The Future Spin ♻️ Sustainable Ski Stores

Don’t let a few good winters fool you, pollution is taking its toll on our mountains. Skiing’s contribution to the problem is undeniable: From the way we consume equipment to the sport’s dependence on international travel, our footprint is keenly felt by the warming climate. Unfortunately, we skiers aren’t the good guys in this story. 

But there’s reason for optimism, a movement is upon us! The industry is beginning to take climate change and other forms of environmental pollution seriously. Planks sat down (metaphorically of course) with three of skiing’s most progressive retailers to talk about skiing’s future and what they’re doing to make the sport we love part of the solution. 


In EcoSki founder, Rachael Westbrook’s, mind consumers should be thinking about the ingredients in their clothing much like the food they eat. EcoSki was born to champion the “brands that care”. This is the Rutland retailer’s fledgling season, but Rachael has big ambitions and great people backing her dream, including ex-Olympian Chemmy Alcott. 

One Tree at a Time

Founded by Boot Lab owner Gavin Fernie-Jones, the One Tree at a Time store in Bozel, France, repairs and sells second-hand ski equipment donate by the mountain community and puts the proceeds towards its not-for-profit eco-consultancy.  


One of the big fish in action sports retail within the UK, Surfdome is a true torchbearer for sustainability in big business. Not only is Surfdome serious about addressing its own environmental footprint, it’s accelerating change within the industry by working closely with its suppliers too. 

What does skiing look like in 50 years’ time?

Rachael (EcoSki) – Unfortunately, I think skiing will be restricted to high altitude and high latitude resorts. Summer glacier skiing will also be very limited. We’ll see shorter, less predictable ski seasons due to erratic oscillating weather systems. There will be an increased risk and number of avalanches.


Gavin (One Tree at a Time) - Oohhh that’s a toughy, 50 years is a long time especially with the pace of human-led change.  

We’ve got a lot to do to tackle climate change to a level that allows us to continue skiing. Scientists will tell you that we have the tools and solutions available, we just need to start making better decisions. Collectively as a society, we have some difficult decisions.

Practically though, we’d be travelling to ski resorts using carbon neutral trains and planes. In-resort, the transport and the piste bashers would run on hydrogen fuel cells, something all French ski resorts have committed to by 2037, and the ski lifts on renewable electricity.    

You’ll be skiing in Planks kit, but under a different model. Our relationship with ownership will have changed to circular models. You’d own the same physical materials for your entire life returning them to the manufacturer to be recycled into your next garment.

Skis would be made with a focus on sustainability, with the future of design based on materials. Again ownership will form a big part of the conversation and I expect most skis will be rented; left in the hands of the professionals that can maintain, repair and switch out the modular parts of the skis when they break, sending them to be reused. The high street would see a massive revival as these spaces become 100% service operated businesses.  

You’d be staying in a carbon neutral chalet, powered exclusively by renewable energy - something that has already happened with chalet company Fish & Pips’ portfolio. With food sourced locally - but who doesn’t like fondue!  


Lauren (Surfdome) - Researchers from the Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF) and the École Polytechnique Fédérale (EPFL) Lausanne predict that on our current trajectory we could lose 70% of snow cover and have no snow below 1,200m by 2100. If we limit global warming in line with the Paris agreement that will be reduced to 30%. What 70% less snow will look like for skiers is anyone’s guess. Certainly, shorter seasons, resorts closing and an increase in dangerous or unfavourable conditions. Could skiing survive with 70% less snow? Will it become an even more elitist sport or a once in a lifetime activity?

What are the big environmental challenges for ski retailers today?

Rachael (EcoSki) - It’s a hugely challenging industry to change, but there’s so much we can do to reduce our impact. Ski kit has a pretty large environmental footprint when you consider where and how it’s manufactured, what materials, dyes and chemicals are used and how it’s transported. 

Some brands are leaps and bounds ahead. As retailers, we need to be able to identify and communicate what each of the brands are doing and help guide and alter current consumer behaviours and habits.   

The thing is, ski kit is so robust, it’s built to last which is why its important to keep it in circulation for longer. And when it’s finally time to retire a piece of outerwear, retailers and Brands need to work together to ensure kit is recycled. 


Gavin (One Tree at a Time) - The big environmental challenges for ski retailers today are the carbon, chemicals and materials tied up in the products we sell. These challenges are shared by the consumer. We need a big shift in the idea of ownership and new circular models that deliver not only new materials and products but also a change in our collective relationship with consumption. 


Lauren (Surfdome) - Establishing which brands are making genuine efforts to limit their impact. Reducing the emissions created by our suppliers and logistics which are outside of our control (scope 3 emissions)in particular freight. Our biggest challenge is working out where consumption and retail fit in the critical transition to the circle economy. 

What steps is your business currently taking to lessen its impact on the environment?

Rachael (Eco Ski) - We are taking accountability for the stock we sell by providing a repairs service, so customers aren’t tempted to dispose of their hard-wearing kit just because of a broken zipper. EcoSki provides an avenue for our customers to sell or buy preloved kit to help keep it in circulation for longer. And, we offer a rental service so customers can borrow what they need when they need it.  

For online orders we remove all plastic before dispatch - taking the responsibility for recycling away from the customer. Our chosen courier is DPD who are “the UK’s most sustainable delivery company”.  

EcoSki only stocks brands committed to reducing their environmental and social impact. We support a number of environmental charities to help raise awareness. 


Gavin (One Tree at a Time) - At The Boot Lab (shop in Courchevel, France), we’ve created our own compostable custom ski footbeds that, due to a tree planting project we’ve enlisted, are not only completely plastic-free but also carbon negative. We placed an emphasis on analysing every part of the supply line aiming for a regenerative product that puts more back into the environment than it takes out.  

We’ve removed over 10,000 plastic single-use items from our supply line annually by lobbying suppliers. We did this by collecting all the waste from a season and delivering it back to the brands, believe it or not this was actually welcomed by the reps as they wanted to tackle the issues and highlight them to their bosses. We’ve also pushed for the removal of plastic bags from all ski boot boxes, something brands are testing next winter. 

We’ve reduced our energy consumption by installing a smart meter and we’ve switched to a green electricity supplier that creates energy at the hydro-dam in Tignes. We’ve also created products and changed suppliers to ones with a stronger environmental message. 

We’ve also formed a not-for-profit called One Tree at a Time whose focus is on tackling the environmental footprint of the ski industry. As an organisation we work with businesses and the local community to find solutions to waste and environmental impact. This has led to the opening of two stores in the Alps that repurpose ski gear and work as a community hub. We couldn’t have started these stores without the help of Planks, donating kit and shop fitting. In turn, the stores help Planks become waste-neutral. We receive their warranty stock, repair it and get it back out on the mountain. 


Lauren (Surfdome) - We set ourselves the goal for our packaging to be 100% plastic free in 2019 and reached 99.8%. Our 95% of it is recycled material. We’ve worked extensively with our suppliers to remove plastic from the supply chain and any we do receive is recycled. Last year, none of the waste from our warehouse went into landfill!  

In terms of energy, 90.5% of our electricity comes from renewable sources; 20% is generated from solar panel installations on the roof. This year we increased solar from 32Kw to 127Kw saving 62 tonnes of CO2 annually.  

62% of water used at our warehouse is from our greywater system which is fed by rainwater. The warehouse is heated by a Biogas powered system.   

Additionally, our buying policy mandates that at least 25% of our inventory must be manufactured sustainably. 

What future challenges/initiatives are in the pipeline for your business?

Rachael (EcoSki) - Consumers need to fully understand the “ingredients” of the clothing they wear – we’ll be pushing the pushing our brands for greater transparency and new more regenerative materials and manufacturing.  

As a business our aim to have a net zero carbon footprint. I want EcoSki to become a registered B Corp company and encourage all the brands we support to consider it.  

And, I want to change consumer behaviour by making renting and buying preloved skiwear a more accessible and attractive option. 


Gavin (One Tree at a Time) - My big focus at the moment is One Tree at a Time. We’re looking to expand the community hubs into more ski towns across the French Alps through a collaboration between our friends Montagne Verte in Morzine and the local authorities in the Haute Savoie region. These will supply the communities with a solution to waste products whilst providing us with venues to run training programs based on our One Tree Pledge system. The Pledge is taken by local businesses and provides them with a toolbox of solutions that will help them reduce their environmental impact.   


Lauren (Surfdome) - As with every business, the challenge is reaching Net Zero. We’ll be outlining our targets early this year. But a bigger challenge is ensuring the hundreds of brands we stock are also on the same carbon and plastic reduction journey. So, we will continue to encourage our brands to take the POW Pledge that we developed with our charity partners Protect Our Winters UK, which is a toolkit for businesses to take the 8 most impactful steps on climate. And, to also ensure that all our brands comply with our delivery policy to eliminate damaging packaging. 

Do your efforts make a difference?

Rachael (EcoSki) - Absolutely! Collectively, small changes really do make a huge difference. And, once you start making small changes it leads to bigger even greater changes. It all adds up and it’s so important. 

As a retailer we need to take responsibility for the kit we sell and encourage and help customers make more conscious and informed choices.  

I feel we are at the very start of change and I feel very optimistic about it. 


Gavin (One Tree at a Time) - Most definitely! Consumers have the power of choice and we can all easily change our habits. We’ve arrived at this position through billions of small decisions. Now we just need to consider the environmental impact of every decision from this point on. I think it’s important to recognise that we need to do this collectively as a society and therefore we need community-led projects. It can feel like your changes are insignificant. But if you inspire friends, family and the local community into action, change will follow. 


Lauren (Surfdome) - Yes, our own operations are far less impactful. But as part of our strategy we influence our millions of customers, through our charity partners ‘2 Minute Org’ and ‘Protect Our Winters’ and our hundreds of brands through the POW Pledge and our delivery policy. We know of numerous systematic changes within our brands stemming from our activations with them. On broader level we have been a case study in a ‘World Business Council for Sustainable Development’ paper and also two Ellen Macarthur foundations papers, which are used by governments around the world to inform policy. 

What can the average skier do to lessen their impact?

Rachael (EcoSki) - From a clothing point of view, do your research; if you’re buying new, buy from brands working hard to reduce their social and environmental impact. But, we should all consider preloved and rental options too.  

Ask your travel agent about the resorts and hotels before booking your holiday. There’s so many hotels and chalets working hard to improve reduce their environmental footprint. Consider taking the train over flying. Why not ski local? I love Scotland, it’s where I learnt to ski!   

Don’t buy bottled water in the resorts - take a re-usable water bottle and purify the tap water yourself using activated carbon if you need to.  

Spot clean your kit as opposed to machine washing. As and when you need to wash it use environmentally friendly wash and reproofing like NikWax and consider using a Guppy Bag.  


Gavin (One Tree at a Time) - The biggest single change you could make to lessen the impact of your next ski trip is to take the train. Roughly 80% of a ski holiday’s emissions come from transportation. It’s the only way I’ve travelled back to the UK in the last two years and here’s the kicker: it's cheaper than flying. From Moutiers to London I’ve been able to travel for 90 euros each way when booked in advance. When you consider that Moutiers is a 15-minute drive from Courchevel and Geneva is two hours away with a substantial transfer cost, it’s a no brainer. Time wise the journey takes about 1h30 longer. But it is certainly a more comfortable way to travel with no limits on luggage allowance and no airport waiting lounges. 


Lauren (Surdome) – The first steps are easy - sign up, follow, like and get involved with our charity partners ‘Protect Our Winters’ and ‘2 minute Org’. 

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