Sustainability and the Ski Industry Today

More sustainable ski gear is the future.

Spring skiing might look a little more like summer skiing sooner rather than later. PHOTO: Doug Evans

It’s no secret that the ski industry and climate change have a complicated relationship. Warming temperatures and snow don’t really mix well — which inevitably means less skiing. At the same time, just like any other industry, we contribute to climate change. Between manufacturing and transporting skis around the world, snowmaking and other resort operations, plastic use, and just general waste, we’ve got room to improve. But let’s talk about some good news. Different parts of the industry are stepping up to take on new sustainable practices to reduce their footprint and create more sustainable ski gear. From products in the skis themselves, to renewable energy at ski areas, there are all sorts of creative ideas making a difference.

The brands

Faction shops local

Faction has heavily committed to sustainable practices across their whole production process. Using sustainably sourced, FSC Certified wood, bio-based resin (as opposed to petrochemical products) and recycled materials, they’ve significantly cut down their waste and footprint. Faction also sources as many materials as possible locally to reduce transport emissions.

Maybe the most impressive stat around, Faction’s factory runs completely on renewable energy and biomass heating. Now no longer using oil, their annual CO2 emissions is reduced by 10 million kilograms. That’s equivalent to burning over a million gallons of gasoline! That’s a good chunk.

Faction also partners with 1% For the Planet to donate 1% of sales from their Agent skis to environmental organizations. PHOTO: Courtesy of Faction

DPS and Wonder Alpine tinker with algae

The Salt Lake skiers have got biomaterial on the mind. Ski production requires loads of petroleum derived resins and other plastics to seal the skis up. These brands look to algae as a more environmentally friendly option, but it doubles as a more durable and actually better construction material. DPS and WNDR claim the material bonds the other core materials better and create a stronger construction. This means you get a smoother, damper, and greener, ride. Even though this is a relatively small portion of the ski, seeing this kind of innovation in ski construction is really exciting. Greener choices don’t have to sacrifice any performance, but can actually enhance it.

Rossignol recycles

This year, Rossignol announced their Essential ski, a new model made from mostly recycled materials. What’s especially unique, is the post-ski process. Once you retire that ski and return it to Rossi, the materials are much more easily recycled with a better sorting process. This allows Rossignol to more effectively isolate each material, making it easier to reuse in the next product.

While we aren’t expecting this to be quite as popular as their Experiences or Sender skis, they are showing this production (and post-production) model is possible. Getting to more circular economies is essential for creating truly sustainable ski gear, so we’re psyched Rossignol is putting effort into such a rad project.

The mock up of the new Essential ski from Rossignol. PHOTO: Courtesy of Rossignol

Scarpa plays with plants

This year, Scapa is releasing an entirely new line of hybrid style boots: the 4-Quattro. Besides claiming the lightest weight GripWalk boots on the market these days, they are produced with plant-based Grilamid Bio and Pebax R-New. These new plant based materials avoid the various fossil fuel derived plastics we usually find in ski boots. Scarpa had already been using the R-New plastic in their Maestrale boots, so this isn’t their first rodeo with plant-based plastics. The 4-Quattro shows the next innovative steps for more sustainable ski boots.

The ski areas

Obviously, the production process is not the only pinch point on the environment. Ski areas require massive amounts of, land, energy and water to operate. Loads of them are finding creative ways to cut their impact.

Aspen Snowmass uses recaptured methane that leaks from a local coal power plant to power their resorts and hotels. Not only does this provide energy, but also prevents the ultra potent and dangerous methane from being released into the atmosphere.

Both Jackson Hole and Berkshire East Mountain Resort are 100% run on solar and/or wind energy. That’s pretty incredible. The coolest part? On Berkshire’s website, they cite how the energy source stabilizes their electrical expenses, allowing them to invest into other parts of their business comfortably.

veronica paulsen skis at sustainable ski resort Jackson Hole
Powder7 athlete, and resident Jackson Hole ripper, Veronica Paulsen slashes some powder under a wind powered chairlift. PHOTO: Amy Jimmerson

The shops

Despite all these awesome new innovations to the ski production process, it won’t entirely solve the whole problem. With outdoor gear, there’s constantly new developments and folks purchasing new items. This leaves plenty of lightly used gear (which is still in great shape to use) out on the market, or even winding up in a landfill. Retailers are stepping in to provide a designated market for used gear. Instead of needing to post your gear to sketchy Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace on your own, filter through spammy messages and negotiate on price, you can let the retailer do the work for you.

We’ve been big on used demo skis for awhile, but just recently got our trade-in program rolling. If you’re ready for a gear refresh, you can take a peek at what we can offer you for your tired pair of skis. Then, use that credit towards whatever new-to-you gear you are interested in. This way, you save money, clean out the garage, and get someone new on your old skis. Some call this a win-win-win. 

You’ll also find companies like Patagonia and The North Face offer entire markets of used and repaired gear from their brands. They heavily discount these products, giving you stellar deals on high performance gear. 

So what about the skiers?

When heat waves are raging and things seem gloom, it can be easy to look at these stats and say “what difference in the big picture does this really make?” And that might be true. It’s also true that these moves provide a model for other companies outside of the ski industry for what they can do to lower their footprint.

So, what can you do to help make it clear that you want more companies to do this? Vote with your dollar! Buy used when you can. Maybe buy a ski that’s made with recycled materials, or from a company that clearly supports environmental practices. Email your favorite mountain and ask what they’re doing to cut their footprint. Support Protect Our Winters. Show that this is something you care about as a skier. Even if our little changes may not single-handedly stop climate change, they certainly can’t hurt. As environmental advocacy legend and Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard says, “the cure for depression is action.”

Curious to learn more about ski-cycling? We go over our easy, peasy, trade-in process here.


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