If you recycle, compost and live a sustainable life at home, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t keep to environmentally friendly habits when you’re on holiday, too. With ski resorts at the forefront of climate change with shorter seasons, melting glaciers and increasingly unpredictable weather patterns causing huge instability in the mountains, it’s never been easier to see why it’s important we travel and ski as sustainably as we can.
First things first. If you can take the train to the Alps, do. You’ll reduce your carbon footprint by about 80 per cent (compared with flying). If the train is entirely impractical, why not drive, filling your car with passengers and making the journey part of your holiday by stopping off halfway?
Choose your accommodation carefully. Many providers offer far more eco-friendly options than others, whether it’s by using renewable energy, eco-friendly cleaning products or being paperless and composting — there’s lots going on if you look. And the way you stay will make a difference, too. If you choose self-catering over a hotel, you might help reduce the use of water and energy required for your stay (in hotels think laundry, catering, spa, heating and lighting of communal areas, room cleaning — not to mention single-use items such as slippers and toiletries). If you stay in a chalet, can you take your own slippers and toiletries rather than use disposables? Every little helps.
Similarly, pick your ski resort with care. While most are making big efforts towards sustainable tourism, some resorts are more advanced than others. There are a number of environmental assurance labels including the Flocon Vert and Green Globe that give consumers confidence that sustainability is part of a ski resort’s DNA. But a little extra research can uncover a lot: the Swiss resort of Lacs, for example, has been driven by sustainable development for decades, North America’s Vail Resorts has made an ‘Epic Promise’ to reach a zero net operating footprint by 2030, Pejo 3000 in Italy has banned single-use plastics, Squaw Valley stopped selling plastic water bottles in 2016 … the list goes on and on.
If your family is growing, or you only ski very occasionally, renting ski kit instead of buying can make sense both financially and environmentally. Whether it’s clothing or hardware (skis, boots and helmets) renting will provide you with the latest bit of kit and also a more sustainable way of shopping that is catching on across the board.
If you must buy, make it eco-friendly. EcoSki.co.uk is proof that there are more greener and cleaner companies making ski kit than there were a decade ago — think recycled materials, bio-sourced fabric, no nasty chemicals as well as ethical production standards.
Prolong the life of the kit you do own by storing it properly, keeping it clean and re-waterproofing it with a product like Grangers, who have just launched a wash and proof two-in-one DWR. Mending and patching tears and replacing zippers is also easy — manufacturers will help if you can’t do it yourself (often FOC) — and using clothing until the very end of its life is the best thing you can do for the planet.
Even though you’re on holiday, try to keep the same recycling and reusing habits as you do at home. That means taking your own water bottle and coffee cup, even picnic cutlery and Tupperware. And it goes without saying that you should never litter — and if you’re a smoker that means never drop a cigarette butt from the chairlift. Just one (toxic plastic) cigarette butt can pollute 1m3 of snow and hamper plant growth when the snow has melted.
Why not try ski touring or cross-country skiing instead of getting on a lift? Many resorts are using renewables now to power ski lifts, as well as installing heat-recovery systems to warm buildings from the energy produced in lift stations, but the most eco-friendly way of skiing is to earn your own turns. Ski touring is also great for mental and physical health.
Finally, join a group like Protect Our Winters and learn how to reduce your carbon footprint, protect our mountain environment and become your own climate hero.