What we already do
In an effort to make our skis as eco-friendly as possible we use natural renewable materials instead of synthetic ones wherever possible.
We use hardwood – oak in our case to replace plastic used for both topsheet and sidewall of our skis. We use a bamboo insert to hold binding screws rather than metal or a synthetic insert used in other skis. The cores themselves are wood mostly from post-consumer recycled sources. The tip and tail spacers and reinforcements are solid oak or oak veneer.
All our wood comes from sustainable forests.
So far we have been using regular epoxy resin – a high quality locally sourced one – but regular epoxy none the less. We hadn’t found a bio replacement that either worked properly or didn’t need shipping halfway round the world.
Our philosophy being it’s got to work at least as well as what we already use, not less. Also there isn’t any point shipping resin 10’000km just because it’s bio – its carbon footprint would make the fact that it’s bio pointless.
But now we have a solution – Designed in California, USA by Entropy Resins , but made by Ferrer-Dalmau (http://www.entropyresins.eu/) of Spain – Bio resin that really works for ski making and is made locally.
We’ve played around with Hemp as a reinforcement for skis in the past and while we could get skis to flex the same as fibreglass reinforced ones they weren’t as strong by a long shot – they were also a little heavier, but not by enough to stop them working.
One of our main problems with hemp was the only material we could find was woven canvas, which is more apt for making jeans than as a structural reinforcement.
Fibreglass itself isn’t a terrible material. It’s really just sand and a lot of energy – just an awful lot of energy – but no unpleasant or rare materials used in its creation, unlike some other reinforcements.
From Bcomp of Fribourg (http://www.bcomp.ch/) , Switzerland we have Flax fabric, which is intended as an alternative to Fibreglass – its intended for use as an industrial composite, not the garment industry.
Making the bio ski
Our first new bio ski is a full bore, take no prisoners approach, both Bio resin and Flax reinforcement
We have adjusted the ski’s core thickness to account for the difference in the Flax vs Fibreglass stiffness, but otherwise it’s the same ski as we would normally make.
We’ve made a Bouquetin 180 as this is the ski we have the most days on testing ourselves so it’s the one we know best.
It’s not just a one shot deal – even if the snow test hit’s a perfect 100% satisfaction it wouldn’t be a very through way of doing things.
We have also building a pair of skis with Bio Resin and Fibreglass just to make sure the resin works.
As an equal measure we’ve made a pair reinforced with Flax but with regular epoxy resin.
First off is static testing for longitudinal (along the length) and torsional (twisting) flex tests.
The Flax ski tested identical to the fiberglass ski in longitudinal, and slightly softer in initial torsional. But as once you started to twist the ski more than a few degrees the torsional results were the same.
Lab test are great for hard data – numbers. But we need to know how it feels on your feet.
The first weekend in November, Verbier opened a few lifts. Time to ski.
The ski performed exactly as expected, same ski, just a little softer, more forgiving to initially engage in the new turn, but once pushed has the same power. With the flax laminate being a little thicker than the fiberglass one there is a little more dampening effect as well.
I had no doubt that the skis powder performance would still be great, but as there was a little bit on the side it had to be tested.
Watch the video here…
For the future we would like to only use renewable or recycled sourced parts and products used in the making of our skis.
To that end we are working closely with The BioComposites Centre (http://www.bc.bangor.ac.uk/) of the University of Bangor, Wales, in an effort to find sustainable replacements.
The next part is possibly bio derived ski base!