Every year someone says it. “This will be the best winter yet.” This weather system, last year’s poor snow and the fact that the weather man is wearing his lucky socks MUST mean record snow and a white Christmas for everyone! This year is no exception. Apparently El Niño is on the way to dump the mother-load in our finest European peaks and we’ll all be waist deep in pow before you can say snow chains.
However, after hearing this sort of prediction year after year and not always receiving the goods, I can tell you that winter does what it wants and you just have to ride it out – whatever the weather.
Last season, in the French Alps, we were lucky to ski Christmas day with resort scraping enough snow together to open in time. And it wasn’t just the Alps that suffered, changing conditions across the world’s ski resorts saw restricted opening times and snow cannons working overtime across the globe.
Many argue that the changing climate is robbing us of the cold winters we hope for. Warmer winters are seeing reduced snowfall and effecting the glaciers we rely on for high level skiing. In fact over the next 50 years we could lose a large percentage of ski resorts that we count on to provide reliable snow! This is something that worries the tourism industry worldwide and measures are being taken by some to slow down or prevent such effects.
For one, I really hope that this is not the case, but I agree it’s hard to ignore the effects of global warming. For that reason, I am trying to ‘ski eco’. Which, as it turns out, is much easier to do than one might think.
So here are my top tips for giving winter a fighting chance; where to ski, where to stay and what to wear, so that we can keep shredding for generations to come!
Where to stay?
Eco ski chalets are becoming more and more popular in the ever competitive world of attracting winter holiday makers. When before the description of your hotel would boast a Jacuzzi as part of the deal, luxury food and warm, comfortable rooms, now it may well mention that the Jacuzzi is solar powered, the food is locally sourced and the building is ‘well insulated’. Eco is fashionable, desirable and sustainable!
Here are two of my top eco places to stay:
Monte Rosa Mountain Refuge, Zermatt, Switzerland. This futuristic mountain refuge sits at 2,883m above sea level, waiting to welcome up to 120 guests whether they are hikers, tourers or tourists. It uses local wood in its construction and takes 90% of power from the sun. The hut sources its water from melting glaciers which is collected and stored in a large reservoir 40 meters above the hut.
Aravis Lodge, Saint Jean de Sixt, France.
The Aravis Lodge (Ski Weekender) holds a special place in my heart. This 100 year old, 17 roomed chalet-hotel is where I worked my first ever winter. Also then my second and third –I really liked it there. Located in Saint Jean de Sixt, a small village between two ski resorts (Le Grand Bornand and La Clusaz) the hotel boasts an in house ski room, gym, sauna and massage room. And yes, it’s an eco-chalet! Waste is recycled and composted, the food is Fair trade, local, and free range. The heating and warm water is also helped along by solar panels.
Where to ski?
Yes that’s right, there are such things as eco ski resorts! Despite their location and close relationship with the outdoors, ski resorts are not typically the most eco places. They require a lot of energy to power their lifts, restaurants and piste keeping machinery. But there are some resorts out there that try hard to respect their snow…
For example Kaprun in Austria uses renewable solar energy to power their chair lifts! Places like Avoriaz in France and Zermatt in Switzerland are also car free resorts. Aspen in Colorado provides enough solar power that it can power 20 homes and is dedicated to reducing its carbon emissions.
What products to use and wear?
Picture Organic clothing
“Ride for Future”
Picture have long been one of my favourite brands. Managing to link together great looking clothing and strong morals you can wear their products with the knowledge that you are doing some good for the planet. As a brand they are constantly pushing to make their product more environmentally friendly. Here are just a few of the measures they go to, to make themselves one of the world’s leading eco companies:
-Material cut offs from production are integrated into the liners of new clothing which saves them being discarded and burned which would then have a negative carbon impact.
-They choose more environmentally efficient ways of transporting their goods from factory to the shop floor.
-100% of the technical products are made of at least 50% of recycled polyester.
– 100% of the Picture products are made out of biological cotton certified GOTS (Global Organic textile standard) or Organic Exchange.
-The Picture recycling programme then allows customers to give something back personally. Instead of throwing away your beloved, worn out jacket, take it back into store and Picture will recycle it and give it a new life! In fact they’ll do this with any of their end of life fabric products and even old skateboards!
So, inspired to ride for the future too? This barely scratches the surface of the good work they’re doing. Head over to their website to find your new winter look!
Everyone’s got their favourite go faster solution for their skis or board. A well cared for set of planks will keep you moving and give them a long happy life.
For me the process of ski care is a therapeutic one. Cleaning down the bases before melting the wax over and smoothing it in can kill a good amount of time of a cold winter evening. One of the key things for me is knowing that I’m looking out for the snow as well as my skis when I use a product –plus it smells amazing!
Butta have a wide range of products that cater for ski and surf enthusiasts. With an aim to reduce their carbon footprint and preserve the places we love to shred, they are now stocked in quality retailers all over the world. Despite this, every block of wax is handmade and packaged by them in their office which is 90% solar-powered office. Which also happens to be on a peacock farm in Surrey, which is just cool.
Butta Eco is a 100% environmentally friendly wax with no flouro-carbons (nasty chemically things). The company also endorses Green Stuff. A totally eco cleaning agent for the bottom of you board or skis.
Think about how much rubbish we leave behind with standard, high chemical waxes and cleaners. The chemicals found in these kind of products can be very damaging if consumed so imagine what they could do to the wildlife when it reaches the ground and local water sources when the snow’s all gone. Butta Eco avoids this completely and really should be the number one choice for the eco-friendly skier!
Head over their website to find out more!
Bamboo is one of the most sustainable materials on our planet. Growing at a rate of almost 4 cm (1.5 in) an hour you can’t cut it down quick enough! It also absorbs significantly more carbon dioxide and produces more oxygen than any other plant. This is something that the company Poleplant have tapped into and are running with in all the right directions. Hand crafted in the French Alps you can customize your own pair of ski poles, choosing the color of your handles and baskets. You can even get them engraved with a phrase or image of your choice! AND you can be safe in the knowledge that you are buying eco!
The pole itself is a strong piece of bamboo cane (At least 2x stronger than traditional aluminium poles under constant load). Each one is different from the next so your poles really are one of a kind. A pair of these became one of my pre-season purchases and I wasn’t disappointed. Arriving with standard and powder baskets to be fitted as I choose, they look as different and cool as I was hoping! I look forward to giving them a try when the season starts.
*If you’re interested in getting a pair head over to their website and have a look.
So there you have it! Where to ski, where to stay and what to use to make yourself an eco-skier. Just a few small changes could make the difference we need to keep on skiing on for generations to come.