Ski holidays don’t have the greenest of reputations, but many resorts across the world are making efforts to be more eco-friendly and conscious of the environment. We all love escaping the bustling cities for the serene mountains during the season that fuels our passions. Even though we feel closer to nature, ski resorts use a lot of energy all over the mountain and villages. To prevent climate change and preserve our mountains so that generations can ski for years to come, we need to act now. All over the world there are already signs of what global warming is doing to our ski areas, therefore over the past few years ski resorts have begun to combat this and starting to be more environmentally responsible.
If you are a skier or snowboarder looking to enjoy your winter sport with the least environmental impact, then taking the snow train can cut your carbon emissions by up to 90%. According to research by carbon-measurement consultancy, Best Foot Forward, a one-way journey by plane from London to Val Throrens produces 82kg CO2 per passenger. The equivalent journey by train produces only 14Kg CO2 per passenger. Driving, by comparison, produces 225Kg CO2 (per car).
As well as ski areas enforcing eco-friendly processes, there are many organisations getting involved with the fight against climate change. If you are interested in further information on this subject I recommend you take a look at the Protect Our Winters (POW) campaign which was started by pro snowboarder Jeremy Jones. Here are 10 resorts that are changing the future of ski holidays:
The Best Eco Friendly Ski Holidays
10. Kaprun, Austria
Austria remains popular due to the lack of purpose built ski areas, and alternatively each beautiful alpine village has been carefully developed over time to benefit the environment. One of the largest energy uses in a ski resort is operating gondolas and chair lifts. Kaprun has led the way by becoming the first in Austria to be ISO-certified and receives 5 star ratings across the board when it comes to green valuations. The Kitzsteinhorn lifts uses renewable energy to operate all systems, including solar power. There is a comprehensive free bus network that operates across the resort and to Zell am See to reduce use of cars across the region. Additional, trees are planted using eco-friendly techniques and there is a 11km sewage pipe system in place to prevent pollution on the mountain and glacier.
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9. Anzère, Switzerland
This maybe just a small Swiss village, but Anzère prides itself in doing its part to keep the alpine air clean by implementing Europe’s largest eco-friendly heating system. The wood-pellet burner 'Centrale' was a £5.9 million project conceived by a German renewable energy firm It is saving 1.5 million litres of oil a year and provides energy for 600 apartments, 2 hotels, a new outdoor pool and spa. With only 50km of piste, Anzère will never rival its resort neighbours Verbier or Zermatt, but it is becoming more popular with the likes of families and ecologists, especially with the upgrades in lifts and its amenities.
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7. Chamonix, France
In 2010 Chamonix launched its own pioneering climate and energy action plan, with an intention of cutting carbon emissions by 20% by 2020. Energy saving projects will include better public transportation. To recognise the work, Chamonix has been awarded the Flocon Vert – the green snowflake – which only 2 other resorts have received. The Flocon Vert was introduced by Mountain Riders, a French group trying to raise awareness for a more sustainable winter sports industry. Other resorts awarded the Flocon Vert are Chamrousse, La Pierre St Martin and Chatel.
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6. Villars, Switzerland
Villars, is working on a variety of sustainable projects including a fleet of hybrid public buses, low-energy snow-making systems and introducing solar panels on public buildings. Located at 1300m, Villars is a low altitude resort and recognises that its under threat from climate change.
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5. Aspen/Snowmass, USA
Aspen is one of the leading ski resorts trying to combat climate change in North America. Working with Protect Our Winters, the Colorado resort is working on reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2020. In 2016 Aspen won the Golden Eagle Award in the large resort category for its action on climate change and work with POW.
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4. Vail Resorts, USA
In July 2017 Vail Resorts announced that the company will aggressively pursue a comprehensive sustainability commitment, called “Epic Promise for a Zero Footprint.” The ambitious campaign commits to zero net emissions by 2030, zero waste to landfill by 2030 and zero net operating impact to forests and habitat.
Vail Resorts operate 11 world class mountain resorts and 3 urban ski areas including Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone in Colorado; Park City in Utah; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in the Lake Tahoe area of California and Nevada; Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia, Canada; Perisher in Australia; Stowe in Vermont; Wilmot Mountain in Wisconsin; Afton Alps in Minnesota and Mt. Brighton in Michigan.
“It’s the leadership of companies like Vail Resorts that recognize that this is good business and good for the environment that will truly make a difference in the world,” said Carl Pope, co-author of Climate of Hope and former head of the Sierra Club. “We will combat climate change through commitments such as this and others from cities, municipalities and companies across the country.”
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3. Avoriaz, France
Avoriaz won the Environmental Award for Ecological Developments at the 2012 World Snow Awards in London. Since opening in 1966 it is the only resort in France to be pedestrianised since its beginning. Energy saving methods includes a grooming schedule designed to improve groomed productivity, monitoring of fuel consumption, electric snowmobiles, new buildings have to comply with HQE (high environmental quality) and energy efficient lighting being installed. A sustainable procurement process is in place and preference is given to recycled products. The entire ski area is equipped with recycling bins to reduce waste at the source.
It is also the first ski resort to design holiday accommodation with features such as insulation, balconies with thermal break and roofs built to hold snow for further insulation. Since 2011, construction of a dual-energy central heating plant provides 11 holiday residences and the Aquariaz water park, with heating and hot water. Plus snow production is sourced from the natural environment and the production is optimised to use as little water as possible.
In 2016 Residence Amara was awarded Clef Verte certification to recognise its environmentally friendly holiday accommodation. The apartments showed awareness for: environmental policy, customer awareness, water, waste and energy management, responsible procurement and improving quality of life.
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2. Jackson Hole, USA
In 2011 Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (JHMR) won the Golden Eagle Award for Environmental Excellence, which is one of the greatest honours in the world for green ski resorts. JHMR has a number of resort wide environment pledges to combat climate change, with hopes to reduce all carbon emissions, domestic water consumption and waste. The resort has heavily invested in upgrading its facilities including converting energy resources and now 2 chairlifts, Moose Creek and Union Pass, are powered by wind energy. In recent years, Jackson Hole has seen a 19% decrease in cars around resort and a 30% increase in bus ridership.
1. Saas Fee, Switzerland
The ‘Pearl of the Alps’ is often regarded as one of the greenest resorts in the world as it is famous for being car-free. They are committed to being sustainable and environmentally friendly tourism. Saas Fee has been awarded ‘Energy Town’ status by EnergieSchweiz with its leading example of how collective efforts of the community can both improve the quality of life and help protect the climate. With considerable investments in sustainability, the town aims to play a pioneering role in ecological alpine tourism and in the long term hopes to attain carbon neutrality. With a large scale installation of particle filters in wood burning heating systems, Saas Fee is preventing the battle with soot particles and is well on the way to become the first fine dust-free community in the European Alps.
For winter 2016/17 the resort introduced electric buses to make it easier than ever to get skiers to the slopes in Saas Fee. These buses are zero-emission and the bus company uses renewable energy to recharge the batteries. In Saas-Fee, all electricity – including that used for railways and lifts – is obtained from 100% renewable Valaisian hydroelectric power. No other Swiss residential and holiday area uses natural energy so consistently.
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