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For skiers, protecting the planet (and the powder!) is the only way to make the sport sustainable. As a business proudly headquartered in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, we understand this more than most.
What does sustainable skiing look like though? And which are the best sustainable ski brands to help you prevent the environment from going… downhill?
Most ski equipment is made with petrochemicals and extracted materials that have a significant environmental impact at source, through manufacture, and at end of life. From plastics to perfluorchemicals in ski wax, your ski gear may well be damaging the health of the slopes you so love.
And, of course, there’s the environmental toll of actually getting to a ski resort and indulging yourself once there. Is there a better way to ski sustainably? Yes! For one, you can take fewer, longer trips and pack more skiing into one vacation! After my recommendations for sustainable ski brands, I offer a few quick links to eco-friendly ski wax and other accessories. First though, the best sustainable skis.
Highlights: Super sustainable and socially engaged company that has been around since 1947 – Salomon know their skis and clearly care about their ‘planetary playground’.
Salomon has been in the ski business since 1947 and is a French company that is now part of Amer Sports. When companies get snapped up by umbrella corporations, social and environmental ethics can easily fall by the wayside, but in the case of Salomon the reverse may be the case, with the smaller company helping the larger to forge ahead with a range of sustainability initiatives, as detailed in this sustainability report.
In 2015, Salomon joined the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) – the apparel, footwear, and home textile industry’s alliance for sustainable production. To measure progress on environmental and social impacts within the brand and supply chain, Salomon use the Higg Index. Salomon is also a member of the European Outdoor Group, contributing to its Sustainability working group as well as its Sustainability Advisory Council. As a member of the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) sustainability working group, Salomon also helps to steer this trade group in areas such as chemicals management and the impact of restricted substances in apparel products and climate change.
Salomon is also a founding member of the Outdoor Sports Valley (OSV), the French Outdoor Industry organization established in 2009 to engage in environmental initiatives such as a common repair center for apparel and seeking alternatives to PFC for DWR treatments. With other outdoor brands, Salomon helped bring about the 2016 opening of the Mont Blanc Outdoor Repair Center, where brands can get gear repaired, extending its life, and workers can get training opportunities and secure employment.
Salomon also founded the Salomon Foundation in 1999 which works to support the social and professional reintegration of athletes and mountain professionals living with a disability as a result of accident or illness. The foundation also supports the families of deceased athletes.
The company’s headquarters at the Annecy Design Center has been ISO14001 and ISO50001 certified since 2017 (energy, water and risks management). Salomon signed the United Nations Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action in December 2018 and has committed to reduce its carbon emissions by 30% by the year 2030.
By 2025, Salomon has the goal to make the environmental performance of all their products visible to consumers, to have 100% of top-tier material suppliers signed on to and/or demonstrating compliance with category-level Materials Compliance Programs and Restricted Substances Lists. Additionally, 100% of new Salomon products will be designed to one or several of the company’s circular economy principles, and they offer a 2-year warranty on most skis and other gear.
They’re also committed to having 100% of suppliers meet or exceed the minimal level of their social compliance standard and will increase the percentage of waste recycled or reused across operations to 70%. Salomon are a member of the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) and a founding member of Fondation Eau, Neige et Glace (Annecy), established in 2009 to improve the management of mountain water resources.
In 2016, Salomon launched its Play-Minded Program, which builds sustainability within the Salomon brand. The four pillars of the program are: the Players, Playground, Playmakers, and the Toys; meaning the sporting community, the environment, the workers making the gear, and the gear. This program demonstrates Salomon’s appreciation that sustainability goes far beyond just switching out a fiberglass sidewall for a plant-based resin and sticking a green leaf on a ski.
Though, that said, Salomon have replaced the layers of fiberglass and resin in their skis with bamboo veneers and have adopted a process that allows boards to be reheated and recycled. Salomon has a published Restricted Substances List of chemicals they don’t use in their products, and they signed on to the bluesign® system in 2013, having voluntarily restricted or phased out using PFCs (perfluorinated chemicals) chemicals beyond the legal requirements.
The company’s Environmental Management Policy helps Salomon to expand internal recycling, reduce energy and water consumption, increase the percentage of organic food in the canteen, and take other steps toward greater sustainability. The company is also one of the few in this industry to demonstrate any degree of gender equality, with a Gender Equality Index of 78/100.
Highlights: Sustainably made skis and other outdoor sports gear from a company making every effort to produce eco-friendly products, if lacking in wider engagement with social responsibility.
Mervin Manufacturing are based in Washington State and have been making sustainable skis, snowboards, skateboards, and surfboards right from the get-go. They might not take themselves too seriously (just check out their website), but they take the business of sustainability and quality craftsmanship very seriously.
Mervin’s ski offerings are sold through their Lib Tech brand and are made with high performance, environmentally friendly materials and processes. They design and produce everything with care, minimizing waste and maximizing the potential for recycling and repurposing. Practically, this means they use organic, non-toxic glues and resins when creating their skis and boards, so that the product itself is safe and any sawdust or offcuts can be safely recycled or, in the case of the sawdust, sent to a composting partner to be turned into soil.
Their goal is and always has been zero hazardous waste, and they appear to nail it, with even their printing process using eco-friendly technology instead of the typical toxic and wasteful processes involved in ski and board creation.
Their UFO 115 skis have a bio beans top (literally made from a castor bean-based biopolymer) and a sustainably harvested FSC wood core, with basalt and other non-toxic natural materials used for other components. They don’t use any toxic lacquer clearcoats, and use soy-based elastomer sidewalls instead of ABS. Their epoxy resin is low VOC and their basalt fiber is additive-free and less toxic than the fiberglass typically used.
The company has been making snowboards themselves for more than 30 years and they have testing grounds in their backyards, meaning they’re quick to innovate and bring new processes and materials to the market. They also take care of their workers with water-cleansed grinding systems that minimize airborne particular levels. And their factory heating runs on renewable biodiesel, with almost all their electricity coming from wind and hydro power.
The company’s Seattle office is an intelligent building with a living roof that harvests rainwater for flushing toilets, heating and cooling, and watering plants. Lighting systems are on sensors and timers, and various other smart design features are included to minimize energy usage.
The one thing I’d note about Mervin is that, unlike Salomon, the company seems to be behind the times (or maybe even the 1940’s) in terms of gender equality and diversity in hiring. Something for them to think about in terms of a wider definition of sustainability, perhaps.
Highlights: Innovative eco-design non-profit organization making skis from unique materials and engaged in sustainability research to help promote greater environmental awareness across the industry.
Grown Skis was established in 2007 as an eco-design lab for skis and has grown into a non-profit lab developing a whole host of outdoor gear. The organization fosters a co-creation community and a regenerative design approach, building on initial success when their skis won the first ISPO eco-design prize in 2008.
Grown Skis is based in Germany and has helped push the industry to use sustainably harvested wood cores, eco-friendly non-toxic glues, recycled materials, hemp fiber, and volcanic basalt rock fibers as well as other principles of eco-design. They published the first environmental and social life cycle analysis of skis in 2013 in the Journal of Industrial Ecology, highlighting the opportunity for greater sustainability in the industry.
The non-profit donates 10% of ski sales to the World Wildlife Fund Arctic Program, only use sustainably harvested wood from European forests, and are always looking for ways to improve their efforts. One of their limited editions ski designs, the Arctic Change, even incorporates reindeer antlers and Tundra juniper from Lapland.
Highlights: British brand making custom skis using mostly eco-friendly materials and with an excellent repair service and 2-year warranty.
Nix is a British brand based in London that make skis and snowboards tailored to your needs. This means there’s barely any waste in their production processes and you can get a made to measure or completely bespoke set of skis. Nix have nixed fiberglass in favor of flax fiber, and use 100% FSC certified bamboo for the ski cores, helping to keep weight down while giving plenty of pop and strength, and being more sustainable to boot.
The skis are made with full-wrap, hardened steel edges for durability, and the bases are a durable high-carbon ultra-high molecular weight (UHMW) polyethylene, which is the most durable, highest impact strength thermoplastic currently available. Durability is clearly better in terms of sustainability and resource use, but it would be nice to see Nix ditch the petroleum-based materials for something more sustainable. Nix do, however, use a non-toxic, plant-based bio resin for their skis and boards.
Nix offer a range of off-the-rack designs that can be made to measure. Each pair of skis and each board is made in such a way as to minimize environmental impact and waste and increase the lifespan of the product. Most of their freeride skis have a full bamboo core, while their tour-specific skis have a combination core made of bamboo, balsa, and flax for a significant weight reduction. Flax also helps to dampen vibration, reduce fatigue, and hold edges better, for happier skiing.
Nix also use a liquid resin sidewall for their skis, instead of plastics, which also allows for easier repairs and better longevity for your skis. They deliberately use the thickest edge material available, high tensile, hardened steel, so that skis have greater impact resistance and can be sharpened over and over.
The ski materials are bonded together using a non-toxic bio-resin called Entropy resin, which has lower VOCs and a lower carbon footprint. It also has greater resistance to ultraviolet light (which can make resins brittle) and is more durable at low temperatures, again meaning that your skis will last longer.
And, if your skis do suffer a calamity, you can get them repaired through Nix. One full service is free for Made to Measure skis, within the 2-year warranty period. For bespoke skis, you get two full services in that time. After that, you can work with Nix to figure out servicing charges.
Skis are typically made in 3-4 weeks after ordering and bespoke designs start at £1675, including custom graphics. Nix want you to be totally happy with your custom skis, so they will work with you to the point of even rebuilding the skis entirely if you’re not 100% satisfied.
Runners-up Worth a Look
The following companies don’t offer a whole lot of information on their environmental efforts or approach to sustainability, but they do seem to be better than most ski and outdoor gear brands. I’ve reached out to all the companies for further information and will update with full reviews as warranted.
Established in 2003, Liberty Skis is based in Colorado and make skis using bamboo cores and other sustainable materials. They offer a 3-year warranty, one of the longest in the industry, and have won multiples awards for their sustainable skis.
Lokomotiv Skis is a brand born in Canada but based in Scandinavia, making sustainable skis from bamboo cores and other eco-friendly materials. The company supports group engaged in reforestation efforts and has developed various environmental initiatives to minimize the carbon footprint and overall environmental impact of the skis.
Kingswood Skis is a New Zealand outfit making custom skis by hand to order. The company uses local renewable resources to build strong, durable, sustainable, and simpler skis after really digging into your ski style and needs.
Eco-Friendly Ski Accessory Brands
Pole Plant – handcrafted bamboo ski poles made in Tignes.
BeaverWax – hand poured in Vancouver, Canada, this innovative ski wax ditches the toxic chemicals in favor of environmentally friendly ingredients that perform just as well.
NZero Wax – an ISPO winner in the eco-friendly category, NZero Wax is based in Barcelona and is 100% organic and free from PFCs. Different waxes are available for a range of temperatures.
Butta Wax – A UK-based ski wax business making eco-friendly waxes for skis and snowboards, with no PFCs, including products that can be ironed on cool or rubbed on.