Eco-friendly ski and snowboard gear

Photo: istockphoto.com/Ingmar Wesemann

Are skiing and snowboarding sustainable sports?

From loading up the SUV for the drive to the hill, to reveling in the après-ski action after a day of whizzing up and down on the chairlifts — skiing and snowboarding are far from sustainable sports.

Climate change is putting the future of these winter sports in jeopardy, so maybe it's time for skiers and boarders to green up their acts. Some board, ski and clothing manufacturers are offering eco-friendlier products that leave a lighter footprint on the slopes.

Skis
The key to green skis is buying from manufacturers who are using sustainable materials such as bamboo but also wood harvested from sustainable forests rather than from old-growth forests. Although the market is still small but there are some excellent choices:

  • Liberty Skis is an independent, Colorado ski manufacturer making all-terrain skis with a laminated bamboo core starting. The operation also runs on 100 percent wind power.
  • While HEAD isn't yet offering green products, the company is doing its bit to help the environment. CEO Johan Eliasch co-founded Cool Earth, a charity based organization protecting endangered rainforest. Through this initiative, HEAD has managed to save 7,000 acres of rainforest each year — offsetting its carbon emissions ten times.
  • Karhu is the Finnish company that has been creating equipment for backcountry and cross country skiers since 1916. It makes cores for some of its Telemark and Alpine skis from paulownia. Like bamboo, paulownia is a fast-growing hardwood, native to China that is considered more sustainable that other types of wood commonly used in skis.
  • Snowboards
    Much like skis, snowboards have a limited but fairly green selection:

  • Venture is a pioneer when it comes to eco-friendly and ethical snowboard design. For over eight years, this independent Colorado board maker has been using American poplar and ash certified by the Forest Stewardship Council to produce its boards.
  • Arbor uses bamboo, poplar and paulownia for its snowboards' cores. Snowboard bases are made with leftover poly-ethylene that would otherwise have gone to landfill. It also carries a hip line of skate-style t-shirts and hoodies made with 100 percent organic cotton or bamboo blends.
  • Salomon is offering a new line of bamboo snowboards. Its bamboo SickStick, made using less resins than conventional boards, just won the Volvo SportsDesign Award for Eco Design.
  • Wax on
    Snowboard wax is laden with petro-chemicals, fluorocarbons and other toxic nuggets. The expensive wax that reduces drag is a type of perfluorochemicals (PFCs) — the same family as the toxic non-stick Teflon pans. Heating up either type of wax means you're inhaling toxic fumes and coating your lungs. But you're also leaving traces of PFCs and other petro-chemicals on the snow when you hit the slopes that eventually end up in the waterways during the spring melt.

    Beaverwax is a small, Vancouver operation promising wax made with environmentally-friendly additives. Enviro Mountain Wax makes ski and snowboard wax using North American plant and vegetable extracts.

    ThreadsMountain Equipment Co-op carries a line of 100 percent organic cotton outdoor gear. Its silkweight polyester lines are made from 65 percent recycled material and make great under layers. MEC's recently pulled all products with BPA off their shelves. Their continued efforts to source ethically produced lines, manufacture locally and donate one per cent of every purchase to the 1% For The Planet initiative are all good reasons to buy your next ski jacket here.

    Nau is an outdoor company committed to producing clothing that makes a difference — the environment and ethics come first. Their winter clothing collection is smaller and more limited, but its merino wool base layers are perfect for the hill.