or Connect
EpicSki › Gear Articles › Do You Know The Environmental Impact Of Your Skis

Do You Know The Environmental Impact Of Your Skis

April 25, 2011

Do You Know the Environmental Impact of Your Skis?

 

In an effort to answer this question I looked into just what the ski manufacturing industry is doing today, if anything, to lessen the impact they have on the environment and if there operating in a sustainable way. Skis are made from some combination of harvested or manufactured materials such as wood, foam, fiberglass, plastic, steel, aluminum and carbon fiber.

 

Skis were once made of only wood but over time designers discovered that various combinations of materials sandwiched together using a glue of some kind, was the secret to making better skis. (Pogge, 2007)  Skis that were more adaptable to different conditions, easier to maneuver, faster, stronger and well, better to ski on. Great, you may be thinking!!! Well perhaps not so great in the long run.

The chemical bonding process, using epoxy resin has made skis virtually impossible to take apart or recycle. If you plop them in the dump, your old skis are going nowhere fast! Luckily, one organization in Colorado is changing the number of skis ending up in landfills. Vail resorts has stepped up its game in terms of recycling and conservation efforts. Vail’s retail and rental shops, owned by Specialty Sports Venture (SSV), are the first ski and snowboard shops in the U.S to offer free recycling of old ski’s, snowboards, bindings, boots, and poles. SSV is working with Snow Sports Industries America’s “Keep Winter Cool: Snow Sports Recycling Solution” campaign. You can leave your unwanted ski equipment at one of SSV’s 4 Colorado resort locations and they will take it to Denver where it is shredded and used to make home products such as decking, flooring and furniture. (Vail Resorts, 2007)

 

This reduces the amount of skis that end up in a landfill but, people should use caution when thinking this to be a solution to the skis in landfills problem. It does help, but so would things like creating a ski that lasts a long time, taking good care of your equipment, and passing skis that you have “outgrown” either in size or ability to another skier. But what about getting back to the beginning, before the skis are even made. How can that process be considered from the perspective of bettering the environment?

 

I looked into information about the ski manufacturing giants such as K2, Rossignol and Head to see if they were doing anything towards making their companies more sustainable. K2 used to be a local manufacturer out of Seattle, WA but this has since changed. Its skis are now made in China and use foam and fiberglass for the core of their skis. (Mercer, 2006) Rossignol skis are made in France. In the early 1900’s Rossignol was one of the first makers of the all wood recreational ski. Later they developed the first metal ski and then the first plastic ski. (Skis Rossignol, Wikipedia n.d.) Rossignol has always been on the fore front of quality ski development. Starting this coming season, they will manufacturer just one ski with a bamboo core out of there many different skis. Not a huge push towards sustainable manufacturing.

 

The company Head, which makes skis and other athletic equipment, is not yet making any eco-minded products. Head skis are used by many World level competitive skiers. I would bet that there is a large risk that changing materials and manufacturing processes would alter the performance of the skis. This could ruin their reputation with the world class skiers. However, to show support for the protection of the environment, the company CEO founded coolearth.org which is an organization that protects endangered rainforests. Through this organization, Head has saved 7,000 acres of rain forest each year, which they say offsets their carbon emissions. (Luxmore, 2009) As I look at the skis in my garage it is disappointing to know that these companies are not pushing themselves more quickly in a sustainable direction.

 To get to the root of sustainable ski manufacturing I wanted to research as many companies as I could find, that are making an effort in some way towards becoming more sustainable or eco-friendly. I believe there is a big difference in the terms sustainable and eco-friendly and one must use caution and really try to dig as many details as possible from a company. There were four main things that I wanted to find out.

 

What materials do they use?

Has the company made any efforts to minimize the energy usage or emissions from its factory?

Are their skis high quality?

Is there something special about the company?

 

Now, I outline the answers to these questions based on my research. I hope that you will take notice. See which manufacturers are closest to where you live and take into account the answers to the above questions when you select your next pair of skis or snowboard.  For a sport that depends so much on the environment and using the outdoors, not just the companies need to realize this issue but as recreational lovers we need to take pre-cautions as well.

 

Other factors like affordability, availability and consumer knowledge are things that definitely influence the number of skiers riding the skis. But, in the interest of painting a clear picture of the four questions I set out to answer, we will have to look more closely at those factors another time.

 

 

The Skis!

Liberty

 Made of:

Bamboo core- from Southern China

Basalt fiber edges- from Germany

Naturally sourced top sheet material- from Austria

Bases from France

Adhesives from the US

Liberty continues to innovate by developing new models with eco-friendly materials that raise the performance bar for twin tip skis.

Combining unique designs and the best materials available

(Liberty Skis, 2011)

 

Where:

 At their factory in the Colorado Rockies.

Being in the Rockies gives the company the chance to test the skis in a wide variety of conditions over a long ski season.

The operation also runs on 100 percent wind power.

(Liberty Skis, 2011) (Luxmore, 2009)

 

Quality and Likability:

 3 year warranty- the longest in the industry.

Fun and Versatile Skis

Powder and Freeeskier Magazine awarded liberty-“possibly the best all-around ski ever made.” 

Liberty riders contribute to the product design, helping to make skis that are lighter, stronger and dialed in to progressive skiing styles.

(Liberty Skis, 2011)

 

Something special:

In 2004 the owners win $30,000 at the Mandalay Bay craps tables which they used to pay a Canadian factory to produce their first samples. Lucky roll!

(Liberty Skis, 2011)

 

Website:

http://www.libertyskis.com

 

 Grown

Made of:

More than 70% wood (from sustainable forest management in Europe)

Reinforcing fibers made from volcanic basalt instead of fiberglass and carbon fibers which use energy and create emissions in order to make them.

The plastic top sheet is eliminated

A recycled base

Research and development in alternative natural fibers and glues will hopefully lead to better recycle-ability in the future.(Grown Skis, 2011)

 

Where:

 Grown is a young innovative eco-entrepreneurial company that was founded 2007 in Munich, Germany.

(Grown Skis, 2011)

 

Quality and Likability:

High Quality products on the cutting edge of eco-design.

Grown, causes no unnecessary harm to the environment and has a low ecological footprint

Each ski is handcrafted but has the industrial guarantee of equal quality

Their thoughts on Quality: “Consume less but better. Buy high quality products which did not travel far, ideally produced in your country or at least on your continent. By buying high quality products which last longer you may not need to buy more for a longer time.”

Their appearance is independent form fashion, just nice, time-less wood.

Ski performance alone is not enough. Grown skis are designed and produced in a way that is helping to build a more sustainable world.

The company has calculated the carbon footprint of each pair of its skis. Its skis have a carbon footprint of 27,8kg of carbon dioxide emission compared to the 46,2kg of conventional skis.

(Grown Skis, 2011)

 

Something special:

Grown received the first eco design award of the world's major sporting goods   industry fair in 2008. The company’s remaining carbon dioxide emissions are offset with the non-profit organization myclimate. Grown skis are carbon neutral.

(Grown Skis, 2011)

 

Website: http://www.grownskis.com

 

Slant

Made of:

Vertically laminated bamboo core.

Sidewalls are ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene,-which has the highest impact resistance in the industry.

 A high-strength layer of triaxial fiberglass is placed above and below the core.

The top of each pair of skis has sublimated custom graphics that are created by local artists.

A top-secret epoxy mixture is squeezed into the layers for good durability and high performance.

 (Slant Skis, 2009)

 

Where:

Hand-built skis in Truckee, CA. Skier owned and operated.

The company recycles and tries to reduce waste. They offset their carbon footprint by donating $10.00 from every pair of skis sold to http://carbonfund.org.

(Slant Skis, 2009)

 

Quality and Likability:

The skis are built from high quality ingredients and are assembled with precision and care at their factory.

Slant manufactures a limited quantity of skis each season which is good for quality control.

(Slant Skis, 2009)

 

Something special:

Because the skis are made in the US and not oversees this saves money and greenhouse gas emissions.

(Slant Skis, 2009)

 

Website:

http://www.slantskis.com

 

 

Venture

 

Made of:

Wood cores (Forest Stewardship Council certified wood)

They are experimenting with the hopes of finding suitable, durable vegetable-based alternatives for the petroleum-based plastics and resins.

(Pogge, 2009)

 

Where:

The skis are made at their factory in Silverton, CO

 Their entire operation has been wind powered since 2004.

As a member of 1% For the Planet, they pledge one percent of sales to the natural environment.

They recycle- wood scraps become signs or birdhouses. Sawdust becomes horse bedding then compost.

They are breaking ground on a new factory which will be built with sustainable recycled materials and will have solar power.

(Venture Snowboards, n.d.)

 

Quality and Likability:

Their thoughts on Quality- “We believe that perfection is achieved when nothing more can be eliminated from a design without compromising function. So it follows that our approach to making snowboards is straightforward, with simplicity at its core.”

The company’s dual focus is to improve the quality and performance of the boards and minimize impact on the environment.

(Venture Snowboards, n.d.)

 

Something special:

Venture seeks to protect the wild places that inspire us! In 1986, the future  owner, who was 15 at the time, built his first board using scrap metal from his father’s woodshop. 

(Venture Snowboards, n.d.)

 

Website: http://www.venturesnowboards.com

 

 

Movement

 

Made of:

Pure wood cores- From Forest Stewardship Council certified or The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) wood

No synthetic or composite synthetic/wood cores-wood with injected foam.  

Cores are shaped from the most select materials, and are very accurately calibrated for the optimum result.

No toxic adhesives are used in the assembly of the wood cores.

Fiberglass binding reinforcement plates are completely integrated into the wood core for the most secure binding retention. Unlike metal plates, fiberglass plates do not inhibit the ski’s smooth flex and edge-hold.

(The Movement Company, 2010)

 

Where:

The headquarters are in Boulder, CO but the skis are made in Switzerland.

(The Movement Company, 2010)

 

Quality and Likability:

Each part of the movement brand is developed by professionals and specialists.

They test their products thoroughly, on the snow!

They believe that quality construction is key to a quality ski.

(The Movement Company, 2010)

 

Something special:

Material selection is of extreme importance to Movement because a ski can only be great if the right materials are used.

(The Movement Company, 2010)

 

Website: http://www.movementskis.com/

 

 

333

 

Made of:

The actual materials of 333 skis are not their sustainability platform. They turn to the manufacturing to make a difference to the planet.

Its skis are designed by the customers and are hand-made.

They use the heat of the sun to cure their skis, on the roof of the factory.

(333, n.d)

 

Where:

The ski factory is actually a small trailer built of recycled materials running on solar power off the grid.

The owner, who is out of California, pulls the factory behind his truck to wherever he decides to setup shop that day.

He used to make snowboards in a traditional factory with brick walls and fluorescent lights but it was so inefficient.
(333, n.d)

 

Quality and Likability:

They pride themselves on being able to design skis with the people who are going to ski on them.

They are able to build skis and sell them for a working person’s wage.

(Planet Earth Clothing, 2010)

 

Something special:

The owner came up with the name 333 because he thought he would ask his customer’s 3 questions then put in 3 hours of work to sell them for around $300. 

 

Website: http://www.333skis.com

 

 

Kingswood

 

Made of:

 Kingswood pioneered the use of bamboo for ski cores. They use farmed bamboo.

They chose bamboo because it is strong and consistent- with good pop and shop absorbing materials.

They are investigating a flax alternative to fiberglass—a component used in almost every ski and board made today.

(Pogge, 2009)

They use ABS glues which are better than P-Tex, are stronger.

The core is hand-shaped and then wrapped in layers of fiberglass and laminated with carbon fiber, epoxy resin, and rubber vibration dampening foil.

Skis are finished with a basegrind and hot wax.

 (Kingswood Skis, 2009)

 

Where:

The skis are made. Lyttelton New Zealand in a former ship chandlery building, built in the 1880’s.

It is a large factory which allows for each part of the ski making process to be separated which maximizes efficiency and keeps dust transfer to a minimum. The factory is mostly underground which keeps its temperature constant which is important for a consistent product.

Epoxy is sensitive to temperature.

(Kingswood Skis, 2009)

 

Quality and Likability:

The company realizes that because it uses bamboo from China, and plastic and steel from Europe, that they have a high transportation footprint.

To offset this, they order one annual shipment from each of the vendors.

Skis are handmade and made for individuals who order them.

The owner is an excellent woodworker and craftsman who makes the skis with exactness and care.

They also operate a major repair business, keeping skis in use longer.

(Kingswood Skis, 2009)

 

Something special:

In 2007, Kingswood won the 2007 Southern Sustainable Product Award.                                                                 

They were the first carbon neutral ski manufacturer.

Their motto- “Quality only hurts once”.

(Pogge, 2009)

 

 

 

After this research I hoped that I might be able to rank the companies from most sustainable to least but I found that this sort of ranking is impossible based on the information I was able to find. I think what is important is that these companies are trying to lessen their impact on the environment. They are using materials or manufacturing processes that, to the best of their ability at this time, are coming from a place of concern for the planet. After all, they realize that global warming is influenced by carbon emissions which are influenced by manufacturing and deforestation.

 

 I urge you skiers out there to check out these ski brands. Read. Become informed. Don’t be persuaded by the need to get “this year’s” awesome skis when your last pair is barley different from this years. Realize that you have been sucked into the technical advertising efforts, and new graphics, exactly as planned. Wait until your skis are worn out, while attempting to save up money for the next pair. Then you’ll be able to make an informed, and high quality purchase you can be proud will have influenced the future of the sport of skiing itself.

 

References

1. Pogge, D. (2007). Melting Away- Can Sustainable Skis and Snowboards Save Winter Sports?

 E Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.emagazine.com/archive/4020

2. Vail Resorts Management Company (2007).

Retrieved from http://www.vailresorts.com/Corp/info/reduce-reuse-recycle.aspx

3. Mercer, L. (2006). K2 Ski Company. Love to Know.

Retrieved from http://ski.lovetoknow.com/K2_Ski_Company

4. Skis Rossignol. (n.d) In Wikipedia online.

Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skis_Rossignol

5. Luxmore, C. (2009). Eco-friendly ski and snowboard gear. Mr. Green Archive. Retrieved from http://www.greenlivingonline.com/article/eco-friendly-ski-and-snowboard-gear

6. Liberty Skis. (2011) Liberty Skis Website-Company info and history sections.

Retrieved from http://www.libertyskis.com/company

10. The Movement Company. (2010). Movement Skis Website-Products and Movement Info Sections. Retrieved from http://www.movementskis.com/

11. 333 Skis. (n.d) 333 skis Website-Factory Section.

Retrieved from http://www.333skis.com/green-manufacturing

12. Planet Earth Clothing Company. (2010)  Planet Earth Clothing-Perspective section.333 Skis Interview. Retrieved from http://www.planet-earth-clothing.com/news/2010/09/333-skis-videos/

13. Kingswood Skis. (2009). Kingswood Skis Website- Skis, About and Factory Sections. Retrieved from http://kingswoodskis.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments (10)

Nice article. However, I think you sell K2 short, because only their entry level skis use composite materials in the core. K2 is known for wood core skis, and looking over last year's line of skis that suit the advanced-expert skier, I see aspen/fir, Paulownia, Bio-flex, which is a wood core, etc. Check for yourself: http://k2skis.com/skis
like the article. thx
Very compelling and underscores the difficulty of assessing carbon impact of ski manufacturing. Would I accept a lower performance ski if it had a smaller carbon footprint? Well I would, but reluctantly. Losing control at 55 MPH to save a tree seems like a bad trade off. I doubt Nascar competitors ponder these kinds of problems.
Liberty does not use a full bamboo core.
The biggest negative environmental impact is probably from ski companies that make their skis in China.
China doesn't enforce their own environmental laws. Chinese companies routinely use solvents and glues that would be illegal to use North American or European factories.
These factories are powered by some of the dirtiest coal fired electrical power plants in the world.
Many products manufactured in China are label as "GREEN" very few are.
SEE the "The World's Toxic Waste Dump" at
http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518,387392,00.htmlPost Comment
Wikipedia n.d isn't a creditable source seeing anyone can enter and change the facts.
Can we actually see 7000 acres of rainforest being saved or are we just seeing guilt money being paid to off set the carbon footprint. They are still cutting the rainforest and we aren't doing enough to stop it.
Skis make a far, far, far less impact on the environment within the US than logging practices that bring you bathroom tissue and paper.. Imho everyone reading needs to realize the hard-fact issues pertaining to the abuse of the environment through the corruption of corporate and governmental interests and actions in their own country first, rather than begin by taking swipes at the foreign countries that lack the environmental knowledge in government altogether.
Should have been worded as ""pertaining to environmental abuse"..sorry.
Somebody shoot me.
An entire article based on the bullshi* that is the green movement. Wake up. It is an international tax scheme to rip off industrialized nations and empower the dem oriented "carbon credits" industry that is crony capitalism at its worst. Solyndra. Your tax $ pissed away to an obama supporter (the circle: donations flow to the dem party) and liberals swoon that they are making a difference in the world! Coal and oil and gas exploration allow US jobs and help the poor survive. $7 a gallon gas (bho said he's for it) impoverishes us and transfers wealth to the Arab producers. He is on their side based on his mother, father, Ayers and Rev Wright friends. Suckers. Stay the hell away from issues that influence jobs and energy costs.
EpicSki › Gear Articles › Do You Know The Environmental Impact Of Your Skis