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Kit with conscience: how the ski world is improving its gear

Until recently, ski gear had been heavily dependent on unsustainable materials, but a growing awareness of climate change and the environmental costs of production means things are changing.

By Abigail Butcher
Published 2 Jun 2022, 06:04 BST
The core of this ski is constructed with 45% recycled polyurethane foam derived from recycled plastic ...

The core of this ski is constructed with 45% recycled polyurethane foam derived from recycled plastic bottles, and the eSkin technology doesn’t require wax (a snow contaminant). 

Photograph by Salomon

Energy, water, plastic: the unholy trinity that’s traditionally used to make winter sports kit and clothing. Add to this the use of hazardous chemicals (PFCs and PTFEs used for water- and wind-proofing) and scant recycling, and you have a woefully unsustainable industry.

Yet attitudes are changing; ethical and environmentally friendly manufacturing has been brought to the fore by organisations like Greenpeace (with its 2011 Detox campaign, and 2015 Footprints in the Snow report), nonprofit conservation initiatives like Protect Our Winters and pioneering companies such as Patagonia and Picture Organic. 

With the ski industry at the sharp end of climate change — melting glaciers, unusual weather, shorter seasons, microplastics and PFCs in the mountains — brands are transforming the way goods are produced and disposed. Rab and Amundsen Sports, for example, make jackets with down sourced from old pillows and duvets. Meanwhile, entire product lines from companies such as Yuki Threads are made from recycled materials and it, along with brands like Haglöfs, sell factory seconds rather than binning them. 

Companies including Maier Sports, Vaude and Parámo are offering clothing-recycling schemes, and ski boot manufacturer Tecnica has launched the Recycle Your Boots initiative: buy a new pair and the company recycles your old ones (of any brand) into new ski products. Houdini Sportswear and YKK are exploring the use of digital zips to track an item’s lifecycle. And to breathe new life into old kit, Nikwax offers a range of wash-in products that come in recycled bottles and contain no environmentally damaging chemicals. 

Launched last year, EcoSki is another sustainability pioneer, offering a range of upcycling, recycling, repair and rental options. “I wanted to provide consumers with better choices, encouraging brands to push further with innovations and help give back at the same time,” says founder Rachael Westbrook, who supports charities via 1% For the Planet (a nonprofit global organisation whose members contribute at least 1% of their profits to environmental causes). “Ultimately,” she says “the ‘greenest’ purchase you can make is the one you decide not to buy.”

Three pieces of kit to buy


Spektrum templet POW edition stone goggles
The plastic parts of these 90% bio-based goggles are made using plant-based polymers and recycled polyester, while the straps are mainly made of hemp. A collaboration with conservation project Protect Our Winters, which receives 15% of the profits. £154. snowandrock.com

Salomon S/MAX eSkin Nordic ski
The core of this ski is constructed with 45% recycled polyurethane foam derived from recycled plastic bottles, and the eSkin technology doesn’t require wax (a snow contaminant). All packaging is Forest Stewardship Council-certified and made without glue or plastic at a factory that runs entirely on renewable energy. £400. salomon.com

Yuki Threads Team Zip Hoodie 
This brand’s entire outerwear line is made using recycled waste, such as plastic bottles, as well as Zelan R3, a water-repellent coating made from tree sap. This gender-neutral hoodie is made from 60% organic cotton and 40% recycled polyester, designed for riding and après-wear. £99. yukithreads.com

Published in Winter Sports, sold with the December 2021 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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