Snowboard mountaineer Nick Russell made it official today when he signed with WNDR Alpine, a maker of renewable snowboard and ski equipment manufactured from algae. Russell leaves Jones Snowboards to work with the Salt Lake City-based brand as both an athlete, and in development.
“I’ve always been fascinated by board design and what makes a shape ride the way it does,” Russell said in a release about the move. “I’m now getting a crash course in what is used inside the products that we trust our lives to. Learning about Checkerspot and WNDR’s new ingredients like Algal Tech has already been a game changer for the way I look at the materials that are used in our day-to-day lives.”
WNDR was launched in 2018 by Matt Sterbenz, a gifted designer and former owner of 4FRNT Skis. When Sterbenz launched WNDR, he’d already formed a partnership with Checkerspot to help that startup eco brand launch a commercial line of products showcasing the use of microalgae polyurethanes. Hence WNDR’s mission: using algae to create high-performance materials to manufacture snowboards and skis. The brand actually grows micro algae in fermentation tanks to produce “novel oils” the company says “pretroleum can’t produce.” Lightweight materials perfect for backcountry gear. “Algae in, petroleum out,” as WNDR’s slogan goes.
“My eyes have been opened to the potential for minimizing as much waste as possible within boards and skis to be more Earth-conscious,” Russell said. “The move over to WNDR has felt very natural and makes sense for where I am in my life.”
Aside from being a team rider, Russell will assume the title of Product Line Specialist, where he’ll be on the front lines of launching snowboards for WNDR Alpine. “That’s essentially everything from concept design, R&D field testing, marketing strategy and beyond,” he said. “It has always been a dream of mine to play a larger roll within the brands I work with, and now with WNDR we have that ability to create something totally new and exciting.”
In December, Nick and the WNDR team that also includes longtime pro Pep Fujas on the ski side and Alex Andrews in snow, spent a week in the British Columbia interior at a backcountry hut in the Esplanade Range for product testing and to work on the launch with Nick (above). Nick says the company has “plans to slowly build out a line that caters to all the soul surfers.”
“There’s no denying that the snow industry has a huge carbon footprint when it comes to building all of these products people are buying each year,” Russell said. “As someone that cares deeply about our planet and is justifiably alarmed by the impacts of the climate crisis, I want to do all I can as an individual to decrease the amount of unnecessary petroleum products in my life. At the moment, there’s no perfect solution to completely curbing our dependency on fossil fuels, but with Checkerspot’s drive to develop less carbon intensive ingredients, it’s a small step in the right direction. I’m proud and honored to join a team that is working with cutting edge technology that has yet to be implemented into snowboards.”
Editor’s Note: Learn to make smart, safe decisions on your quest for untracked powder in The Inertia’s Essential Guide to Backcountry Basics and Avalanche Awareness with splitboard aficionado Nick Russell.