French Alps

Plan eco-friendly holidays in a ski resort

Eric Fournier, mayor of Chamonix, states that we have to protect our mountains: this is what our tourists and skiers come for.

Date posted: 28 October 2019, 12:00pm

Article length: 7 minutes

For skiers and snowboarders across Europe, winter holidays in the Alps are a given. Could you imagine a winter without hitting the Alps mountains? One where family ski holidays aren’t a thing anymore?

Unfortunately, with the climate catastrophe gaining urgency, ski resorts are starting to suffer.

It’s logical to wonder whether eco-friendly holidays in 2019, especially if your holidays involve attaching your feet to flat surfaces and sliding down snowy pistes, are possible. That’s because downhill skiing means:

  • Creating more resorts at higher altitudes (due to melting snow at lower altitudes)

  • Using tons of water & chemicals through snow cannons

  • Causing deforestation to create new resorts

  • Disturbing wildlife

  • Littering and rubbish

  • Carbon emissions from plane and car travel to pistes

How to make your next ski holiday eco-friendly

There are some options to reduce your carbon footprint during your skiing holidays in the French Alps. One of them is to give up skiing once and for all. But we know you aren’t going to do that. Some more stomachable options are:

  • Go to resorts you can access by train - Plane emissions are literally the worst. Many Alpine ski resorts are now accessible by train. Or, find other snowbirds to carpool with.

  • Be mindful of the rubbish you leave - Recycle, don’t carelessly throw your cigarette butts, and take responsibility for the waste you create. Take the Burning-manian approach to your eco-friendly ski holidays and “leave no trace”.

  • Eat local - Local food is more eco-friendly because you don’t need to use fuels to transport it and it’s seasonal food. Nuff’ said.

  • Ski closer to home - Why go all the way to eastern Europe or Japan when you can just pop over to France?

  • Take local public transport - There’s no need to drive your car all the way to the slopes. Take a local bus. Many ski resorts in the Alps offer free bus passes for skiers and snowboarders.

  • Choose a green ski resort - There are ski resorts that make efforts to reduce their carbon footprint and there are others that don’t. Choose wisely.

  • Don’t interact with wildlife - Follow the instructions on the slopes and don’t go where you shouldn’t. The boundaries are often there to protect the wildlife, not to ruin your fun. Respect the wildlife and stay out of their zones.

If we don’t start thinking of this now, ski holidays in 30 years will be but a gleam in people’s eyes. A relic of the past we tell our grandkids tales about.

So which is the greenest ski resort in the French Alps mountains? One eco-friendly ski resort that checks the most boxes is Chamonix. Chamonix skiing is green skiing. Hallelujah!

Introducing the city of Chamonix

This resort is known for its extreme vertical pistes, authentic Alpine Chamonix accommodations and its epic views at the foot of the Mont Blanc. There’s more to Chamonix than skiing, though. It’s also the first of the towns in the Alps mountains to make solid commitments to reducing its carbon footprint.

If you’re looking for eco-friendly holidays in 2019, Chamonix is the place to be. In 2010, it Climate & Energy Action Plan that sought to slash their carbon emissions by 20 per cent by the year 2020.

“We have to protect our mountains: this is what our tourists and skiers come for,” states Eric Fournier, mayor of Chamonix. “If we're going to be able to ski in the future, then we must reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.”

Chamonix skiing means eco-friendly holidays for you because it checks all the boxes. Below, we break down how this little town is paving the way for green skiing in the French Alps.

Chamonix is accessible by train

Mont Blanc Express train in the French Alps ski resorts

Mont Blanc Express

One of the biggest pollutants about the ski season is transport for getting to the Alps mountains.

According to the Telegraph, aviation could be the largest source of emissions in the UK by 2050. Additionally, up to 70% of the ski-related CO2 emissions come from tourists trying to get to the resorts.

This probably isn’t breaking news to most of you. If you’ve been trying to reduce your carbon footprint, you’re surely aware of the devastating effects of plane travel. Luckily, Chamonix skiing is easily accessible by train. This makes it an ideal spot for your eco-friendly holidays.

If you’re in France already, the Mont Blanc Express serves all villages from St Gervais-le Fayet to Martigny (Switzerland) via Servoz, Les Houches, Chamonix, Argentiere and Vallorcine. You can also take a train from London for relatively cheap.

Chamonix takes recycling to the next level

Chamonix follows all standard regulations when it comes to handling and recycling waste. But it takes things even further. According to the Ski Chamonix website, this eco-friendly holiday resort has done the following:

  • Dug out and removed old cables that had been buried. That was 40 tonnes of cables brought off the mountain.

  • Dismantled obsolete sites including the old hang gliding launch pad at Les Grands Montets

  • Dismantled and removed the 1974 suspension cable from the north face of the Aiguille du Midi

  • Cleaned up the Mer de Glace

  • Recycled old ballast during the renovation of the Montenvers trackways

  • Repaired these areas by re-grassing the pistes with a special blend of grass seeds appropriate for the Chamonix valley

Chamonix ski slopes

Ski slope in Chamonix

They’ve fired up waste treatment operations and recycled hundreds of tonnes of metal, wood and cardboard. The numbers only increase each year. We don’t say Chamonix skiing is green skiing for no reason.

Not only the resort, but also our Chamonix accommodations takes every aspect of green skiing seriously. Not just for the good of the Alps mountains, but for the good of the world.

Have eco-friendly holidays with local food in Chamonix

If you want to ski green, you also have to be mindful of how you act off the slopes too. Eco-friendly holidays in 2019 are all-compassing: how you ski, how you get there, how you behave and how you eat.

Yes, the main activity in Chamonix is skiing, but you need fuel to keep you going.

How do you factor that into your endeavour to keep your ski holiday green?

Chamonix makes it easy with a wide offer of locally sourced foods. The staple cuisine the Alps mountains tends to be very cheesy and meaty. Almost all of it is local. Even the fish comes from local lakes. But cheese and meat aren’t the most sustainable of foods.

Traditional French food at Chamonix market

Christmas market in Chamonix

Plus, sometimes you want to eat a bit healthier. Many chalets and properties in Chamonix have kitchens where you can cook locally sourced fruit and veg. This gives you the opportunity to check out one of Chamonix’s bustling weekly farmer’s markets. The main farmers’ market is on Saturday mornings at Place du Mont Blanc.

And frankly, it’s not even about having a green ski holiday, is it? A home-cooked, healthy meal often tastes better, too.

Chamonix has super-efficient transport

Chamonix skiing makes the most sense if you want eco-friendly holidays this 2019 snow season. We’ve already covered how easy it is to get to this Alpine treasure by train, but your footprint-reduction journey doesn’t end there.

You can continue reducing your transport-related impact during your ski holidays, too. If you’re staying in town, you can take the Chamonix ski bus. It’s free to anybody with a valid lift pass.

It’s very well connected and you can get to any of the resorts using this bus, for free. Which means you can say goodbye to whatever carbon footprint you’d have from driving there yourself. It’s extremely convenient since it takes you directly to the foot of the lifts.

Chamonix is a super green ski resort

Chamonix has won awards for being such a green ski resort. We already mentioned its Climate & Energy Action Plan and objective to make all holidays eco-friendly holidays. But that’s not all.

This town also became one of only three resorts in the Alpine mountains was deemed worthy of the prestigious Flocon Vert (“Green Snowflake”) sustainability award.

Flocon Vert Award

Flocon Vert award criteria from Mountain Riders

Chamonix tourist office and the Compagnie du Mont-Blanc (the lift operators) achieved ISO 14001 status. That certifies that they follow international environmental management standards. They even go above and beyond and teach other local businesses how to operate greener too.

They really take green ski seriously. They upgraded their snow canon technology to use compressed air instead of chemical additives. Which means Chamonix skiing won’t mean you’re the cause of yucky stuff melting into rivers and destroying the Alps mountains. Many other resorts are still behind on this.

Planning eco-friendly holidays for your 2019 & 2020 ski trip

If imagining a winter without ski holidays makes you want to puke and cry at the same time, we feel you. But imagine something worse: winter holidays without any of the white stuff at all.

Our Chamonix accommodations are a great place to spend your next winter holidays, but there’s a growing number of resorts in the Alps mountains that are following suit. Avoriaz and Saas-Fee have been car-free for quite some time, and the latter is fully powered by renewable hydroelectric energy.

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