truly inspiring “normal” people who choose to live on the mountains and build their families here, with a deep connection with the environment and the many sports we can practice here, which I think is a great way to live. On the athletes front I am a huge fan of the top freeskiers out there, people like Candide Thovex of course, but also Leo Taillefer a younger and equally inspiring freeskier from Val D’Isere, such creative skiers… Changing the way we read the terrain available to us and still being able to find new approaches to skiing in 2016 is truly amazing!
Whats the story behind Poleplant and what inspired you to create them?
I was fortunate enough to teach in Hokkaido (Northern Japan) for a couple of seasons, and got to learn about the many uses they make of bamboo in Asia. It is a truly amazing material, so strong and light, and SO renewable! Early in the season the Japanese off-piste is covered in bamboo bushes, so skiing through them I could not avoid putting 2 and 2 together…
You founded Poleplant only a year ago, and have grown so much since then. What do you think makes your poles so popular?
The average mountain lover is a keen environmentalist. So the idea of using such a natural and sustainable material is one of the main appeals. Being able to personalise the poles with different handles, colours and unique engravings allow skiers and walkers to express their own individuality, and that is also a big point. They are also strong and light, and each one is different, making them truly unique!
Has it been easy growing the business?
Developing a product-based business from the ground up is certainly not an easy feat. I must admit I was not entirely aware of how much work I would have had to put into it. The poles are based on unique designs, to try and improve on existing products, rather than imitate them. While this makes the final product definitely superior to what was already out there, there were definitely a few design faults to fix and iron out, all part of the process!
Where do you make the poles? Do you do everything by yourself?
The poles are individually handmade right here in Tignes, in the heart of the French Alps. I have a couple of people helping me in the workshop to speed up the process and optimise productivity. I am currently tackling all other aspects (marketing, design, development, legal, admin, etc..) all by myself, but I might have someone help me this winter.
Bamboo is an amazing material. Strong, light and VERY sustainable. Some species of bamboo grow almost a meter a day!! This particular species only grow in China, although I get it from a Dutch importer, who guarantees on fair farming conditions and responsible sources.
Do you have your own personalised poles?
I do have a couple of sets, one more piste-oriented (slightly shorter, with smaller baskets and classic handles) and one more off-piste oriented, with freeride handles, touring grip extension and larger baskets. I engraved my name and the “Trinacria”, which is the symbol of Sicily. As Take That say.. never forget where you’re coming from!
What’s next for Poleplant?
Building on last season’s success and improvements I have developed a new freeride handle for this coming winter, and better wrist straps all round. I should also be better prepared for the high demand periods and the idea is to go round different resorts to allow people to see and try the poles for themselves and to help spread the bamboo-love!
In the future I will keep expanding the product range both for poles options and for other eco-friendly products, trying to reduce the carbon footprint all the time and motivate people to do more to respect our environment.
How can we get a set of poles for ourselves?
Easy, head over onto www.poleplant.com and order online, after choosing your options! If you like to see them in person before buying you can either contact a Poleplant ambassador near you or come see us at one of the trade fairs or events coming up (Annecy High Five, Lyon Sport Achat, London Ski Show and Munich ISPO amongst many others). Keep an eye on our Facebook page too!