Skiing Green

There are plenty of articles you can Google on the internet that tell you which ski resorts are doing a lot to help the environment.

Usually the same names come up, rather giving the impression that the writers have quickly Googled the subject themselves and just copied other similar articles.

Many of the ski areas that are in fact doing the most don’t make these ‘Top 5 or 10 Green Resorts” lists because they haven’t gone out there and marketed their efforts.  

But we’ve tried to dig them all out in our Green Ski Resorts Guide.

Anyway, the implication of these articles is that if you book as ski holiday to one of these ‘green’ resorts your ski holiday will be more environmentally friendly.

Sadly though, that’s not really the case – well, not unless (and this is rarely mentioned in the  articles) you live pretty close to one and get to it by rail or in an electric car.

That’s because studies have shown that by far the biggest impact on the environment we make on a ski trip is not where we go (however ‘green’ or otherwise it is), but how we get there.

Our choice of mode of travel can mean that less than 5% of our ski holiday’s light carbon footprint comes from the travel, to more than 95% of a fairly hefty carbon footprint if we fly half-way around the world to a ‘green’ resort.

There are well meaning articles too with advice like turn off the lights and turn down the heating when you go out, make sure you recycle, and so on.  Again these are well meaning and they’re good advice and good practice, but still these are tiny fractions of your ski holiday CO2 emissions compared to how you travel there.  


  1. Remember that most of the CO2 and methane and other greenhouse gasses that are disproportionately warming the climate in mountainous and northern areas doesn’t originate in the mountains or at the poles, it comes from cities and transport between them.  Most of us are only skiing or boarding one or if we’re lucky two weeks a year so it’s more important we take steps in our day to day lives the other 50 or 51 weeks of the year to cut our CO2 emissions.  If you can switch to green energy, use public transport, eat less meat – all the usual stuff not many of us actually do…laax_1-8_ce-sl-i_5_greenstyle
  2. Looks for the least CO2 emitting modes of travel you can to reach the slopes.  Sadly it’s complicated and there’s a lot of maths involved but basically the more people travel together in as low a CO2 producing mode of transport as possible, the better it works out per person.  So rail usually comes top, but driving by electric car is also good, and if you can’t afford an electric car like most of us then three or four people in a reasonably efficient non-electric car or travelling by coach are also pretty good. Some airlines are slowly cutting down CO2 per passenger but the reality is it’s still going to be way worse than overland travel and if you cross an ocean to ski or boards another continent there’s no way of pretending that’s not the most damaging to the planet.
  3. Carbon offset …has had a lot of bad press as an easy cop out for people and organisations to emit as much CO2 as they like knowing they can pay out for a scheme that kind of cancels out those emissions.  If you think about it the best thing would be to not make these extra emissions in the first place by following points one and two above, but if you’ve done all you can, carbon offsetting the rest is probably better than not doing anything.


Snow Carbon offers advice on rail travel between the UK and the Alps.

Online ski travel agency has a good practical advice section on driving by electric car to the Alps.



(If any of these links are found to be dead please let us know)

This Independent piece written by Simon Birch in 2006 is still pretty relevant.