Navigating New Terrain

Today, I am pleased to announce my partnership with WNDR Alpine.  After 17 years skiing on K2 Skis, I decided to move on, to partner with a startup brand spearheaded by a good friend and the notorious dis-emvoweler, Matt Sterbenz.  

I am grateful for the partnership I have had with K2 skis.  I am honored to have been a part of K2 Skis history and legacy.  K2 has arguably ushered in the most notable and iconic skiers of any brand, from Wayne Wong, Glenn Plake, Hattrup, Morrison, McConkey to Benchetler, Moseley, Abma, Pettit and now Karl Fostvet, Colby Stevenson, Sean Jordan and others.  But this post is not about that past- it’s about the future, my future, and dare I say, our future.

The Design Lab. Come check it out!

The Design Lab. Come check it out!

This is a bit of a rhetorical question posed to myself to provide some framework. Why would you drop K2 skis, a powerful brand in the industry, that has great skis, marketing power, branding power and of course, kids skis (I have 2 growing daughters)???  And what would motivate you to leave K2 to move on to WNDR Alpine, who recently launched its first ski model in June, 2019?

The Answer:  Purpose, Imagination, Intention and Alignment (philosophically and materially).

When Matt told me he was starting a new brand, I thought, oh great, just what the industry needs, another ski brand.  But I knew Matt was working for Checkerspot, a materials innovation company who derived their material components from microalgae.  My mind envisioned a company who grew ocean algae, dredged it from the ocean and then squeezed out the oils. Furthermore, how is that eco-conscious?  Luckily, that couldn’t be farther from the truth, as Matt enlightened my primitive brain to the process of growing and fermenting algae. The concept immediately grabbed my environmentalist side, sparking my imagination to what was possible. I caught myself saying, there are so many other industries that could use this technology, why skis?  Think plastics, toys, molds, coatings, paints, tires, shoes… the list goes on. On a few backcountry outings with Matt, I picked his brain about the company, what they were doing and how they were doing it.  The short answer is, micro-algae produces unique molecular structures that have the capability to outperform traditional oil based compounds. Wait, what? I had been conditioned to think that petroleum products work best, perform better and last longer.  Turns out, that’s not the case. It’s just what our current industrial complex has been working with and therefore has figured out the many ways in which to transform petroleum into a myriad of uses. When I went to Checkerspot and spoke with their scientists, who broke down the fundamental principle structures, I was hooked.  If you’re interested, you can learn for yourself by going to Checkerspot or WNDR Alpine or listen to the Blister Gear:30 Podcast or if you have an hour and need inspiration check out, Biotech Hits The Backcountry featuring Matt Sterbenz and CEO of Checkerspot, Charles Dimmler.  

Matt was testing prototypes in this photo. I can recall a long conversation on microbes, polyols, polyurethanes, triglycerides all while sweating profusely and enjoying the solitude, mere steps from civilization.

Matt was testing prototypes in this photo. I can recall a long conversation on microbes, polyols, polyurethanes, triglycerides all while sweating profusely and enjoying the solitude, mere steps from civilization.

In short, Checkerspot gives WNDR the ability to innovate material components of a ski to have better performance characteristics while simultaneously deriving those materials from a bio based material that is not a byproduct of the oil and gas industry.  HOLY S*%T! Really? This is the purpose and intention I mentioned. 

If you have followed my career as a skier, you know that I do not sacrifice downhill performance for uphill ease.  I skied Marker Duke’s mounted to both Hellbents’ and Powabungas’ for years, since retired. The point is, we have reached an age in skiing where both uphill ease can be combined with downhill performance. WNDR Alpine has the ability to outperform the competition through the design of new materials that have better strength to weight ratio’s and performative charactaristics.  So how does that affect me? For one, I get to ski on the best skis available, knowing that I’m playing a part in boosting the performance in the equipment I use while simultaneously increasing their bio-based content as we innovate and improve the manufacturing process.

When I visited Checkerspot, headquartered in Berkeley, Ca, I was blown away by the company’s long term goals to partner with others and share its technology.  The team knows that they do not have the capacity to solve the pollution and waste epidemic faced by our world alone, and invite others who are willing to collaborate with them and learn about the possibilities.  This is how companies of the future should work, for the betterment of the whole, not the few. 

By joining WNDR Alpine, I get to quickly iterate new ski designs, test those skis, help implement techniques to waste less in the production process, reuse or upcycle the scraps and build better products that I get to share with the ski community. I also get to work with incredibly passionate people who don’t believe in what they do, they rely on science and data to make informed decision.  The better question is, how could I turn down such an opportunity?

My childhood dream was to own a ski shop. This endeavor may not be a retail shop like I had intended, but is something I am even more passionate about and whole heartedly committed to. If I can bring more smiles, laughs, banter and empower people’s lives through WNDR Alpine, I will have succeed in my mission. This is a communal endeavor and I hope you come along for the ride. See you on the Slopes!



Just another satisfying turn

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