Ski shops joining the green movement, too |

Ski shops joining the green movement, too

Bob Berwyn
Summit County Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Mark Fox/Summit DailyMark Wimberly, owner of Pioneer Sports in Frisco, is among a budding movement of ski retail shops looking at ways to be more environmentally friendly.

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colorado ” The resort side of the ski industry has been tooting a green horn for quite some time, and now the retail and manufacturing sector is also looking at ways to reduce environmental impacts.

“The big thing we’re working on is the recycling of old skis,” said David Ingemie, president of the Snowsports Industries of America, a trade group.

That involves separating the various materials used in skis and shredding the plastic, which can be re-used for materials like flooring. Ingemie said the biggest challenge is technical, considering how many layers and materials there are in modern equipment

“They’re engineered to stay together, not to come apart,” he said.

An aggressive recycling program could help save space in Rocky Mountain landfills, where old skis can at times be a significant part of the waste stream.

While some old equipment ends up as hand-me-downs, there are times when ski shops simply get rid of an old rental fleet by taking it to the dump, said Kevin Berg, a recycling specialist with the High Country Conservation Center.

Another logistical challenge involves collecting the old skis and transporting them to shredding facilities, Ingemie said. His group and the Natural Resources Defense Council haven’t determined if transported old skies will do more harm than good.

“The processing might create a bigger carbon footprint than just burying it,” Ingemie said.

It can cost up to $10 to get a pair of old skis to a shredding facility, he said.

Much of the gear sold in the U.S. is made in China. That makes it challenging to set environmental performance standards, Ingemie said.

Another part of Snowsports Industries of America’s initiative is to work with ski and sporting good shops on making stores greener. But Ingemie said he’s feeling some resistance from the retail side of things.

“We’re hearing things like, ‘show me the benefit,’ and ‘show me the consumer cares,'” he said.

The staff at Pioneer Sports in Frisco is already busy on a slew of projects aimed at reducing the environmental impacts of their operations. Owner Mark Wimberly said his shop is part of a local retail pilot partnership with the High Country Conservation Center.

Denver resident Wendy Howard said she would definitely choose to shop at a store that is making efforts to be more sustainable.

“It seems like everyone is jumping on the bandwagon,” Howard said, adding that she hadn’t even thought about the amount of old skis that ends up in landfills.

“We keep ours in the garage. We probably have about 20 years’ worth,” she said. “I guess I’d pay an extra $10 on a snowboard if I knew it would go toward recycling.”

Pioneer Sports is starting to use non-toxic and biodegradable products to clean the store and equipment, said employee Kurt Baehmann.

Baehmann said there are numerous companies that are already thinking green. Yakima, for example, works with the Carbon Fund to offset the manufacture and transport of its products.

Wimberly singled out Arbor snowboards for producing boards made from bamboo, considered to be a highly renewable natural resource. And Lib Tech is making efforts to use non-toxic resins during production, thereby reducing potentially harmful exposure to employees, he added

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