Skiing is a big part of my life and one that is inherently under threat from climate change - needless to say rising temperatures are not good for snowsports! It would make sense then, for winter sports enthusiasts to select products that have a minimal, or dare we say a positive, impact on the environment. Born in Verbier, in the Swiss Alps, Faction pride themselves on being a collective of individuals that don’t hesitate in going against the grain. They have grown to become industry leaders in performance skiing, focussing on quality and durability as a path to sustainability. The Faction 2.0 is an ‘all-mountain’ product, designed to be a durable, do-it-all ski to shred in any condition. I own a set of these skis and although Faction pride themselves on durability, I have not found them to be consistently robust in reality; although that could depend on skiing style. I would recommend greater transparency regarding both the sourcing of materials and the manufacturing process.
To ensure proper functionality in all conditions, the Prodigy 2.0 requires the correct blend of materials and ski ‘technologies’. They claim to source their materials from suppliers with ‘sustainable’ values. It has a wood core, built from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified poplar (sourced from Denmark) to enable enough flex to pop and butter, without compromising stability. Faction source their wood from FSC certified forests in order to reduce the chance of resource overexploitation. Scientific literature on the effectiveness of FSC certification is patchy, but WWF and Greenpeace still ratify it as one the sole ‘credible’ one.’ The ski has a cap/sidewall hybrid construction to maximise durability, with anti-chip technology. It also has fat 2.5mm steel edges to hold up to abuse on rails, once again to ensure longevity. The top sheet is made from vinyl, accompanied with colourful graphics. Although the specifics about materials were unclear and hard to find, the ski includes ‘recycled materials’, which could refer to the vinyl. This model ski uses traditional, petroleum based epoxy resin - but there is now a plant-based bio-resin that could be used as an alternative(which has been used on the Agent POW ski). The bases are made up of P-Tex plastic (polyethylene plastic), which is non-renewable, but has the advantage of being easily repairable (to a point) by grinding out scratches and melting additional T-Pex into gouges. An additional thought I’d like to add is the risk when skis are damaged - plastic vinyl that peels off skis when in use could become a dangerous pollutant as it will not degrade. I would like to see a full description of what the skis are made from and where the materials are sourced on their website. Whilst fully sustainable materials have been used in one-off models (like the Agent 4.0 POW edition), I’d like to see these incorporated into all models.
The Prodigy 2.0, like all Faction skis, is handmade in family-run workshops in Europe, including Austria, the Czech Republic and Poland. Hand-built construction remains the benchmark for performance skiing. The creation of skis is a precision process, that requires techniques that have been perfected over generations. This allows for the production of the highest quality ski and sets Faction’s products apart from their machine manufactured competitors. Large machinery, reliant on coal power, is utilised by most major competitor companies to mould elements together. Quality over quantity ensures attention to detail, resulting in fewer factory defects, less waste and less energy spent on running machinery. This is coupled with a recent move to centralise their entire production process, in order to reduce waste and ensure efficiency. All materials are sourced from Europe to reduce transport emissions. Faction pride themselves on transparency, yet actually tracing the production process, including the sourcing of raw materials, was challenging. Generally speaking, European employment, especially within EU member states, ensures accountability and equity. However, as the company has expanded and factory production has switched to the Czech Republic and Poland, it subjects employees to a slightly lower minimum wage (comparative to Austria or Switzerland). Further information on the specifics of Faction’s factories was difficult to find - I encourage greater transparency on conditions/pay for workers. Skis go through rigorous testing, both at their Austrian lab and at their test site in the Swiss Alps. This is to ensure that ski models are durable enough to last. The asymmetrical rocker-camber-rocker profile, with 98mm underfoot width, enables the ski to perform well in all conditions. This is a major benefit, as it ticks so many boxes in terms of functionality, it acts as the only ski you’ll ever need - saving the need to buy an additional set to suit different conditions and thus preventing the excess production of specialised skis.
Faction was born in 2006 in Verbier, Switzerland, formed by a small group of ski enthusiasts looking to redefine fun on the mountain. They are an independent company, (with growing investment) that make high performance skis for freeskiers. They refer to themselves as a ‘collective’, owing to the incorporation of athletes, experts, designers, film-makers and engineers into their business model. They now sponsor a team of athletes who have competed (and won) at some of the biggest competitions in snowsports. They’ve gone from selling just 200 pairs of skis in their inaugural year, to over 30,000 pairs annually. Co-founders Tony Williams and Alex Hoyle have always insisted on media as the key to expanding the brand. In fact, much of Faction’s advertisement comes through the production of ski videos and through sponsoring athletes, who have their own social media presence themselves. This has helped to grow the brand organically. All material is sourced and manufactured within central Europe, keeping transportation emissions to a minimum. There is some concern over their potential to stray away from their independent non-corporate roots, signified by their recent rapid growth and interest in expanding into the Chinese market. There is the potential risk that the prioritisation of shareholder value will overtake environmental concerns, especially seeing as the business is not yet profitable. Having said that, they are still majority owned by skiers and enthusiasts, who you’d hope have the sport’s best interests at heart. In the past, Faction have experimented with ‘green-technologies’ such as bases made from recycled PET, but have since abandoned them due to their inferior performance. They have also made attempts to fuel their factories with 100% renewable energy. If Faction can stay true to their non-corporate philosophy, maintain product durability and ramp up research into sustainable material alternatives (such as bio-resin), then I think they have a solid foundation for a successful and sustainable ski company.
https://uk.factionskis.com/collections/all-mountain/products/prodigy-2-0-ski-2122?variant=39423826493475, https://uk.factionskis.com/pages/about-us-2, https://uk.factionskis.com/pages/sustainability, https://www.newschoolers.com/news/read/The-Roofbox-Review-2020-Faction-Prodigy-2-0, https://uk.factionskis.com/blogs/news/agent-4-0-pow-collab, https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php?title=Minimum_wage_statistics