MountainFLOW uses sustainable materials to create North America’s only full line of plant-based ski waxes
Peter Arlein has been an avid skier ever since he was a kid. As he grew older, he realized that the ingredients in his favorite ski waxes were all bad for the environment. He decided to do something about it.
Arlein is now the founder and CEO of mountainFLOW, which creates plant-based ski wax, anti-stick spray and other products to keep skis fast and healthy. Since 2016, he has been working to create North America’s only full line of plant-based ski wax, and it is now for sale online as well as in various Vail Valley outdoor outfitters, including Kind Bikes and Skis and Paragon Guides in Edwards or Cripple Creek Backcountry and Christie Sports in Avon.
Most ski waxes are made from petroleum, a naturally occurring oil extracted from geological formations. When extracted, it’s called a crude oil, and is a yellowish-black liquid. Most petroleum products we think of, like Vaseline, are refined, and when treated, becomes the substance we’re most familiar with.
Arlein, while doing research and development for his business, found a study in Norway where scientists studied soil at ski areas. They found traces of perfluoroalkyls, a common ingredient in waxes, in the soil and in earthworms. They determined that the product leaves a residue on the snow. When the snow melts, that petroleum residue seeped into the soil and worms. Levels were far from toxic, but they concluded it was still an important discovery to consider.
“Their hypothesis was that it could make its way all the way up the food chain,” Arlein said. “Shortly after that, [Norway] banned fluorocarbons.”
MountainFLOW’s first product was the anti-stick spray for the tops of skis, and right away, the backcountry community was all over it. When that product became successful, Arlein created a Kickstarter to fund an initial production run for the plant-based wax and started getting his product out. It’s now patent pending.
Partnering with pro skiers also helped mountainFLOW succeed. Brand ambassadors include Chris Davenport among others. Arlein said that when Davenport first heard about mountainFLOW’s plant-based approach, he was an instant supporter. After all, he is a board member of Protect Our Winters, a Boulder-based non-profit started by pro snowboarder Jeremy Jones.
The plant-based products are now a rising favorite among all skiers, whether they stick to established mountains or veer off the beaten tracks. He said his wax costs the same as a traditional wax: an Amazon search for “ski & snowboard wax” yields results in a $15-$20 price point, and mountainFLOW products retail from $14-$18.50.
MountainFLOW has already partnered with Killington and Jiminy Peak on the East Coast, supplying all the wax for the rental fleets. Arlein hopes to work with Vail Resorts because it has a much larger rental fleet and reach, meaning he could help eliminate the negative environmental impact of that much petroleum ski wax. He also hopes to get his product in more Vail in-store retailers.
An important consideration for Arlein, while developing the product, was making sure it was as fast as a traditional ski wax. His customers agree, but he said it took quite a bit of trial-and-error to find a fully plant-based formula that would hold up to par.
“I had to do over 200 formulations to get it right. And somedays, I would go out and ski with the new wax on my skis and I would barely be able to get off the lift because the wax was so sticky,” he said. “Being able to go skiing for work, and just be able to do something I love is amazing. I feel very fortunate.”