Nowadays, a lot of Europeans go on a winter sports vacation. In the Netherlands for example, this number makes 7% of the population, which makes around 900.000 people. In other countries for example Germany or Austria the percentage goes up to 15 or even 36 percent of each’s population. But can winter sports and sustainability actually go hand in hand? It is a fact that winter sports are very pollutive, but the industry is ready to change and the first initiatives to create a greener winter sports experience are starting up. Let’s see what you, as a winter sportslover, could do to make your vacation a bit more sustainable.
Let’s start with what could be the easiest step in becoming a more sustainable skier or snowboarder – buy sustainable equipment. Things that you could pay attention to when buying your equipment are: (1) whether a brand uses eco-friendly materials, (2) whether the item is produced under decent working conditions, (3) whether the company is producing in a sustainable way, e.g. with a focus on reducing water usage or reducing carbon emissions by using local resources, and (4) whether you’re item is durable and could last for a long amount of time.
Choice of destination
Nowadays, there are destinations that try to be as green as possible. The Alpine Pearls, 21 skiing areas in the Alps, for example focus on green ways of transportation and alternative energy use. These areas are easily accessible by public transportation and within the destination you don’t need to make use of a car because the destinations offer shuttle services, free public transportation cards, electric cabs and many more. Vail resorts, on the other hand, have pledged to have zero net emissions and zero net waste to landfill by 2030. Additionally, they want to have zero operating impact on forests and habitats. These are just two examples, but if you do a quick Google search on sustainable winter sports resorts there are more destinations popping up. Things you can pay attention to are for example the use of artificial snow, lifts that run on renewable energy and zero-emission electric busses.
Time of visit
If you have the opportunity to go outside of the high seasons (check school holidays) then do so! By spreading, the crowds could be better managed and the flora and fauna are less overloaded at a time. Additionally, you will not contribute to the mass transportation to the destination which creates traffic jams that cause an increase in emissions. Lastly, be aware that the creation of artificial snow requires an extremely high amount of water and that prolonging the season by using artificial snow pushes flora and fauna away from their natural habitat as it goes against their nature.
Getting to the winter sports resort is one of the largest contributors to skiing emissions. Taking the train or bus accounts for less emissions and therefore is the more sustainable option. There are even so-called winter sports trains that take their passengers to winter sports destinations. Also within the destination you can pay attention to your mode of transportation. If possible go to the slopes by foot and if you are further out you can usually take a local shuttle bus.
Behaviour at the destination
There are still many things you can do once you have arrived at the destination that contribute to a less negative impact on the environment. Here’s what you could do:
- Stay on the slopes at all times and never go off-piste. It is life-threatening (as it can cause avalanches) and it also destroys nature and natural habitats.
- Do not throw rubbish out of the lifts and on the slopes. You would also be annoyed by all that rubbish in that beautiful white snow, right?
- In line with the previous tip, if you do see rubbish on the snow; just pick it up and bin it at a nearby cottage.
- Bring a reusable bottle on your vacation that you can take with you when you go skiing. This way you can reduce your plastic usage and simultaneously stay hydrated at all times.
- Take shorter showers; you sweat a lot during skiing and you are inclined to shower every day. Try to reduce your shower time to an adequate minimum.