Snow style meets sustainability on B.C.'s slopes

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      For a seasoned skier or snowboarder, there are scarce things more gleeful than waking up to a freshly powdered hill.

      But with the probability of snowfall in B.C.—and other typically flurry-friendly sites—increasingly dwindling, entire weekends spent shredding are becoming few and far between. (In case you still had doubts: global warming is real, people.)

      It’s no surprise, then, that the latest fashion trend to hit the slopes is one not immediately discernible by the naked eye: eco-friendly outdoor wear.

      As Jenny Wong, buyer at the Vancouver-based Comor Sports and Pacific Boarder, explains, more and more businesses are adopting environmentally minded textiles and practices in order to protect Mother Earth’s playground.

      “We play in nature, so we want to make sure what we’re doing with nature is sustainable,” she says by phone.

      A large portion of Smith Optics' eyewear, including its snow goggles, incorporate renewable materials.

      Skiers and snowboarders interested in sporting gear made using eco processes should look for the “bluesign” label. The Swiss-founded system works with various companies to ensure that sustainable practices, such as the reduction of waste materials, water pollution, and greenhouse-gas emissions, are implemented throughout soft-goods production.

      Wong notes that Burton—a favourite among athletes like Shaun White and Kelly Clark—has long been a champion of bluesign.

      Among the Vermont-based brand’s green goods are the women’s AK 2L Altitude jacket ($449.99), a sleek, high-collared piece available in a vibrant grape-jelly purple, and the men’s Reserve bib pant ($309.99), a luxe reimagining of a boarding basic with a taffeta and mesh lining.

      Vancouver’s Mountain Equipment Co-op and Arc’teryx, as well as North Face, Patagonia, and Salomon, also offers bluesign-approved gear.

      “We recognize our responsibility for chemical management…especially when you talk about the first stages of product manufacturing,” says Vanadis Oviedo, MEC’s sustainability specialist, by phone. “So that’s really important to us.”

      Renewable and recycled fibres are hot too. Check out MEC’s Waxwing hybrid jacket ($135)—suitable for activity both on and off the slopes—which protects the wearer from harsh temps through the use of postconsumer recycled materials, and Smith Optics’ brilliantly bright snow goggles (from $35), most of which incorporate plant-based polymers in their construction.

      MEC’s merino-wool T2 Zip-T is made from ethically sourced wool.

      Patagonia’s Nano Puff jackets and hoodies (from $239) hide green insulation in a funky, 100-percent-recycled polyester shell, while Burton’s Gwen Stefani–inspired L.A.M.B. Riff parka ($379.99) joins recycled insulation with the ’90s patch trend that’s recently taken runways by storm.

      “They look good, which is a big thing too,” says Wong of the products. “They’re waterproof; they’re breathable. And they have all the technical aspects that you’d need when you go skiing or snowboarding.”

      Organic cotton—grown without the use of harmful chemicals—and ethically sourced wool and down are other eco elements emerging on mountains and at après-ski sessions.

      MEC’s merino-wool layers (from $49) and lightweight coats (from $195), many of which come equipped with a removable faux-fur-trimmed hood, safeguard the welfare of animals without sacrificing style or topnotch quality.

      “We need to provide high-performance gear and as an outdoor retailer, that’s our main priority,” notes Oviedo. “But we also need to be responsible in the way that we source these materials.”

      Follow Lucy Lau on Twitter @lucylau.