• 28 February 2020

Ski holidays are immensely popular with travellers from around the world, and with good reason – it is a great way to spend a winter holiday! Heading out on fresh snow to strut your stuff is a thrill unlike any other and the scenery is incredible. Not to mention the cosy cups of hot cocoa and mulled wine enjoyed fireside at the lodge of course!

However, all this fun can come at an environmental cost. This is why many climate-conscious travellers are now making it their mission to find ways to keep their carbon footprint in check when they make their way to winter holiday destinations to break out the skis. 

Here are a few ways to ensure that your winter holidays are fun and eco-conscious if you choose to hit the slopes in 2020 and beyond: 

Steer clear of fake snow 

Natural snowfall has become more sporadic over recent years, which has seen many European ski resorts turn to artificial snow to keep slopes open. However, this practice has been proven to be very harmful to the environment. Here are a few reasons to avoid destinations with artificial snow on your ski holiday:  

  • Fake snow patches covering up balding ski runs which extend the tourist and ski season in certain regions artificially. This places a lot of strain on natural resources (guests use water to cook, shower and do laundry).  
  • It takes between 200 and 600 litres of water to manufacture a square meter of artificial snow during a time when water resources are naturally low. 
  • Because fake snow is made from drinking water and spring water rather than occurring naturally from rainwater, it has a much higher mineral content, which harms species’ diversity by promoting the growth of shrubbery, weeds and woody plants. 
  • Artificial snow is more dangerous as well – it is four times harder than natural snow so there is a far bigger risk of injury if you should fall. 

As such, it makes sense to choose a ski resort that is situated at a higher altitude or in a region and at a time of year when natural snow is most likely. 

Snow making on winter slope.
Snow-making on a winter slope.
Choose your resort with care

Not all ski resorts are created equal – some take far more care to lessen their load on the environment than others. Research the resorts in the region you’d like to visit and take note of the environmental policies of each destination. There is an increasing number of resorts that are taking steps to make their accommodation, ski lifts and buildings in general more energy efficient. These are the businesses you should be supporting if you want to keep it as green as possible. 

Murren, famous Swiss skiing resort
Murren, a famous Swiss skiing resort
Hire ski gear rather than buying

The clothing manufacture industry is one of the major polluting industries in the world. The production and distribution of the crops, fibres, and garments used in fashion all contribute to different forms of environmental pollution, including water, air, and soil pollution. So, if you’re headed on a ski holiday, consider renting your gear instead of buying it, particularly if you’re an occasional skier who may only use it once a year or less.  

The group of skiers prepares to downhill from the Zwolferhorn mountain peak in Austria
A group of skiers prepares to downhill from the Zwolferhorn mountain peak in Austria
Choose train travel over plane travel if possible

While not all family ski holidays originate in Europe, and some folks may have to cross the ocean on a plane to get to the continent, some holidaymakers have the option of using train transport at least part of the way. A 2007 study by ADEME and Mountain Riders discovered that in general, 73% of the emissions produced by ski resorts come from tourist transport.

Here is an interesting finding that was published by Anthesis, a global sustainability activation company, in 2011: If one person should take the train from London to the Alps, their journey would create around 14kg of CO2. If that same person should fly to the resort, with transfers to and from the airport, their journey would create 100kg of CO2. Driving a car there would create 225kg per vehicle. 

Makes a very good argument for taking the train when it’s an option! 

Winter landscape with a wonderful train
Winter landscape with a wonderful train
Be a grownup – don’t litter

One of the simplest ways to keep your carbon footprint in check on snowboarding holidays or ski excursions is to treat Mother Nature with respect. By now, we all know you don’t simply chuck water bottles, chocolate wrappers, and cigarette butts around, yet the slope of ski resorts around the globe are still treated like ashtrays and rubbish bins. Carry your rubbish with you until you reach a place where you can safely discard it, instead of leaving it out on the snow where it will take years to decompose while leaking toxic substances into the soil. 

Here are a few tips to keep your rubbish to a minimum: 

  • If you smoke, carry a pocket ashtray. Also, make it your business to call out smokers who toss their cigarette butts on the ground. 
  • Invest in a flask or reusable water bottle so you don’t need to buy single-use plastic containers for coffee and water every day. 
  • Return your lift pass – most are recyclable. 
  • Bring reusable shopping bags for curios, etc. 
In order to keep the Alps clean of rubbish there are a lot of plastic bags suspenders with trash bins all over
In order to keep the Alps clean of rubbish, there are a lot of plastic bags suspenders with trash bins all over

There you have it – a few top tips that will pave the way for an eco-conscious ski holiday for you and your loved ones. Keep an eye on the blog in the coming weeks and months for more travel inspiration and tips on having the very best winter holidays in 2020 and beyond! 

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