There’s a new outdoor brand out there that’s making backcountry skis in a radically different way: WNDR Alpine. The Salt Lake City brand was born out of a few ski industry veterans’ frustrations with the industry’s reliance on petroleum based materials. They wanted to do things differently, to make better performing backcountry skis out of renewable resources with a smaller carbon footprint. But at the time, suppliers didn’t offer any materials that fit the bill. They found a solution by joining Checkerspot, a materials startup using biotechnology to create materials with new performance characteristics. Equipped with cutting edge biotech and decades of ski building experience, they took it upon themselves to create a bio-based composite that became the building block for their skis. After rigorous materials development and ski prototyping, WNDR Alpine was born.
How do you create a better ski?
WNDR says better ingredients. The ski industry is dependent on large scale suppliers for materials like carbon fiber, wood, and plastic. Materials that were never created with ski performance in mind, according to the folks at WNDR. So instead of relying on the same petroleum based products that wreak havoc on the environment, they teamed up with the scientists at Checkerspot to create a new composite from algae.
So how does this work?
The process begins by growing microalgae in fermentation tanks (similar to brewing beer). The algae are fed sugar, and in turn, produce oil that becomes the building block for the ski materials. Scientists use these oils to create composites that are customized to specific ski performance. Here’s what all that freedom of design means for your ski – “The result was a backcountry ski with better stability, less chatter, and better torsional stiffness, all at a competitive weight to similar skis on the market.”
Better for the Environment
By now we know that making skis from microalgae has performance benefits, but does it do anything to benefit the environment that we all love to play in? You bet. Here’s why WNDR’s algae composite outshines frequently used petroleum based products:
- Renewable, biological resource
- Less land and water use than other bio-based oils
- Small carbon footprint
- High yield for little input
And WNDR doesn’t stop there. They ship all of their skis in reusable packaging and offer a takeback program at the end of the skis life. When you send your skis back to WNDR at the end of the ski’s life they do one of the following:
- Refurbish and find them a new home
- Deconstruct and re-use parts of the internal materials
- Upcycle the skis
In all cases, they inspect the worn skis and utilize the data to help them improve their manufacturing process and ultimately the ski’s performance.
Nonetheless, WNDR stays modest about their environmental impact. “It’s an incremental process where performance comes first, ” Xan Marshland, WNDR’s Manager of Brand Development says. “We’re targeting all aspects of a ski’s construction and considering how we can utilize new materials to boost each component’s performance. And since we engineer these materials from a renewable resource, we can reduce our reliance on petroleum at the same time.”
Made in the USA
There are a lot of things that set WNDR apart from the crowd. One being that their skis are proudly made in the USA. First, the bio-based composites are developed in Berkeley, CA. Then, the raw materials head to Salt Lake City where they are transformed into skis at WNDR’s Design Lab.
Intention 110 – The Ski
Their first ski is the Intention 110, named after the intentional design that starts on a molecular level. It’s a ripping backcountry ski that can take on all kinds of conditions, in part because the materials are designed for it. It has the stability of a beefier ski at a weight that rivals the best “fast and light” skis out there.
There are a few notable features of this ski’s design. It has a semi-cap sidewall that provides a nice balance of stability, durability, and energy transmission. The sidecut profile lends feelings of buoyancy and nimbleness to the ski. The best part is that you get to choose the camber profile you like best: camber or reverse camber. All in all, this ski is remarkably light on the uphill and wildly fun on the way down.
|Intention 110||Tech Specs|
|Turn radius||185cm – 22.5m|
|Weight||178cm – 1750g/ski
185cm – 1800g/ski
192 cm – 1900g/ski
|Core Construction||Aspen, Paulownia, Checkerspot™ Algal Composite|
|Rocker Type||Rocker-Camber-Rocker, Reverse Camber|
Trail Tested: The Verdict at TMS
I ski the Intention 110 in the 185 Reverse Camber. What I really enjoy about the ski is its lively nature – I want to pop off every little roll and bump, and the landing is always smooth. The ski has enough flat profile under the feet to hold traction while skinning, but with the reverse camber profile overall floats through powder incredibly well, and turns on a dime!Johannes