True Cellular Formulas Team - April 30, 2024

The Hidden Cost of Pristine Slopes

PFAS Pollution in Ski Resorts


Skiing, with its exhilarating descents and scenic chairlift rides, represents a quintessential winter pastime for many. Yet, beneath the surface of this snowy paradise lies an environmental concern that has begun to tarnish the pristine reputation of beloved mountain towns. As we delve into the hidden impacts of skiing on local ecosystems, a critical issue emerges: the contamination of the environment by PFAS, chemicals commonly used in ski equipment.

The Problem: PFAS in Ski Resorts

PFAS, or Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a group of manufactured chemicals prevalent in various consumer products for their water and stain resistance qualities.[1] In the context of skiing, these chemicals are primarily found in the wax used to coat the bottoms of skis and snowboards, enhancing glide and performance.[2] However, the convenience of smoother rides comes at a cost. As skiers traverse the slopes, tiny fragments of PFAS-laden wax scrape off and accumulate in the snow. When the snow melts, these chemicals begin their insidious infiltration into the groundwater, posing a persistent environmental threat due to their non-degradable nature.

Environmental Impact

The environmental ramifications of PFAS contamination are profound and far-reaching. Known colloquially as "forever chemicals" due to their inability to break down in nature, PFAS accumulate in the environment, cycling through water bodies and soil.[1] As the contaminated snow melts in spring, it introduces PFAS into local water systems, where they persist and spread. This not only affects the immediate aquatic life but also the broader ecosystem, including plants and animals that rely on these water sources.[3] The challenge is exacerbated in mountain towns, where water from snowmelt is a crucial resource for both ecological balance and human consumption.

Health Implications

The infiltration of PFAS into local water supplies poses serious health risks to communities. Exposure to these chemicals has been linked to a variety of health problems, including thyroid dysfunction, certain types of cancer, and reproductive issues.[1,4] The insidious nature of PFAS means that they can accumulate in the human body over time, leading to chronic health conditions. Communities dependent on groundwater for drinking water are particularly vulnerable, as removing PFAS from water is complex and costly. This has prompted health advisories in some regions, advising residents on how to minimize their exposure to contaminated water.[5]

Economic Consequences

The financial implications of PFAS pollution are staggering for affected communities. Cleaning up contaminated water systems is not only technically challenging but also expensive, often running into millions of dollars in treatment and filtration systems.[6] This financial burden falls on local governments and, by extension, taxpayers, who must fund these initiatives to ensure safe drinking water. Furthermore, the presence of PFAS can devalue local real estate and deter tourists, affecting the economic lifeblood of ski resort towns. These economic challenges highlight the need for preventive measures and more sustainable practices in industries that rely heavily on PFAS.

Regulatory and Industry Response

In response to growing awareness of the dangers associated with PFAS, some ski resorts and industry stakeholders have begun to take action. Bans on PFAS-containing ski waxes are emerging, with resorts opting for alternative, less harmful substances.[7] Moreover, regulatory bodies are stepping up to enforce stricter controls on PFAS usage and disposal. These measures are crucial for mitigating the long-term environmental and health risks associated with these chemicals and for protecting future generations from their pervasive impact.

Alternative Solutions and Best Practices

To combat the issue of PFAS pollution, the ski industry is exploring safer alternatives to traditional ski waxes. Products made from biodegradable components or those that specifically exclude PFAS are gaining popularity, offering a more environmentally friendly option without sacrificing performance. Additionally, ski resorts are adopting best practices in environmental management, such as investing in education programs to raise awareness among consumers and businesses about the importance of using sustainable products.


The impact of PFAS in ski resorts is a complex issue that spans environmental, health, and economic concerns. By understanding these challenges and responding proactively, communities and industries can help safeguard both the natural beauty and the public health of mountainous regions. Moving forward, the shift towards more sustainable practices and stricter regulations will be crucial in mitigating the effects of these persistent pollutants.

  1. “Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS).” National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Accessed 28 Apr. 2024. 
  2. Crawford, Kathryn A, and Nicola Hartmann. “Respiratory Exposure to Highly Fluorinated Chemicals via Application of Ski Wax and Related Health Effects.” Current environmental health reports vol. 11,1 (2024): 39-45. doi:10.1007/s40572-023-00425-4
  3. Jha, Gaurav et al. “Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in Integrated Crop-Livestock Systems: Environmental Exposure and Human Health Risks.” International journal of environmental research and public health vol. 18,23 12550. 28 Nov. 2021, doi:10.3390/ijerph182312550
  4. Fenton, Suzanne E et al. “Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substance Toxicity and Human Health Review: Current State of Knowledge and Strategies for Informing Future Research.” Environmental toxicology and chemistry vol. 40,3 (2021): 606-630. doi:10.1002/etc.4890
  5. Australian Government PFAS Taskforce. “FAQs.” Australian Government PFAS Taskforce, 28 Sept. 2023, Accessed 28 Apr. 2024. 
  6. Cordner, Alissa et al. “The True Cost of PFAS and the Benefits of Acting Now.” Environmental science & technology vol. 55,14 (2021): 9630-9633. doi:10.1021/acs.est.1c03565

“Skiers Leaving ‘forever Chemicals’ on Pistes, Study Finds.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 25 Jan. 2024, Accessed 28 Apr. 2024.

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