Strapping your feet onto slippy planks and hurtling yourself down a mountain isn’t most people’s idea of a good time. But as many mountain-goers know, there is nothing like sitting at the summit of a mountain and with just your own legs, those slippery planks and gravity you fly down. And for those lucky enough to live in these majestic places, their livelihoods depend on the snow-sports industry.
However, snow-sports are at the front line when it comes to the effects of climate change. From summer forest fires and droughts, to reduced snowfall and early melting, resorts are really feeling the heat. And supporting ecosystems, forests and hydrological systems are also showing poor vital signs.
Luckily, more and more mountain communities are taking action on climate change themselves and encouraging visitor to follow suite. Here are five of the awesomest resorts taking action.
1. Werfenweng, Austria
Werfenweng is home to the biggest solar farm in Austria, and it’s one of only two places in the Alps offering carbon-neutral holidays. But their greatest claim to carbon cutting glory is their sustainable transport. When visitors arrive, they’re encouraged to hand over their car keys. In exchange they can travel with a free taxi service, hire cross-country skiing equipment, ride in horse drawn carriage and even trek across the mountains with llamas. No, this isn’t a Disney film, but like an Alpine Cinderella, you really can swap your tin box for a horse and carriage!
2. The Three Valleys, France
The Three Valleys itself is huge, with eight resorts, 166 ski lifts and 2,000 snow cannons, so there’s a lot to power! Luckily the Alps is known as the Water Table of Europe so it comes as no surprise that their main energy source is hydropower. In addition to harnessing Alpine water power, they have a free bus service, no-car villages and have installed more efficient lifts and snow groomers. Très bien.
3. Valais, Switzerland
If you look really closely, you may just spot little white pods hidden amongst the idyllic Swiss mountains. These aren’t giant snowballs, they’re alpine eco-housing for visitors to glamp in style! As well as looking awesome, their geometric shape super insulates the space, so all the heat from your own personal log fire is kept in.
4. Alta Badia, Italy
Alta Badia in northern Italy is home to a very special ski lift that uses no fossil fuels at all. It is in fact horse powered. Not the imperial unit of power, but literally powered by horses. Across a particularly flat area of snow, skiers and boarders hold onto a rope, which is attached to a sleigh and pulled by two hearty Noriker horses. Although it’s perhaps not the most effective of carbon cuts, it certainly wins points for originality.
5. Berkshire East, USA
Back in 2008, family run Berkshire East resort was faced with a toxic combination of increased air pollution, rising fuel bills and poorer quality snow. So in true climate-action spirit they rolled up their thermal sleeves and went 100% renewable! They built a 277ft tall turbine and installed around 2000 solar panels. Berkshire East is the first and only 100% renewable powered ski resort.
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Photo: Kees Wolthoorn Creative Commons