Sustainability and Skiing

Editor’s note: this article is pre-covid and unfortunately we haven’t been skiing recently, however we find the topic relevant in covid-times and this winter more than ever could be a great opportunity to explore ski touring!

After a recent weekend spent skiing in Ponte di Legno – Tonale in Italy, and then subsequently coming across this article (written in Italian) by Paolo Cognetti, author of The Eight Mountains, I’ve been thinking more and more about the topic of sustainability and skiing.

Firstly I want to recognise that even being able to go skiing in the mountains is a privilege, however what the above mentioned article points out, and what my latest trip to the ski slopes brought to light, is the discussion regarding sustainability in the mountains and how much is too much? How many people? How high up the mountains can we go? How can we enjoy the mountains but have a more sustainable experience and take care of our surroundings?

As our world is more and more obviously affected by climate change, the ‘need’ for higher altitude skiing in order to find snow means that the resorts are creeping up the mountainside and with it the structures and energy needed to accommodate us and get us up to the top of the slopes.

What the mentioned article outlines is that perhaps we can find more simple, and ultimately sustainable ways to enjoy this exhilarating sport, complimenting the surroundings, rather than dominating them. The author suggests that maybe the best or only way to ski down the mountains is to walk up and ski down along the mountain paths, enjoying the mountains in their majesty. This approach is described as elitist by some as it insinuates that only those experienced enough to navigate the mountains would be able to enjoy them, implying that the mountains shouldn’t be accessible to all. This is potentially a little simplistic, for example a great starting point could be to explore ski touring with an experienced mountain guide.

It’s certainly food for thought, and after having spent time in Passo Tonale, in the Val Camonica province of Italy, where the ski lifts were lined up next to each other, I am more convinced that ski touring could be an incredible way to experience skiing. As much as I love the activity itself, the part I love the most is the feeling of being on an adventure, weaving through the snow-covered trees, stumbling upon beautiful vistas and the ever-present mountaintops cutting through the skies. That said, I am in no way an experienced skier nor mountaineer, taking into consideration winter and its various risks, such as avalanches.

So with that in mind, and recognising that we are both novices in the mountains, Zoë and I are both planning to find out more about guided ski touring. Please feel free to send us any tips and we’ll keep you posted about our findings.

In the meantime we’ve come up with some ways to have a more sustainable skiing holiday:

  1. Pick a sustainable ski resort. As climate change is affecting the amount of snow each year, resorts have to consider snow blowers, transport, and general infrastructure. A more sustainable resort might mean one that’s using reusable energy to power the ski lifts, electric buses to move skiers around or low energy snow blowers.
  2. Pick up rubbish on the mountain, whether it’s yours or not, and dispose of it properly.
  3. Turn down the heating a little more in your accommodation and add another layer instead. Every little helps.
  4. Bring a reusable bottle on your snow adventures. Avoid single use plastic bottles.
  5. Support sustainable skiwear brands. Wrap up and hit the slopes in stylish and sustainable gear.

Let us know your thoughts on sustainability and skiing in the comments below.

Emily x x x

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