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Company seeks to create 'seismic shift' in sporting industry with equipment made from unusual material: 'It was totally foreign'

"We became a product of our environment, and our product development soared."

“We became a product of our environment, and our product development soared."

Photo Credit: iStock

Wonder Alpine founder Matt Sterbenz and his team of snow-sport enthusiasts dove into Utah's unprecedented precipitation last season with full vigor. 

It turns out that all of that snow, which broke 40-year records, was the perfect inspiration for their unique winter sportswear business. It's a growing enterprise meant to create better, sustainable outdoor equipment and apparel sans the dirty oil used in many production lines, according to Wonder Alpine.  

"We became a product of our environment and our product development soared, more than doubling our offering with 8 new products," Sterbenz wrote on the WNDR website. 

The result is a robust product selection that includes skis, snowboards, hoodies, and pants made in part with an unusual ingredient: algae.

"It was totally foreign," Sterbenz told The Salt Lake Tribune about the idea of using the unusual organism for the first time after being sold on the concept by microalgae experts from California's Checkerspot lab. 

The company is now seeking to create a "seismic shift" in the ski industry, explained the Tribune. 

The partnership and technology used to purge petroleum from the process have produced impressive results. 

It starts when the algae experts grow microalgae in fermentation tanks, which are then used to make oils. The algae is white and takes about a week to grow to the size needed for oil-making. The oils are turned into polyurethane and other substances, per the Tribune. 

For skis and snowboards, a combination of the algae-based substances and domestically sourced aspen create what the company calls high-performing skis and boards. 

A company video clip shows the algae-based liquids being poured and spread over the aspen to create unique finishes and edges. The company recycles waste from manufacturing to construct other components for their products, including binding parts. 

On the clothing side, the algae is used to create a "100% petroleum free" finish, touted as having "industry-leading performance and durability," according to WNDR. For example, their Phase Series of clothing uses recycled textiles and petroleum-free, algae-based wicking tech

Products range in price from $25-$60 for shirts and hoodies to around $900 or more for skis and boards. 

The story for Wonder Alpine started in 2019 with successful product rollouts. A year later, the team converted the production facility to 100% renewable energy, according to a timeline on the business's website. The WNDR news section has since been filled with new product releases and other updates. 

Now, the team wants its process to reach other industries with global impact.

"I am convinced that the future of apparel innovation lies in biology," WNDR soft goods product manager Romy Koles said in a company video. 

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