Going Green to Keep it White – Sustainable Ski Resorts
Winter holidays… sure to evoke images of pristine alpine landscapes, unspoilt soaring peaks and fresh mountain air.
But do the clichés always ring true? As we come to terms with the effects that humans are having on our planet, visions of pylons, retreating glaciers, energy-sapping snow canons and littered slopes might also slip into our subconscious.
There is no getting away from the fact that our beloved skiing and snowboarding holiday is not always the most environmentally friendly getaway, but what can we do about it?
An ever-increasing number of resorts are launching their own campaigns to “keep it green” and there is no doubt that we can all take some environmental responsibility for our actions.
Let’s take a look at some of the resorts that are spreading a little sustainable love, and how each of us can “do our bit” to reduce our environmental footprint and preserve the POW!
Powder White’s Top 5 Sustainable Ski Resorts
Kaprun receives 5 star ratings across the board when it comes to its green credentials. The Kitzsteinhorn lift company uses renewable energy for all of its gondolas and chairlifts and there is an extensive free bus network to promote public transport and reduce use of cars.
Chamonix was one of the first alpine resorts to launch its own climate and energy action plan, back in 2010, with an aim to reduce carbon emissions by 20% by 2020.
Its ambitious programme of energy savers includes developing an extensive public transport system, the “energy renovation” of heating systems in certain buildings and investing in electric mobility.
Chamonix is one of only 3 alpine resorts to be awarded the Flocon Vert, or “Green Snowflake” – a certification devised by French sustainable winter sports campaigners, Mountain Riders.
Working with leading climate advocacy group for winter sports, “Protect Our Winters”, Aspen is an environmental-award-winning resort, leading the charge to combat climate change in North America.
Aspen is working on reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020. What’s more, their electricity utility now runs off 100% renewable energy. Check out their take notice “Give a Flake” message here:
Avoriaz is something of an old hand at keeping it green (and white), having been pedestrianised since its opening in 1966.
It is also the first ski resort to implement ski holiday accommodation with features such as balconies and roofs designed to hold snow for further insulation.
Simple, but effective.
Other sustainable practices include a piste grooming schedule designed for optimum productivity, installation of energy efficient lighting, recycling bins throughout the ski area, construction of a dual-energy heating plant and artificial snow production sourced from the natural environment.
No wonder it has been the recipient of environmental awards and is one of our favourite high altitude resorts.
Saas Fee, Switzerland
Not only is this resort – known as the “Pearl of the Alps” – car free, it has invested heavily in sustainable alpine tourism.
All electricity is obtained from 100% renewable hydroelectric power, the resort’s electric buses are zero emission, and there has been a large scale installation of particle filters in wood burning heat systems, to reduce soot and dust particles clogging the air.
With long term ambitions to achieve total carbon neutrality, Saas Fee is one of our favourite green warrior resorts.
Be a Sustainable Ski or Snowboarder
- Plan your ski holiday to an eco-friendly resort. Our top 5 is a great place to start, but there are plenty more ski destinations now implementing sustainable practices to protect our winters.
- Take the snow train! Journeying by train can reduce your carbon emissions by up to 90% on a per passenger basis, compared to travelling by car or aeroplane. Plus there are the added benefits of skipping the airport hassle, taking the chance to sit back and admire the scenery en route and arriving super close to your chosen resort. Need we say more?
- Obvious we know, but please, please, please take any rubbish home with you and recycle wherever possible! Why not invest in a decent water bottle and / or flask to minimise any additional waste? Ski villages in Europe often have an excellent recycling system for all different materials. They might present a recycling minefield at first, but get it right and you can bask in the boost to your green credentials.
- And if you’re feeling fit… Ski touring can be the ultimate way to experience the mountain, without relying on energy sapping chairlifts or snow canons. Intense, serene and beautiful all at the same time – there is surely no better way to feel at one with the mountain than exploring on a pair of skins. Plus you’ll have definitely earned your fondue come the end of the day.