On the face of it hurtling down a mountain amidst all of it’s natural splendour under your own power appears to be making the most of the environment. It isn’t. Getting there has had an environmental impact. According to SnowCarbon a typical round trip to the Alps from London by plane produces around 180kg of CO2 per person, whilst an average car will produce 450kg of CO2. The round trip by rail, in contrast, would produce only 20kg of CO2 per person.
Here are the climate impact per passenger kilometre in grammes of CO2 for various means of travel as reported by the Swiss Public Transport Association and TimeforaChange: long distance rail 7, regional rail 13, motor coach 53, regional bus 107, passenger car 187, air 375.
Snow Carbon provide rail-based holidays to a number of Swiss Resorts. Ski Freshtracks from the Ski Club of Great Britain offer environmentally-friendly holiday options, and Crystal, include an optional carbon offset fee to make their flights carbon-neutral. Responsible Travel provide a large number of eco-friendly holidays, including winter sports in Switzerland.
There are also some eco-friendly places to stay once you get to the resorts. Perhaps the best example is Whitepod above Villars.
In the resort itself there is much that can be done to reduce the environmental impact. Put plastic bottles in PET waste rather than regular waste, use recycle facilities wherever possible and avoid littering the slopes. Thomas Allement, project leader of the Summit Foundation, quoted in SwissInfo said of the areas around the bottom of ski lifts: “You can find up to 30,000 cigarette ends at such places… and when you know that depending on where each one is it can pollute up to 500 litres of water, you can imagine the impact that has. And remember they can find their way into the intestines of fish, cows etc., it’s a whole ecosystem that’s affected.”.
Many parts of Switzerland, such as Lenzerheide and Engelberg, have resisted pressure to create “mega resorts” because of environmental concerns. And many resorts have adopted environmental measures to reduce the environmental impact of tourism. The Ski Club of Great Britain publishes a register, provided by SaveourSnow, of many resorts and their environmental credentials. In summary, based on a checklist of recycling, green power user, traffic reduction, sewage properly managed, climate policy and green building policy, these are the ratings of Swiss resorts in the register:
It’s a very rough guide to environmental measures and I recommend you sign up to the Ski Club or SaveourSnow to find out more. Summit Riders also provides a guide to the environmental policies of Swiss resorts here.