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French Piste Bashers Turn Green

All 250 ski resorts in France will introduce hydrogen-powered piste bashers as part of a commitment to going carbon neutral by 2037.

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The pledge was one of 16 made by the national professional body for lift companies, the Domaines Skiables de France.

The organisation says diesel snow groomers account for 94% of the CO2 emissions of French ski resorts with the operation of ski lifts (4%) and snowmaking equipment (2%) making up the rest.

The figures do not take account of the CO2 produced by the 7 million-plus skiers and snowboarders who visit French resorts each year, 25% of whom travel from outside France.

The President of Domaines Skiables de France, says he expects the first hydrogen-powered snow groomer to be on the market within five years.

“Yes, we are a source of pollution, the ski area, we’re going to deal with it,” Alexandre Maulin told a news conference.

“The first work will be to help with production of hydrogen-powered snow groomers. It’s a priority for all the manufacturers.”

Groomed piste in Meribel, France

Groomed piste in Meribel, France

The biggest resorts generally replace their piste bashers every five years with the smaller ski areas going so every 10 years.

Maulin said this meant the country’s entire fleet of grooming machines could be switched to hydrogen-power over a decade, following testing of the new kit.

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In the meantime, there are some other measures in place to reduce the environmental damage of piste preparation.

About 50 French ski areas currently have a total of around 200 groomers equipped with on-board GPS equipment to assess snow depth.

GPS controlled piste groomer in Ischgl, Austria

Snow groomer with GPS technology

It allows the measurement of snow depth to the nearest centimetre which helps determine exactly where artificial snow is needed and where it’s not.

“Courchevel has thus reduced its production of artificial snow by 15%, its fuel consumption by 8% and the hours of grooming by 5%,” says the Domaines Skiables de France in its report to the press.

It adds that at least 48 ski lift companies have committed to reduce their CO2 emissions by exclusively sourcing renewable energy such as hydroelectric, wind and solar energy.

Domaines Skiables de France environment pledge

Domaines Skiables de France environment pledge

In 2019, one of the major grooming machine manufacturers, Pisten Bully, unveiled the world’s first electric snow groomer.

But it’s looking as if hydrogen could be the new kid on the piste.

World's first electric piste basher unveilved May 2019

World’s first electric piste basher unveiled May 2019

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