Green Ski Revolution
Biopolymers that allow maximum performance to backcountry skis
A new era for backcountry skiing: bio-based materials obtained through fermentation increase stability, edge hold and durability.
The latest innovation in terms of low environmental impact biotechnologies are skis made from unicellular microalgae. The revolution comes from the Californian company Checkerspot, which has revealed the potential of natural materials to produce high-performance skis.
“Being at the forefront of innovation is a privilege and a responsibility that our team feels very strongly. Contributing to the development of a new generation of materials able to combine technique, performance, and sustainability is above all a great opportunity for us.” declared Matteo Brognoli CEO at Solaris Biotech Solutions.
Microalgae are transformed by fermentation into triglyceride oils, basis of the biopolymers that make up the new Vital 100 skis from the American brand WNDR Alpine, awarded last month with the Ispo Award in the category “Sports equipment of snow “and also for their eco-sustainability. “A very important recognition for the work we are doing,” says Matt Sterbenz, former backcountry champion and founder of WNDR Alpine in Salt Lake City.
Microalgae are heterotrophic meaning they do not use chlorophyll or the sun to go. The microalgae are grown in the dark in bioreactors. This very controlled process keeps contaminants away from the microalgae and allows them to produce the purest of triglyceride oils. Plant sugars and other nutrients are fed to the microalgae and they grow full of oil in the fermentation tanks. Then, the microalgae are removed from the bioreactors and dried out. The oil is extracted from the dried algae.
The algae oil embodies the principles of sustainable production, creating high-quality oils with low carbon, water and land use impacts. The process uses an efficient closed system with a low carbon footprint, where waste sugarcane is used to generate the electricity and steam that powers the facility. The oils have a low water footprint thanks to rain-fed sugarcane fields and reuse of process water.
Producing algae oils with fermentation takes only days and yields more tons of oil per hectare than most plant-based oils. That means it can use less land to make more oil.