Skiing is booming and the sport has seen a rise in popularity over the past few decades. However, because of the increased infrastructure and the recent mild winters, the industry is creating initiatives to reduce their impact on the environment and preserve the landscape of which it relies upon.
LABELS AND REGULATIONS
The “Flocon Vert”, translated into ‘Green Snowflake’, this label is given to resorts that are carrying out pioneering environmental work in order to preserve their local landscape. Châtel is one of the resorts to have received recognition for its initiatives and has focussed on educating as well as improving sustainability. At the end of every season, residents and officials hold a mass mountain clean up which not only rids the natural landscape from litter, but enlightens people on how to protect the environment in their everyday life. The education continues throughout the resort, focussing on raising awareness by educating local children and building compost systems for left over food from the school canteens. On the slopes, there are screens informing skiers on how to protect the landscape by recycling waste and holding onto cigarette butts.
The infrastructure itself, although more commonly to blame, is being designed and built with the environment in mind. A new lift connecting neighbouring resorts to Châtel has led to a reduction in cars. Shuttle buses are also used to reduce the traffic arriving at the resort.
Other towns awarded the Flocon Vert have seen dry toilets, solar panels and systematic water consumption. However, Rousses and neighbouring Morez received recognition for the Association Lutte Contre le Gaspillage (ALCG) which collects and sorts waste from the resort in order to re-sell it as usable materials. The site was built to re-employ people who found themselves in unemployment after major eyewear brands, previously employing large numbers, relocated away from the area.
The award is thought to be extremely beneficial to the resorts; in a world where TripAdvisor talks, having the Flocon Vert to their name makes the destination much more marketable.
Car-free resorts are becoming more common, with Zermatt leading the way. It is 100% car free with the only vehicles being electric buses in order to reduce the CO2 emissions in the village. A lot of American resorts are investing in renewable energy sources with Park City Mountain resort offsetting 100% of its energy using wind and continuing to invest in renewable energy.
SNOW MAKING ISSUES
A major environmental problem facing the majority of resorts is their snowmaking facilities and how to save water and energy whilst getting the best from them. Rising temperatures and retreating snow levels are causing resorts to call upon artificial snow on the lower slopes. The snow cannons work by firing rainwater chilled to between -7°C and -9°C into the air where it will freeze to make snow. This process expends energy and uses a lot of water and in warmer temperatures the problem is multiplied. When the water isn’t cold enough, agents such as Snomax™ are added. This chemical, although deemed safe, is argued to impact the environment. It’s thought that they affect the natural vegetation and when the snow thaws, the chemicals flow down the mountains and find their way into drinking water supplies. As a result, resorts are looking to spend big on getting in more sustainable snowmaking equipment. Improvements in technology are leading to more efficient cannons that require less energy and water to produce the same amount of snow. Telluride recently saved 68% on energy with the introduction of new cannons and piping.
With rising temperatures and the ski industries growing infrastructure taking its toll on the environment, resorts have to look at how they manage their energy and ways to reduce the impact they are having. With continued improvements to technology, management of waste and control over traffic, the future of skiing looks safe for future generations.
At Odlo, we also try to contribute through the development of new technologies, which allow us for example to integrate recycled polyester fibres in some of our materials.
The ski industry relies upon people and corporations across the world taking a firmer stance on their sustainable initiatives. Resorts in the mountains are beginning to do what they can to ensure the next generations get to experience the incredible landscapes that the sport relies upon, now the rest of the world need to follow.