By Abi Butcher, Head of PR & Content at EcoSki
Merino wool, sugar cane, recycled bottles, used fishing nets, wood pulps, recycled polyester... what is the surprising thing all these materials have in common?
The answer is they are all being used to make outerwear for ski jackets and pants, being spun into yarns that are warm and weather resistant —and kinder on the planet than traditional materials.
What a long way we have come. Even just a few years ago, the main properties that make outdoor clothing and skiwear so good - their durability and water-repellency - was down to a production process that included the use of chemical (namely perfluorochemicals or PFCs), fossil fuels and harsh dyes.
Now that these PFCs and nasty microplastics have been found in every remote corner of the globe, from the top of Mount Everest to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, and the growing awareness of climate change, outdoor brands have been forced to think again — and fast.
Great minds can produce great things when they put their... well... minds to it!
Merino outer shell jackets and pants, made from a tight and water-resistant weave are now being produced by New Zealand brand Icebreaker - in the form of its Shell+ technology - and Swedish brand Houdini. The natural oil in wool, lanolin, gives fabric its water and wind resistance.
And the best thing? Once you've removed the zips, toggles and buttons from these jackets, you can put them in the compost bin.
Polyester made from plants or bio-sourced polyester sounds lengthy, but it's a form of plastic made from plant material, rather than petroleum. The French brand Picture was one of the first to adopt this in their skiwear — making polyester from sugar cane using a special fermentation process after sugars are extracted from raw material.
While they've dropped this in favour of recycled yarns, Swedish brand Spektrum makes its ski goggles from castor beans.
Fabrics produced from recycled bottles are now commonplace, but old fishing nets and other nylon products, such as old carpets, can be recycled into a durable and water-repellent material with excellent moisture control properties.
What's more, yarn made from recycled nylon boasts a carbon footprint of up to 90 per cent less than that of "virgin nylon". The Swiss brand Mammut, US brand Patagonia, and British brand Finisterre are among those now using regenerated nylon in their outdoor clothing.
The oils that can be extracted from used coffee grounds, once cleaned, can be combined with recycled polyester to produce a yarn that is ideal for outdoor clothing thanks to its ability to control odour, protect against UV rays, and dry quickly. The likes of Swedish brand Peak Performance, German brand Maier Sports, and Norwegian brand Helly Hansen all use this technology - invented by S.Cafe - within their range.
Finally worth mentioning, while not a material specifically, is the new eco-friendly membrane that GORE-TEX has spent years producing. The brand, which pops up in more outdoor clothing, products, and footwear than we could possibly list here, has produced something called "expanded Polyethylene" or ePE for short: essentially the waterproof, windproof and breathable performance that we've come to expect from the market-leader that is GORE-TEX, but with none of the nasties and a low environmental footprint, to boot.
After a year or two being used in streetwear, ePE is now being used in products from brands including Norrona, Salomon, Rab and Mammut. Mainly for 'mid-mountain' activities at the moment, but we can expect it in our skiwear from autumn/winter 2024... you heard it here first.
EcoSki is a platform that champions brands that are going the extra mile and striving to produce ski kits with a lower environmental and social footprint.
All of the technology mentioned in this article is available for sale and rental on EcoSki.co.uk - and you can read more about innovative, bio-sourced and regenerative fabrics here: www.ecoski.co.uk