Vail Daily letter: Worried about toxic wax |

Vail Daily letter: Worried about toxic wax

Joe Mahan
Vail, CO, Colorado

Snow business is my business, just as it is for everyone in the valley. We know it can be an industry of consumption, as we buy new gear each year.

But do we ever think of what we put on the bottom of our skis and boards? Wax, lots and lots of it.

The most common form is called fluorocarbon wax. It is created using a chemical called perfluoroctanoic acid, or PFOA for short. Essentially, this chemical is known to be toxic and doesn’t break down for at least 50,000 years. The EPA calls it the most persistent synthetic chemical known to man.

Our ski techs are busy day in day out graciously melting this stuff onto our gear (for barely minimum wage) and exposing themselves to harmful chemicals that produce toxic vapors when burned.

When we ski or ride, the wax ends up in the snow. As we know, when spring comes around, this snow melts into our watersheds, and the toxins become part of our groundwater. If you think about it, based off of the average number of skiers that Vail alone sees each season, that could add up to over 180,000 pounds of wax melting off with our snow each spring.

The good news is that there are alternatives to fluorocarbon waxes. There are plenty of companies out there that make biodegradable waxes, and even soy-based waxes.

Even though there are arguments that these may not yield quite the same performance as their toxic twins, let’s face it, the average skier and or snowboarder isn’t going to need that little bit of juice.

Our archrivals, Aspen Ski Co., has banned the use and sale of PFOA-based waxes, and we need to lobby for our home mountain of Vail to do the same.

Even if you don’t agree that these toxins are harmful, you can admit that a huge amount of wax is left on the mountain each year.

We need to rally to make sure this wax is non-toxic and that we do our share in reducing the impact on the environment that we not only love, but brings us our livelihood.

And Vail Resorts needs to ban fluorocarbon wax.

Joe Mahan


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