When it comes to looking at the impacts of climate change, ski resorts (and skiers) have a lot to lose – literally. While they can’t singlehandedly be blamed for the global warming crisis, it stands to reason that ski resorts would be at the forefront of environmental best practice, as well as lobbying, campaigning and educating people as much as they could. Similarly, shouldn’t those ski resorts that are making a real difference be the destination of choice for concerned skiers? Unfortunately it is not even common knowledge which resorts those are. How do you spot your green resort from your greenwashed resort? Thankfully things have gotten a bit easier recently, largely due to the work of UK journalist Patrick Thorne , who has created a comprehensive review of the green practices of all the world’s main ski resorts.
Taking one look through it you soon realise there is a huge difference in attitudes from one resort to the next. So without further ado, let’s meet the 5 greenest ski resorts in the world.
Avoriaz is a purpose built resort that perches at 1850m on a cliff above Morzine, in the heart of the Portes du Soleil (650km of skiing). The benefit of being purpose built is of course that you have a great opportunity to get things right from the start, and the resort does have to take credit for their range of comprehensive green measures. The tall buildings even manage to blend into the hillside quite well when you look up from Morzine. From personal experience though, we have to say that the traffic reduction measures they get a tick for is a bit dubious. While there are no roads in the resort – arriving visitors are greeted by horse and cart – there is a whopping car park on the arrival…
Saas Fee, Switzerland
Saas Fee, ‘The pearl of the Swiss Alps’ is a stunning little town in the Valais region of Switzerland. It accesses over 100km of skiing, much of it on the Dom and Allalinhorn glaciers. The top elevation is at 3550m. With the exception of a few electric vehicles the town is also car free, a fact that stretches back to 1951, when the main road there was constructed.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Ah Jackson, how you feel the dreams of so many aspiring skiers and powder hounds. Often a feature on ski videos, Jackson Hole has built a name for itself as the rustic, red neck gateway to extreme skiing in the Grand Teton National Park. That is changing a bit now, as the family owned resort has made big investments in lifts and new runs have been made to try and improve accessibility for beginners and intermediates. Even so, over half the runs would be classified advanced or expert. Sustainability has been a strong theme in everything that happens there, which perhaps makes it no surprise that the Hotel Terra, an LEED certified eco hotel, opened its doors there a few years ago.
Perhaps better known for celebrity spotting than green credentials, Aspen is a name every recognises. It is actually made up of 4 resorts – Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass – all tucked up a stunning valley in West Colorado and run by the Apsen Skiing Company. Aspen has actually been at the centre of green initiatives for years, forcing many others to follow suit. It was the first to buy wind power, the first to offset its energy usage, and the largest photovoltaic system in the industry. All that, with over 250km of slopes to suit all abilities.
Mount Buller, Australia. Probably not a likely destination for many skiers who don’t actually live down under, but good to see the Aussies getting in there. 250km north east of Melborne, Mount Buller rises up to 1805m, offers a vertical drop of 400m and has an impressive 100km of slopes. When the snow is good, the skiing is meant to be a lot of fun!
How was this list developed?
It is impossible to provide a perfect comparison of each resort, largely because the local issues are so different wherever you go. Resorts were therefore rated according to a series of factors that are somewhat comparable in nature. These are; Recycling, Green Power Usage; Traffic Reduction Policy; Waste Reduction Policy; Climate Policy (resort wide strategy for CO2 reduction); Green Building Policy and whether the resort is ISO 14001 approved (the global voluntary standard for environmental performance).
About the Author
Much Better Adventures is a leading adventure travel website, putting you direct contact with locally owned and independent ski chalets, and independently highlighting the greenest businesses as ‘muchbetter’.
Photo’s via Wikipedia.