I first heard about Panda Poles when I was helping email companies for my friend Alex Hall on a downday in Stubai, now on their team for more than a year, just searching ski pole companies on Google, and this one caught my eye while scanning through the results while rain pounded the window. An original product with original people running it. If you've ever browsed through their website, you'll have come across Tanner Rosenthal or "TanSnowMan" and some of his incredible skiing and humour. Delve deeper and you'll find he's actually one of the best in-bounds shredders on the planet, even giving the likes of Sander Hadley a run for his money and who he regularly gets runs with and can stay right next to. This man also runs Panda Poles, the famous bamboo poles you may see sometimes all over the world. With a team containing the likes of Drew Tabke, OWA and Angel Collinson, they mean business, a very forward thinking and green one at that. Bamboo of course is grass and is grown to produce these poles, and like his materials, TanSnowMan and his company grow in skill and Panda Poles in size just like he grows the talents of the team he runs. A man with so much stoke for life brings stoke to his team and to his skiing. A home "grown" talent he is, and he shows us life in the vegetable garden that is the ski industry.
Smiles, Snow and Stoke is what TanSnowMan lives for and his family live it too. Perfect combination (All photos by Weston Hall unless stated)
What's it like running your home grown company, Panda Poles, and such an influential team?
At this point, I would say it's pretty much like how a tree would feel after making it into the seedling phase of life. There were many difficulties to have made it to this point, but the support of our grass roots community of riders, customers, and fans, has created a solid base for a long, healthy life. And for me, as the primary cultivator of this "tree", I couldn't be more ecstatic! But I owe a huge amount to Oakley White-Allen for helping nurture such a strong community. He is really the unspoken "grandfather" of our Tribe. Really, I'm just appreciative for where we are...
Who's the most promising younger tribe member at the moment?
There are two young athletes in our Tribe who have been consistently pushing the limits of skiing in their age category the last couple of years. Alex Hall, from Switzerland, and Vetle Gangeskar, from Norway (age 15 and 10 respectively) have the most talent for their age that I have ever witnessed. These two however, show a lot of promise not only for their incredibly talented riding, but for their naturally positive and egoless approach to life. They genuinely enjoy skiing for what it is, and they don't waste much time trying to impress anybody but themselves. My son Mozes Montana (2 years of age) also shows a lot of promise.
Pandas play in the trees. TanSnowMan dropping in to his own playpen in Pebble Creek
You're part of something called "The Jenkstars". What is that?
The JenkStars are a group of artists and activists, whose seed I helped plant with my friends Scotty (Soltron), Prescott (RKTboy), and Coulson (Brother of Thayne Rich) back in 2009. We originally toured around with our Solar Powered DJ booth (affectionately named "The Solar Saucer"), playing music for festivals, and educating students and the public about alternative energy and art. We now have a community 300+ strong and a network of thousands who support what we do.
How did you get so good at bossing pow?
I grew up skiing on straight skis (with horrible tunes) at Pebble Creek Ski Area in South-East Idaho. This mountain is gnarly, steep, long terrain. I then went on to compete in USSA moguls for 6 years (ranked in the top 150 at one point), with 3 years competing in slopestyle, and 3 years of big mountain comps. Ski technology kept getting better and better, and one day, they finally came out with fat, rockered, twin tips (thanks McConkey!), and I was like, "Yep"... But it really comes down to the pure joy of making snow explode underneath me.
Tanner throws down in some Wasatch pow (Wait for the flips, they're downright crazy)
What made you want to change the pole game?
When I was competing in moguls, I came to realize that most people ski with poles that are way too long, and hold them back. At the time, I wanted to make recycled aluminum poles (to reduce the impact on the environment) that had a shorter sizing guide, but I couldn't figure out how to manufacture such a thing. I have also had shoulder issues for a few years, and was very sensitive to snagging my poles in trees when I used big pow baskets. One day, it all came together in the vision of Panda Poles. It made sense to use bamboo, as it was easy to manufacture and probably more sustainable than recycled aluminum. It also made sense to create a basket that was great in powder but wouldn't snag in trees. And why not use a grip that allows for more places to grab? It all made sense. That is why I became so inspired to nurture this dream.
What more do I have to say than this is basically pornography? Tanner Rosenthal getting more faceshots than Alexis Texas on a busy day.
5 songs you shred to:
I don't ski with music, but I listen to a lot of music for editing. Lately I've been jamming on:
1. "Happy" by C2C
2. "Take a Walk" by Passion Pit
3. "Lion in the Dancehall" by DJ Barisone
4. "Disparate Youth" by Santigold
5. "Spirit of Life" by Blackmill
Your favourite film:
"Dumb and Dumber" duh
I also recently became enamored with "Wreck it Ralph"
"wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" (Photo by Erik "Bro" Hostetler)
How good is your son at skiing yet?
He's been doing a lot of dry land training and he has backflips, 360s, and seat drops down solid. I've taken him skiing in his backpack about 12 times and he loves it every time. He knows when we're going to the hill and he yells "skiing!" He'll get on skis next winter, but already has some real stoke going.
Who inspired you growing up?
As far as skiing's concerned, I had two main role models: Kody Kirkland and Andy Millward. These guys are 2 years and 4 years older than me respectively, so chasing them around Pebble Creek was always an honor and pushed me to ski better and faster. Now Kody works for Panda Poles, so it's great to see how things have come full circle. I've also been a huge fan of JP Auclair, Tanner Hall, Shane McConkey, CRJ, Candide Thovex, Pep Fujas, Janne Lahtela, and even Johnny Mosely since the late 90s or early 2000s. They all have done so much for the ski community.
Fave ski part:
Pep Fujas in "Sessions 1242"
I still can't watch that segment without almost crying...
Word of wisdom:
The best skier on the mountain in not necessarily the person skiing the gnarliest line or landing the biggest trick, but rather the person with the most joy in their heart.
Pandas sometimes climb trees when they're not busy wearing excessive eye makeup. This one knocks them down while handdragging
What would you be doing if you weren't in the ski industry?
Hopefully surfing and growing a permacultural garden in Central America. Practicing more shamanism and yoga, or just working with The JenkStars...
You have an ever growing presence all over the globe. Earlier this year I was in Zurich and some ski instructors advertising their ski school had Panda poles, it made me laugh to see such a core company so far from home. Where do you think you'll be in 10 years?
My vision is that in 10 years, we will have our own grove of bamboo in the U.S. that we use to make hundreds of different products, ranging from ski poles, to skis, to outerwear. I hope that Panda Poles is supporting a large local community with the economy we create, and we have 100 employees here in Pocatello, and even more around the globe. I also hope to see Panda Poles become a world renowned media outlet, constantly producing photos and video edits from adventures around the planet with our core of incredible athletes and ambassadors, doing humanitarian work and spreading our love in whatever way we can. Ultimately I would just like to see Panda Poles as greatly influential organization for positive change in this world, which inspires millions to live a healthier, happier, more mindful lifestyles.
Tanner goes swimming in Utah a couple of years ago with the original "Panda Cam" (See video further up)
Watch "TanSnowMan" Tanner Rosenthal in "Color on the Mountain" with Sander Hadley:
TanSnowMan is supported by Panda Poles, Wubanger Skis and First Degree Boots
@pandapoles www.pandapoles.com @tansnowman