My Footprint series - Shaping a New Relationship to Skiing
Series intro: The “My Footprint” series shares the stories of Patagonia friends and employees who have been inspired by The Footprint Chronicles, and whose inspiring lives help fuel the vision of what we can do as a company.
Their stories are offered here, glimpses of individual footprints spotted along the path toward positive change. We invite you to enjoy these personal accounts, and share your own in the Comments section included with these posts.
There's a side to skiing in the United States that many American skiers would just as soon not talk about. For all of its inspiring outdoor elements, the industry as we know it is uniquely dependent upon increasingly limited resources. All too often, those resources tie this mountain-inspired population back to petroleum dependence.
With the vast majority of the U.S.'s destination resorts located in remote areas under-served by mass transit, very few of us are fortunate enough to be able to reach a ski resort without use of a combustion engine. Those who choose to ski in the backcountry may be able to claim independence from the energy needed to keep the lifts turning, but just like resort skiers, the earn-your-turns crowd relies (for the most part) on vehicles to reach their chosen destinations.
[All photos: Miyazaki/Greenhall collection]
A few years ago, Patagonia employee Yoshiko Miyazaki decided to live a little closer to her dreams. She chose a town where she could live within walking distance of some of the world's best skiing, thereby eliminating the single greatest impact of the sport, the incessant driving to and from the hill. Chamonix's unique topography contributes to another carbon-reducing bonus - the terrain and proximity of amenities (like those fabulous full-service huts sprinkled liberally throughout the stunning alpine terrain) tempts countless skiers to leave lift lines behind.
Having eliminated two of the largest negative impacts from skiing, Yoshiko's mind was free to contemplate new things. She took note of the waste being generated by the restaurant where she worked. Soon, the used cooking oil was going home with her to be converted for use in a friend's car. Next, the pallets upon which the restaurant's deliveries arrived followed her back to her small apartment, the wood with which they were built facing an exciting second life.
With the help of her friend, Tom Greenhall (founder of Idris Skis), Yoshiko explored the process of using reclaimed wood to shape custom boards. The skis' versatile all-mountain design has already laid claim to impressive results. At a time when factory-made skis from large manufacturers are being built to last a total of 50 - 60 skier days, Yoshiko's proud to note that the skis she built in her kitchen from reclaimed materials have absorbed 350 days of use with no discernible reduction in performance.
Gathering raw materials for the next round of locally made powder boards.
Idris founder Tom Greenhall gets ready to haul away another load of reclaimed source material.
Like any project using reclaimed materials, a major part of the labor involved goes toward making sure the wood is as clean as possible and free of cracks or defects.
Once laminated and planed, the wood core is shaped and readied for bending of the tips. Here, Yoshiko's balcony in Chamonix provides a welcome alternative to the kitchen workshop.
And it's back to the kitchen for the finer cuts once the cores have been laid up with the top sheet and base materials.
Almost there . . . back out to the balcony for critical edge work.
UPDATE: Yoshiko's currently away taking an AMGA exam, but we managed to get a hold of a couple more photos of the skis being put to use - these shots provide a better idea of what the finished product looks like. Yoshiko's also provided this link to an online photo gallery.