About making your ski trip more environmentally friendly
An A-Z of eco-friendly mountain practices
Skiing and snowboarding are not, sadly, very environmentally friendly. Flying to the Alps, driving up to a purpose built chalet on the hill side, taking the chairlift through the trees, past the snow cannons to the top of the well groomed piste, strapping on freshly waxed skis and zigzagging down through the trees to the mountain restaurant might be a great way to spend a holiday but it is not, unfortunately, a great way to save the planet. There are a few things we can do to make our sport a little greener though and in some cases they make your holiday more comfortable and sometimes cheaper.
First off, travel. Flying is the single biggest producer of carbon dioxide involved in your holiday. Even at the bottom of a mogul field, panting, sweating and promising to get fitter before next year's trip you will not produce anything like the CO² that your Boeing 737 is pumping out. But you can choose to offset your carbon emissions with some airlines and in most cases this will cost you less than the hugely overpriced Kit-Kat and can of coke you were going to buy on the flight. Although emission offset programs (Carbon Clear & Climate Care) have good intentions they do not take away the underlying problems and we should not be made to think that our flights are carbon neutral after a donation.
Almost any form of transport creates a smaller carbon footprint than flying. Whilst not convenient for all resorts or all holidaymakers, one of the best ways to get to the Alps is by train. The overnight Eurostar snowtrain leaves London St Pancras and stops in Moutiers, Aime la Plagnge and then Bourg St Maurice. No queues, no airport security and an extra day skiing as you arrive in resort on Saturday morning while most other holiday makers are gesticulating wildly at the French baggage handler who has sent their skis to Cancun. With tickets from £149 return you can be in the three Valleys, Espace Killy or Paradiski forty minutes after stepping off the train, happy in the knowledge that you are saving the planet.
If you are on slightly more of a budget you can always take the bus. This is cheaper than flying and again more environmentally sound. Snow Express offer bus journeys to 24 destinations around the Alps that will get you to all the major ski resorts with less than a sixth of the CO² emissions of flying and for just £45.
Bear in mind that your last part of the journey up to the resort is just as much an offender as the rest so why not booked a shared transfer to help minimise your impact to the local resort.
Once in resort there is no need to wander around in hemp trousers. There are a few manufacturers of environmentally sound ski clothing. Picture produce organic clothing and use recycled materials in their pants and jackets AND they're cool. More chance of the planet surviving, more chance of you looking good when you post your holiday pics on Facebook. Win-Win. Picture clothing is available in Val Thorens from Ride & Style, Les Arcs from Skimium and La Plagne from Intersport. For all-mountain gear check out Patagonia, pioneers of green manufacturing techniques of very long lasting clothing.
Now that you have arrived in comfort and you are looking sharp in your ski wear it is important to make sure that you are skiing in a way that does not impact too heavily on the surroundings. Obviously your very presence will have a detrimental effect on the mountains but you can limit this with a few simple practices.
Try and use eco friendly wax on your skis or snowboard. The waxes most commonly used contain fluorine and parafin and while they make your skis run smoothly these chemicals end up in the water system, damaging plants and animals. Try an eco wax like Magic Potion or Bioglide.
You can put this wax on a set of skis or a snowboard that has been made from recycled materials. Idris Skis in Chamonix produce handmade skis built from recycled flooring. Watch the video we filmed there last week to see how! Alternatively, if you stand sideways, Venture Snowboards use wind turbines to power their work shop, donate a percentage of profits to environmental causes, recycle waste products and use materials from Forest Stewardship Council certified wood.
When you are on the hill make sure you don't drop litter or cigarette butts. A cigarette butt takes five years to break down and a clean up party found 30,000 under one lift in Val Thorens. As if smoking doesn’t affect the air enough - don’t pollute the ground around as well. Take all of your rubbish off the hill with you. Simple.
Where you ski is also important. Some areas will be closed as they are plantation areas for young saplings or nesting areas for Alpine birds. Stay out of these areas, they are not part of the ski area and are protected for a reason.
You can go green with your accommodation too. Hotels in the Temmos family have an environmentally friendly policy that offsets their carbon footprint, reduces water wastage and sources much of the produce used in their restaurants locally.
Or stay in a chalet that has a had an eco-friendly renovation. Companies like Alpine Eco install solar thermal panels, photovoltaic (PV) panels for electricity, biomass boilers, ground source heat pumps and rainwater harvesting plants making your chalet as green as possible.
The mountains are a beautiful place and if we want to keep enjoying them and share them with future generations then we need to be a little more careful about how we treat them. For more information on environmentally friendly mountain practices see our Environment page.