Each year, we are becoming more aware of the impact that climate change is having on Alpine areas. In Switzerland, the air temperature has risen by at least one degree celsius over the past couple of decades, and it isn’t going to stop. Eventually, this will lead to snow and ice cover depleting, and settlements may then be affected by landslides. However, there are steps we can take to slow down this process. By skiing in an eco-friendly manner, we will all be able to ensure that the pistes we so enjoy using will remain forever.
1. Be aware of and reduce the impact of your skiing
The very first step to take to make your ski holidays for eco-friendly is to learn everything you can about the alpine environment and how your activities affect it. For example, did you know that a massive one third of the surface area and half of the density of alpine glaciers was lost between 1850 and 1970? As glaciers are the primary source of many of the main Alpine rivers, if they were to melt there would be many avalanches and river levels would also fall. As the temperature rises by one degree centigrade, the tree line is pushed up by 100 meters, causing a change in the line of succession causing species to go extinct.
There are so many ways in which climate change will affect mountainous environments. However, skiing itself also exacerbates the issue. The friction caused by skiing unsettles the ground surface, and as permafrost melts this will already have become loose. With the abrasive motion of the pistes, landslides and avalanches are even more likely. This also causes erosion, and activities such as heli-skiing can cause discernable damage through impact. Of course, you don’t need to stop skiing, but being careful of fragile areas and wildlife while on the slopes, and off-setting your impact outside of the pistes will help to prevent serious damage.
2. Respect the environment
On a similar note, it is important to be constantly respectful of the environment when skiing. Many areas of ski resorts are prohibited for visitors to enter due to either fragility of the landscape or to protect the natural habitat of wildlife species. Do not enter these areas, as they may be very much prone to the impacts of skiers. Also be sure to either dispose of any rubbish in a bin or take it home, and if you find any litter on the pistes, pick it up. Try to avoid skiing near where you can see animals or what look like habitats, such as nests, as you may scare animals away from the areas where they thrive.
3. Stay with an eco-friendly tour operator
When you book with a tour operator, many of the aspects of planning your ski trips are taken on by the company. This is great for you, as the whole process becomes far less stressful. However, it does mean you don’t get to make every decision, so you must be proactive in ensuring that your holiday is eco-friendly. Ask your tour operator if they use paper from sustainable forests for their brochures, if they install low-wattage lightbulbs in their luxury chalet accommodation and bio-degradable detergents when cleaning. There are now a wide range of resorts that are environmentally conscious, and use solar panels and other forms of green energy to power their business. Simply ask about their procedures and discuss how you can make your stay more efficient.
4. Travel ‘green’
There are ways that you can make your ski trip more sustainable before you have even arrived. Try to look for transport routes where you can minimise your airmiles to reduce your carbon emissions. You could take a shorter flight, or simply take a train part of the way to significantly reduce the gases your flight emits into the environment. This will reduce greenhouse gases, noise pollution and environmental stress. Then, when you are at the resort, try your best to limit the amount of car journeys you make. Perhaps hire a bike or simply walk. This is a beautiful way to experience the stunning surroundings whilst having no detrimental impact on the landscape. Whatever fuel you do use perhaps you could offset by planting a few trees when you return home and switching to eco-friendly cleaning fluids.
5. Look after the environment at home
However, it’s not just when you are in the ski resort that you can minimise your contribution towards climate change. There are a whole range of small changes you can make every single day to make your lifestyle more ‘green’. For example, reusing towels, wearing clothes more than once, recycling household rubbish and always turning off electrical appliances and light switches will have a significant impact on shrinking your carbon footprint. Many of these practises are beneficial in many ways. For example, insulating your cavity walls could cut your energy bills by almost half – aiding the environment and your bank balance. Also try to walk and cycle instead of driving whenever possible. This is more environmentally friendly, cheaper and is better for your health! Then when you head off on your next skiing trip you will be that bit more capable of succeeding on the slopes.
By taking these simple steps you can enjoy a brilliant ski holiday whilst resting in the knowledge that you have not had a negative impact on the natural area that you hope to return to each year, allowing it to truly last a lifetime.