Whilst only an idiot would choose to ignore the environmental impacts that a ski resort has on it’s surrounding eco system, Morzine, Les Gets and Avoriaz are already here. They are already operating as ski resorts, and damn fine ones they are too. So rather than concentrate on the negative, let’s explore the positive. Here’s what your ski resort is doing to minimise the impact of its operation on the environment so you can keep skiing for years to come.
Les Gets has it’s own ‘environmental charter’ which means that all accommodation providers represented by the Office de Tourisme must be ecologically responsible. Municipal buildings are heated by a wood-fired central heating system and the lift network has its speed regulated during quiet times to reduce energy consumption. The resort also invests huge amounts of money each summer into creating less steep, gentler slopes, which preserve the snow during the winter and reduce the need for snow canon use and grooming by piste bashers.
Les Gets is also the pioneer of the car-sharing scheme. When four people arrive to ski in Les Gets in the same car on Wednesdays and Sundays, they get a 25% discount on their lift pass, making skiing cheaper and more sustainable! And to reduce car use even further once you’re in Les Gets, there’s a free minibus service, which laps the resort, and an evening service, that drops you directly at your accommodation up until 11pm for just €2.
Morzine started life as a traditional French farming village so the development of its tourism industry hasn’t been as harsh on the environment as in the huge ‘built for purpose’ ski resorts. Again, a wood-fired central heating system uses reclaimed wood to heat village buildings including the new swimming pool complex. Lift passes purchased for 3 days or more are the rechargeable, hands free type that can be used time and time again, instead of the disposable paper versions.
At the end of each season as the snow melts, a huge amount of local volunteers turn out to collect litter dropped on the pistes across the area to lessen the impact on local wildlife. Local business owners also play their part in many different ways, including using eco-friendly, biodegradable waxes on rental skis and snowboards to protect the natural eco system and handing over 1% of their turnover to CoolEarth, as they do at Doorstep Skis.
Avoriaz has developed considerably over the last couple of years and you’d be forgiven for thinking this could only be bad for the environment. Part of the new development included the instillation of a wood-burning generator, which uses reclaimed wood to heat hundreds of new Pierre et Vacances apartments. Avoriaz is still a 100% car free resort so no gas guzzling snow clearing takes place within the confines of the resort itself.
Research suggests that cigarette filters might never decompose, so Avoriaz produces free pocket ashtrays, complete with Shreddie from The Stash motif, available from all lift pass offices. The piste bashers of Avoriaz use biodegradable oil and energy efficient snow canons are fed from an additive free reservoir, right in the centre of the resort.
Do your bit…
You can make a difference too, by showing your support for those chalets and hotels that have a strong commitment to sustainability. Staying in an eco-friendly chalet certainly doesn’t mean compromising your holiday experience. For a start, these chalets serve locally sourced seasonal food, which really adds to your holiday. Responsible chalet operators also build and decorate their chalets using local artisans, which means you get a much stronger sense of the distinct character and flavours of the Haute Savoie, rather than feeling like you are in any generic ski resort.
You shouldn’t worry about the hot tub being taken away either. Eco-friendly chalets may still have one, it is just highly likely to be wood fired, and treated with natural chemicals. Equally, the heating won’t be turned down to save a few grams of carbon. Instead the chalet will instead be better insulated, so you will be toasty warm inside while the snow dumps down outside. If you are worried about your power shower being turned into a dribble by water saving devices, then don’t be. Developments in technology mean you won’t even notice; yet chalet companies are cutting their water usage by up to 160,000 litres a winter.
Finding a sustainably run chalet is much easier than it used to be. One Morzine born business in particular – Much Better Adventures – highlight the green choices among hundreds of independent ski chalets across the Alps, and allow you to book direct with them all. They are pushing forward this agenda across all adventure sports holidays, summer and winter. Find out more on the Much Better Adventures website.