Conscious of the fragility of their ecosystem, mountain dwellers have always endeavored to minimize their impact on the environment.  In order to preserve the pristine beauty of their summits, resorts are on the cutting edge of innovation in terms of ecology and sustainable development.

A collective effort

The eco-trend doesn’t stop at ground level – just the opposite.  Mountain resorts, concerned about their fragile ecosystems, have a duty to take action in order to preserve the natural wealth of their environment.  Climate change and rising temperatures around the globe are particular concerns, as they lead to the disappearance of the snow.  A lack of effort would mean risking the loss of this precious resource.  The measures taken can be summed up in three key words: assessment, action and prevention.

The national association of mayors of the mountains has signed the national charter of sustainable development for mountain resorts, which offers the tools for an assessment and a plan of action:  identifying the areas which produce the most greenhouse gases, putting in place the best practices and evaluating the pertinence of actions taken.   Upon arrival, the skier will see neither a forest of wind turbines, nor hectares of photovoltaic solar panels, but that does not mean that the resorts are not taking action.  The efforts run deep, at every step from construction to renovation, by means of the imposition of environmental standards in numerous sectors.

Building the future

Most new constructions are labeled HQE (high environmental quality,) and conform to the standards of access for persons with disabilities.  Recycling facilities are being installed everywhere.  Wastewater treatment centres are in the process of resizing, and rainwater from the rooftops will be, in part, channeled into reservoirs created to aliment the snow cannons.  Composting toilets can be found on the slopes, and, if certain cables are marked with beacons, it is because they are dangerous for the birds. In order to optimize energy use, chair lifts are piloted by computers, green energy contracts have been signed, and, taking advantage of nearby timber resources, wood boilers are appearing. After all, before talking about zero impact, it is essential to consume responsibly.

Reducing Traffic

Traffic is biggest producer of greenhouse gases.  Many resorts have done carbon footprint assessments, which show that it is necessary to improve access to the mountains in order to reduce the production of CO2.  Transportation within each domain, and for day skiers from neighbouring domains, is managed better and better.  Shuttles are free with the passes for skiers, seasonal workers and resident families. Numerous inter-domain transportation systems have been created.  The pass bus + forfait (flat rate bus + ski pass) is now the standard in most major cities in the Alps.  Day skiers can, for a small surcharge, leave their vehicles in town.  There are also solutions for vacationers coming from afar, notably thanks to weekly package deals (train + bus + weekly car hire.) If you can avoid driving your car to your holiday destination, you minimize your impact on the environment.  Think about it before you go.  Enjoy a green vacation in the white snow.

Tekst: Philippe Collignon
Fotos : Philippe Royer