Toxic Ski Wax: A Slippery Slope for the Environment

Lucas Olsen, Colby Taschek, Amalie Brimhall , To write article

     Exactly how damaging is ski wax to the environment? According to there are as many as 5,824 ski resorts world wide with 37,282 miles of slopes. This totals to about 66 million annual visitors, resulting in an astronomical amount of damaging chemicals being put into the environment. 

     But, the question is, what types of ski wax are the most damaging, and what types are the safest? To start, there are three types of ski wax: fluorinated, hydrocarbon, and eco-friendly.

     Fluorinated ski wax, one of the most effective waxes, is tremendously detrimental to the environment. Due to its high cost, it is very rarely used by the average recreational skier. It is mostly utilized by professionals in racing, for it is well-known for making people glide extremely fast. The perfluorochemicals used in this wax are toxic to both animals and humans, damaging the immune, liver, and endocrine systems. This wax makes its way into our water systems through snowmelt, and ultimately into our bodies. 

     Hydrocarbon wax, undoubtedly the most popular, is used frequently by almost all skiers on the mountain. Though less toxic than fluorinated wax, it is still dangerous. It contains oil-by products that get into the local water supply and causes respiratory problems. 

     Eco-friendly ski wax is obviously the best option! By using eco-friendly wax, you are not putting anything toxic into the environment, and ultimately not putting anything toxic into yourself.

     So, what does this mean for Telluride? Skiing and snowboarding are a monumental part of not only our economy, but our welcoming community too. With this awesome town, we need to take care of it so that we don’t lose our natural capital and destroy the environment. Ski and snowboard wax is a necessity for skiing, but as stated above, there are waxes out there that are not so good for the environment. Fluorocarbon is not only harmful to the mountain, our town, and the water supply; but it also causes cancer and many more problems in humans. When skiing and riding on this wax we rub it all over the snow. Then in the spring, snowmelt moves these toxins into nearby rivers which affect the fish, the people, and the whole town’s health and economy. 

     Hydrocarbon based wax is an eco-friendly, alternative wax that is both biodegradable and non-toxic to the environment. So, during spring snowmelt, no toxic chemicals make their way into the rivers, therefore no fish or humans are affected. Wax companies like Swix and Toko use fluorocarbon wax, which is not good for the environment. Swix and Toko do make Hydrocarbon waxes, but most of their waxes are made from Fluorocarbon. However, environmentally friendly wax companies like Purl (Breckenridge Colorado), Utah Ski Gear (Salt Lake City, Utah), Green Ice Wax (New Hampshire), and Solo Wax (Telluride, Colorado) use waxes that don’t destroy the environment, allowing us to protect the mountains we ski on.

     There may be many more environmentally friendly waxes, but these are from hardcore Ski resorts who know what it is to ski, and understand the importance of good wax that is also good for the environment. 

How damaging is ski wax to the environment?