The winter sports industry is certainly not immune to the green trend and in recent years ski resorts have started to follow the rest of the world with some interesting sustainable development initiatives.
Large investment is being made in latest high-tech, energy-efficient equipment, skiers’ awareness about the need to respect the natural surroundings, promotion of the use of public transport and much more…
Over the last 10 years, attitudes have been changing and people are becoming aware of the important impact of the ski industry on the environment. In 2007, a study by the L’Association Nationale des Mairies des Station de Montagne (the ANMSM) resulted in a charter of ski resorts in favour of sustainable development.
It included 8 founding principles among which were the preservation of the natural surroundings, the sustainable management of water and other energy resources and the promotion of efficient, environmentally-friendly modes of transport. There are already 52 signatures on the charter!
A tiny Swiss ski resort called Tenna, not far from St. Moritz and Davos, has recently invested 1.5 million euros in the construction of one of the world's first solar-powered ski lifts. On sunny days, the lift produces much more power than it consumes meaning that in the Spring it becomes a mini solar power plant. The lift is expected to produce 90,000 kilowatt hours annually which is well over the 21,000 kilowatt hours needed to run it!
More and more ski resorts are committing to, and investing in, sustainable development with the aim of combining winter sports and respect for the environment. One example is Orcières-Merlette 1850 in France where the power lines have been redirected underground to avoid disturbing the local bird life.
In order to leave the mountain as clean as when the first holiday makers arrived, various ski resorts, such as Valberg in the Southern Alps, organize rubbish collection campaigns in June, once the snow has melted from the slopes.
Last year, the introduction of a free shuttle bus service connecting the different villages in the valley, managed to reduce the number of cars coming up from the valley by nearly 3000! At the end of the season, 50 tons of compost were taken up to the slopes to enrich the soil to encourage new growth on the mountainside.
The ski resort of Saint Lary in the Pyrenees, the first ski resort to have signed the ANMSM charter, has recently invested 14 million euros in the construction of a new gondola lift. Much quieter and more energy-efficient, this lift should reduce the number of cars and coaches that take skiers up to the main lift station - currently 1400 cars and 50 coaches daily! During its construction, building materials were even transported by helicopter to avoid damage to the surrounding mountainside!
Respect for the environment is not only a multi-million euro affair. Everyone is concerned and each little gesture, made everyday, counts. Winter sports holiday makers can help limit the damage caused by this increasingly popular activity and the ski resorts themselves are more and more willing to help them.
The provision of pocket ashtrays for smokers and biodegradable rubbish bags as well as educational activities organized to raise awareness are among these initiatives. Everyone is encouraged to do their bit and this season, it will be difficult to ignore the efforts being made…
By getting involved in just one small incentive, we can all do our bit and ski with a clearer conscience!
Ski green this year!
Being lucky enough to have parents who were crazy about skiing, my love for the mountains started when I was 4 years old on our first family ski holiday to Austrian ski resort of Obergurl. One ski holiday a year was never enough and tears rolled down my face as I looked out the back window of the car on the drive down the valley on the way home!
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