Big Sky Thinking
National Geographic Traveller (UK)|Winter Sports 2022
Can skiing be eco-friendly? Perhaps, say the resorts upping their sustainability game and nurturing dreams of a carbon-neutral future
By Kerry Walker

When you’re carving up a well-groomed piste, inhaling the crisp winter air and peering up at snow-encrusted mountains, it’s easy to forget your eco-footprint. Ski resorts have traditionally fared poorly on the environmental front: flattening forests, causing erosion and uprooting wildlife; and using snow canons and piste bashers that guzzle precious energy and water. Some say the damage is done before you even hit the slopes, with skiers jetting in for a few days of downhill fun and each flight taking its irreversible toll.

The impact of climate change is undeniable on piste. Winters are getting shorter. Temperatures and snow levels are rising, having a direct knock-on effect on low-level resorts, some of which are now up to 80% artificially snowed. According to the Copernicus Climate Change Service, winter 2020 was the warmest on record: 3.4C hotter than the 1981-2010 average. Continue at this rate, experts say, and there’ll be no snow in 100 years time. The message is clear: change or face a future without skiing. Some ski resorts are taking note, just in the nick of time.

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