Being a skier myself, I want to find any way I can to do what I love in a sustainable way, and I think one of my next steps in my journey to skiing sustainably is buying a pair of Icelantic skis. Not only do they receive raving reviews performance-wise, but the company does an excellent job of living up to their motto “return to nature” by promoting sustainability in a myriad aspects of their company, ranging from sales, to materials, to manufacturing. It would be beneficial for larger ski companies to look at Icelantic and attempt to instill a couple of their practices in their own production, for its a way for avid skiers across the world to know that they, as well as their children and grandchildren, can continue to enjoy the terrain they love on our planet for many years to come.
As to be expected, many materials are needed in order to craft a ski from just a wooden plank, and perfecting the Nomad 105 is no exception to this concept. On it’s website, Icelantic boasts its lightweight skis featuring a wood core and materials such as carbonium, fiberglass, rubber foil, polyethylene, and steel. Now, if you are anything like I was when reading this list the first time, I had little idea what most of those materials meant from a sustainability point of view. Luckily, I was able to do the research for you. Though the website lacked information on the actual production of materials that coat the top of the ski, such as the carbonium, rubber foil, and polyethylene (plastic), they are known to provide durability and scratch-resistance to the ski so that it can be used longer. In a breakdown of the manufacturing process, it is revealed that the steel for edges is shipped from Detroit, Michigan, and it is expected that these other materials may be produced in other places before being shipped to Denver as well, adding to the carbon footprint from production. However, attention to sustainability is seen more clearly other places in the process. Icelantic proudly states that its wood cores for skis come from sustainably-harvested trees, and planks within the Never Summer factory are strategically cut, allowing for leftovers to be used to produce youth skis so that the only wood waste is in the form of sawdust. This sustainability is also seen in the addition of designs to the skis. The printing shop has a recycling program, and inks used are either water or clay-based. So, within the factory itself, there is key attention to sustainable practices and decreasing waste in materials.
What sets Icelantic apart from other ski companies is its dedication to hand-crafting high-quality skis. Their website offers transparency on their production process by featuring a factory tour that breaks down the process of a simple wood plank turning into a device that allows customers to shred all types of terrain. An important factor, one that the company takes pride in, is that its process that is done almost entirely by hand, with each set of skis taking about 5-6 days to perfect. Having a person rather than a machine in each step of the process allows for more examination and attention to detail, which results in less faulty products. In fact, nearly 40 sets of hands touch a pair of skis throughout the manufacturing process, allowing for more eyes to check for the best quality of production. Therefore, from a sustainable perspective, there are less finished skis going to waste and more finding their way to mountains across the country and the world.
Icelantic’s manufacturing process also features steps that ensure durability, which contributes to less waste over time. The average lifespan of a pair of skis is about 3-5 years, and the manufacturing process at Icelantic ensures that you’ll be shredding for at least that long. They employ strategies such as “sandwiching” materials to decrease chances of cracking or chipping and cold-bending steel edges in order to retain strength. My only suggestion for the production process in order to achieve a higher sustainability score is in regards to the use of manufacturing tools, such as saws and drills, and the electricity that powers them. There was little information on the source of electric power for the factory, and it could be most sustainable by harnessing forms of renewable energy, such as solar energy via panels, in order to power operations.
Icelantic is a fairly new brand, started only in 2005 by Colorado resident Ben Anderson, and its operations are completely domestic, allowing for both customer service and manufacturing to be close to home for their main customers. Their focus on creating a tight-knit community between the company and their customers shines through in the featured video on their website that describes their brand. Founder Ben Anderson, as well as CEO Annelise Loevlie, also consistently describe their efforts to keep the operations at Icelantic sustainable. They even have a personal goal of becoming a certified B-Corporation, which is only given to companies that demonstrate the highest standards of environmental and social performance. This is part of the reason why the 6,000 pairs of Icelantic skis produced annually are hand-crafted in the Never Summer factory in Denver, Colorado, which was started in 1991 by brothers Tim and Tracey Canaday. The factory is home to multiple brands, such as Never Summer snowboards, and employs around 70 craftsmen. It is known for its creative approaches to manufacturing high-quality skis and snowboards, as well as its hands-on processes. By having production take place in the United States, the company has less of a carbon footprint than other major brands that ship from overseas manufacturing centers in China and Europe. The United States also has stricter laws on conditions in factories, and the minimum wage in Denver is $14.77, so workers are being paid and treated equitably under federal working laws.
However, what I found most intriguing and important from a company standpoint was the sales strategy of Icelantic. Rather than continuing to produce skis throughout the season and lower prices should they overproduce, the company first gauge the sales of skis in order to set an amount for production. The result is less skis being left over in the end, as well as less materials being wasted. Though at times it may cause backups in orders, it exhibits the dedication of the company to producing less waste throughout the year. Additionally, in the occasional cases of leftover goods, skis and snowboards are given to employees or may be featured as decorations in Wahoo’s Fish Tacos across Colorado.