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These high-performance skis are made out of algae

These high-performance backcountry skis replace carbon-intensive petroleum with algae oil.

These high-performance skis are made out of algae
[Illustration: T.M. Detwiler]
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After biotech startup Checkerspot created plastic derived from microalgae, outdoor recreation products seemed like a perfect test for new compounds that replicate the properties of petroleum-based plastics. “We’re leveraging biotechnology to create new building blocks,” says cofounder and CEO (and skier) Charles Dimmler. He launched spinout WNDR Alpine in 2019, which introduced an algae-based, high-performance backcountry ski, the Intention, last winter. The Vital ski, designed for hardpacked snow, followed in July. WNDR’s manufacturing process eliminates 2 pounds of landfill-bound plastic waste per ski.

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Algal wall

The ski’s stiff outer walls are made with algae polyurethane, poured into place to bind with the aspen, creating a stronger bond with-out additional adhesives.

Algal core

The foam core, which is derived from algae, helps make the skis about 15% lighter than competitors.

Aspen wood

Domestically harvested aspen is strong yet flexible, providing the responsiveness required in a high-performance ski.

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Scaling up with microalgae: Here are three key steps Checkerspot scientists follow to derive suitable polyols (oils) from algae.

About the author

Jay Woodruff is a senior editor at Fast Company. After helping launch the quarterly DoubleTake, he joined Esquire and later held senior editorial positions at Entertainment Weekly and oversaw digital at Maxim, Blender and Stuff

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