It’s true that it requires positive action for a sport such as skiing, with its requirement for lifts, pistes and artificial snow, to operate on a green basis, but with new environmental measures, practices and technology in place, this is becoming an achievable goal.
Ski lifts and artificial snow-making do require power for the ski season; but they are increasingly efficient and clean since they no longer run on diesel and the electricity comes from renewable sources. Many resorts in Europe, including Morzine-Avoriaz, are taking steps to derive their power from green energy. The companies running the ski lifts in Morzine, SA Pleney and SERMA are currently installing photovoltaic panels (for solar energy) on the Proclou chairlift – 41m² of panels have been installed for a forecast production of 9000 kWh per year which will be deployed for the operation of the lift. This innovative project is the first of its kind in Haute-Savoie.
The Morzine ski area’s piste bashing machines run on non-toxic, biodegradable GTL fuel as opposed to the off-road winter diesel used by traditional piste bashers. They are also less disruptive, quieter machines. Meanwhile, the Forestry Commission ensures each tree cut down from the ski area is accounted for. Trees, including important local species such as spruce, fir, and larch, are replanted in areas of the Chablais that need it.
When it comes to accommodation, choosing an environmentally friendly hotel or chalet company, particularly if you opt for catering, which means your food will be bought and prepared responsibly, means you can rest assured the footprint of your holiday will remain small.
Taking all of this into account, its still hard to ignore the estimation that 60% – 70% of a ski resort’s yearly carbon emissions come from visitors’ modes of transport to and from the resort. Consequently it could be said, the biggest challenge lies not within the management of the direct impact of skiing on the mountain (all though this is, of course, highly important), but in reducing the impact of the high-carbon travel associated with travelling to the resort. It’s estimated that choosing the train over flying cuts CO2 emissions per passenger by 90%.
Skiing can be a relatively low impact sport, if the resort, accommodation and method of travel are chosen with the environment in mind.