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Sustainable Gear for Snow Sports

by Jason Kessler

State-of-the-art sustainable gear for snow sports

My dad thought he was being funny when he used to warn me to stay away from yellow snow. Little did he know that years later, I would be thinking much harder about green snow. Now green snow may sound like the aftermath of a chemical spill, but I’m using it to describe snow gear that fits into the rubric of eco-friendliness. After all, there are plenty of snow bums that make a point to recycle their beer bottles during après-ski.

In fact, there’s a mini-revolution brewing when it comes to sustainable gear for snow sports. Companies like Holden and Patagonia are now offering beautiful, green snow products that can turn a schlub like me into a new-age Green Mountain Boy. Since I’m about to head out on my first snowboarding trip in years, I decided it was my duty as The Green Guy to discover the best of the best in this brave new world of green snow. Quite honestly, I was blown away by what I found.

No trip to the mountains of Vail or Tahoe in the dead of winter would be safe without a proper jacket—especially with the amount of time I plan to spend falling down. Patagonia may be a huge company, but its focus on social responsibility and sustainability should be the standard that all companies follow. The company sent me its Primo Down Jacket to check out and I’m now convinced that it’s an impenetrable force field against the cold. My favorite part about the jacket is the fact that it’s made from goose down that’s completely traceable, which means they can guarantee that no geese are force-fed or live-plucked to help keep you warm. No cold, no guilt? Sign me up.

With my top half covered, it was time to find some duds to protect the rest of my body. Growing up, snow pants meant giant nylon overalls stuffed with some sort of synthetic filler that never quite kept my bottom parts warm. Times have clearly changed. Holden Outerwear in the Pacific Northwest is making a major push to hit the mark between style and eco-consciousness. Its technical pants, specifically the Altair model, will turn heads on the slopes and keep you guilt-free thanks to features like solvent-free laminates, durable water-repellants made without the industrial acid PFOA, and an S.Café lining made from recycled coffee grounds. Another Seattle-based company, POW, is committed to sustainability in its gloves by eschewing resource-hogging cow leather and going with a nose-to-tail goat leather program instead. It doesn’t hurt that the gloves look totally rad, too.

Protecting your body is important, but your face also needs attention. Thankfully, there are a whole host of great green snow products to keep you smiling and burn-free long after you’ve turned in your board. Your eyes are especially vulnerable during a slope session and Colorado’s ZEAL Optics is here to help with a full line of sunglasses and goggles that are all made from petroleum-free plant-based resins. I checked out the Eclipse goggles and they made me feel like a superhero. For the parts of your face that can’t be covered by goggles, you’re going to need to fend off those ultra-bright sun rays reflecting off the snow. For me, there are two great product lines that accomplish this with aplomb. Badger (a certified B-Corp) makes wonderful products across the board, but its certified-natural All Season Face Stick works really well for snowboarding with a broad spectrum SPF 35 sunscreen that’s made with non-nano zinc oxide to keep away that ski-burn. Another certified B-Corp, All Good by Elemental Herbs, is a favorite for its sunscreen butter nose coat. It’s SPF 50 and coral reef-safe, so you can keep this handy for your outdoor lifestyle year-round.

Now that snow season is finally here, it’s great to know that I’ve got all my green snow gear lined up to help me look good on the mountain and feel good about my impact on the planet. If I could just figure out how to gracefully get off the chairlift, I’ll be ready to rock!

Jason Kessler is a lifestyle writer/columnist for Bon Appetit, Food Republic and a slew of other publications. Follow him on Twitter @FlyDine.

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