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Wednesday 31 January 2018

How Sustainable is Skiing? Top Eco Friendly Ski Tips.

It's that time of year again, where hundreds of thousands of people around the world head to the mountains to find snow and a holiday. It had been nearly two years since I had headed up the mountain and I'd forgotten just how much I loved it.

The slopes provide something not many places offer; the opportunity to be completely and utterly immersed within nature. The cold air hitting your lungs with every breath as so glide (or slide) down the slope, the feeling of silently travelling through the tree line when no one else is around and how all those niggling thought and problems of every day life suddenly feel so insignificant.

As a huge lover of nature though, I can't help but wonder the true cost of the experience. Although you are surrounded by the natural world when you're up in the mountains, for most resorts a lot of damage has been incurred. This can be from clearing the way to build lifts and provide runs in alpine areas, to the production of fake snow which is infused with chemicals that can have harmful effects on the ecosystem. With global warming becoming a greater issue, new resorts higher up the mountains are being created and more fake snow is produced every year. With the reduction in the ski season length as well the impact of these changes the environment around us is under even greater pressure.

Writing this post feels fairly doom and gloom, with little good to show for something many enjoy. Skiing however isn't all bad with tourism providing a large proportion of income for ski resort locals. In fact, if we all helped to encourage positive change in resorts, then those unwilling to change will only be left behind. If we all helped a little then maybe we can help keep the snow on the mountains a little longer than predicted.

So what can you do to make a difference? I'm not going to talk about what you can do to help tackle global warming, that's another issue all together and for all year round attention but for the skiing, here are 5 things I've pulled together so you can lower your impact on the natural habitat you use whilst away.

1. Pick an eco-friendly resort. 
I was amazing upon research how many resorts are having a negative impact on the environment, a concept that makes no sense as their entire business relies on said environment. However, some resorts are looking to a better more environmentally friendly future. This can be by using renewable energy to power the ski lifts to having no drive zones in the town, or by not adding any chemicals to the fake snow produced for the slopes at lower levels. These resorts can be found all over Europe (and America- going their may undo the good from travelling to an eco friendly resort) with the Alps have a grading system for how sustainable the resorts are (although the website is in French) with the likes of Chamonix and Chamrousse making the cut.  Other resorts highlighed across the web include Carinthia and Kaprun in Austria, the Auvergne region and Avoriaz  in France, Alto Adige in Italy, Anzere and Saas Fee in Switzferland. Should you wish you could even branch out to Swedish eco resorts such as Vemdalsskalet and Lindvallen-Hoegfjaellet.

2. Public Transport
I'm not normally one to encourage package holidays but if you're planning on flying, package holidays can often be one of the most sustainable flying options. Why? Well they use buses to get everyone up the mountain in one go meaning less traffic, less pollution and less fuel being required. If you fancy a change though, I would highly recommend driving to resort, this is your most eco friendly option and it can end up being a lot cheaper than flying the ski gear as well- just be sure to have snow chains at the ready. Finally the train is always an option as well, you can switch at Paris and go to pretty much any where in the alps with a bus to take you into resort at the end. The only thing that's a no no is a private taxi. Save your money and the planet by getting a shared mini bus if you need to, most resorts will have one running multiple times a day for people to use!

3. Shop savvy
I've added this point as much for myself as everyone else. Just because you like the look of that new jacket doesn't mean you need one. This is even more relevant if you have a down jacket, birds literally died to keep you warm, have a bit of thought and at least wear it till its not wearable and make sure you donate it to a person in need/ good cause, when you do switch. In today's world there are so many fantastic sustainable ski brands out their doing great work from Picture Organic Clothing to Patagonia and Nau. Need new skis why don't you try out Liberty Skis in the UK who use sustainable materials such as bamboo. You can be completely kitted out in fantastic gear that's sustainable and looks amazing. Purchasing second hand gear is also a fantastic option and with vintage ski wear back in fashion there is not better time to purchase that crazy patterned one piece (but only if you need it).

4. Recycle and Litter
The recycle word has been around so much that I think people are starting to forget the importance of it and people tend to recycle even less when their on holiday. If you're self catered take the time to put the bins out and if you're at the hotel ensure that your bottles etc can be easily recycled once finished. When on the slopes make sure you take that chocolate wrapper home with you (do up your pocket, accidental littering is still littering). The recycling point also stands for old ski wear as well as mentioned before, ensuring that the items that are often used once a year get a longer life is so important for not just reducing waste but also to ensure that the clothing can co
ntinue to be used.

5. Off-piste 
Skiing off piste is fantastic but the impact it can have on the environment can actually be horrendous and also exceptionally dangerous for you and the wildlife. If you are wanting to go off piste your best option is to get a guide, as they no the areas which are safe and which aren't. If you're not sure about going off-piste then don't. There have been so many beautiful runs already cleared for you to use, just stick to them and enjoy whats around you.

There are more things that you can do should you wish from using eco friendly sun creams to going cross country skiing for a day so you don't use the lifts (or need a lift pass for a day saving £££) but most importantly it's being aware of the habitat you're in. Ski resorts may sadly not be around in 20 years so making the most of them and doing our best to look after them is even more important today then ever before!

What are your sustainable ski tips? Do you think there is more ski resorts can do?


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