Ski wax producer, Vallkokerskan, is taking up the fight against environmentally hazardous waxes

“Stop talking and do something about it instead”. Her friend’s call prompted Erica Almgren Stenberg to progress from a vision to action, and to start developing a ski wax that is environmentally friendly and at least as efficient as conventional waxes. She is currently receiving support from BioInnovation in order to develop a fossil-free, fluorine-free ski wax that is biodegradable and also provides excellent glide.

There is already a strong tradition of producing, “cooking” wax in the small village of Tegsnäs outside Umeå. In the 1990s, six tonnes a year were produced here, but some time ago Erica Almgren Stenberg’s father sold the wax factory. Now she’s the one breathing new life into the tradition, in an updated style. Erica’s wax is fossil-free and fluorine-free.

When Erica Almgren Stenberg was waxing her skis for the major skirace “Vasaloppet” 2014, she realised how crazy it is to have to wear a protective mask. Photo Private.

– Conventional fluorine waxes contain PFAS, which are also known as persistent (forever) chemicals because they do not break down in nature. When I was standing there, wearing a protective mask while waxing my skis for the 2014 Vasaloppet, it struck me that this is crazy! We use waxes that are made from residues from the oil industry with additives containing PFAS which affects ou health and the environment. I thought that we must be able to make wax from something other than things that cause so much damage, says Erica Almgren Stenberg.

“I don’t want to simply assume anything”

Every year when the ski season started, her frustration about the supply of wax was reignited, and eventually a friend told her to stop talking and do something about it instead. With the support of BioInnovation, Erica’s company Vallakokerskan is now evaluating four promising recipes based on oils from the plant kingdom. In collaboration with RISE research institute, the six-month project will be testing the biodegradability and water-repellent properties of the wax.

Erica Almgren Stenberg. Photo: Andreas Nilsson

– I don’t want to simply assume that I have a product that is better for the environment and for the health. This project provides an opportunity to develop and validate a prototype that will lay the foundation for large-scale production of bio-based and biodegradable wax. I will be able to verify the degradation time in detail, and see whether the wax provides equivalent, or even better glide than conventional wax. The results of the research project also lead to completely new questions that are important for future development, says Erica.

“The entire World Cup is going to be skiing on my wax”

Awareness of the impact of conventional waxes on the environment and on human health is growing in the skiing community, among consumers, and also at the political level. The EU is planning to ban some of the fluorinated waxes considered most toxic, and in 2023 a total ban on fluorinated waxes was introduced during all ski competitions sanctioned by the International Ski Federation.

–The wax industry is undergoing a paradigm shift, I can contribute by offering products that are so good that the transition will be easy for the user. My goal is to see the entire World Cup skiing on my wax, Erica concludes.

Read more about the BioInnovation project Biodegradeability, static & dynamic water contact angles of biobased ski wax compared to traditional ski wax – step 1.