Norwegian Ski Team Olympia 2018

Toxic Ski Wax Challenge

The Norwegian ski team’s undeniable superiority at the Winter Olympics has the country’s largest environmental organization challenging Norway’s athletes to keep winning, but stop polluting!

Norwegians practically invented skiing, so it comes as no surprise to find them consistently topping international competitions. With 39 medals harvested in PyeongChang, this year’s Winter Olympics was certainly no exception. But the gut-wrenching speeds reached by elite skiers come with a price that nature is finding hard to stomach: toxic perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs, in ski wax essentially never break down.

Studies have found that there are now measurable levels of PFCs in virtually every human, and PFCs are associated with fetus damage, cancer and cardiovascular disease to name a few.

An EU ban is scheduled to take effect in 2020, but Anje Bakken Riise, leader of the environmental organization The Future in Our Hands, decided to throw down the gauntlet early with a challenge to this year’s Olympians: “Norwegian athletes are so dominant that they pretty much sweep the board anyways, and that’s why we think it’s time we challenge them to lead the way and cut out [products] that contain toxic PFCs,” Bakken Riise said to the Norwegian daily paper Dagbladet.

This may have been a bit too much to ask of an athlete. While Norway’s cross-country ski committee’s response was pragmatic, raising concerns over the unfair handicap and enforcement challenges, their underlying message was unequivocal: When hell freezes over.

Neither is the Norwegian company Swix Sport, the world’s leading ski wax brand, swayed by Bakken Riise’s demands. They claim their upcoming line of products will be well within the 2020 EU regulations, thus making any further restrictions unnecessary.

Bakken Riise is quick to point out that Swix’ new solution simply exchanges one PFC for another less studied and less regulated relative, which will most likely lead to the same problems in the future.

Photo: Getty Images

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Jonathan Fraenkel-Eidse
jonathan.eidse@norragency.com