How Green is Your Ski Trip?
24th January 2023 | Jane Peel, Morzine, France
Last modified on March 17th, 2023
More and more of us want to do our bit to help the environment, but a trip to the mountains for snowsports is far from ‘green’. Morzine in France, however, claims to be a resort with a conscience, and is keen to promote itself as an eco-friendly ski town. We’re there to find out more.
I’m in Morzine in mid-January just as the biggest snowstorm of the winter dumps up to half a metre of snow on the slopes.
Little sign of global warming now, the sceptics would no doubt say.
But if I’d been here a week or two earlier these slopes would have been snowless.
Unusually high temperatures and torrential rain washed away the snow that had fallen in December.
Morzine, a town that sits at the relatively low altitude of 1,000 metres, is more vulnerable to rising temperatures than higher resorts.
OK, it sits in the vast Portes du Soleil domain with skiing up to 2,500m, but it would dearly love to have snow like this on its own local pistes and down to base level throughout the winter.
So it’s not surprising that there’s a real impetus to play its part in tackling climate change as well as improving the environment for locals and visitors.
The resort was awarded the ‘Flocon Vert’ in 2021 to reflect its commitment to preserving the alpine landscape with short and long-term environment projects.
According to the Morzine Tourist Office, one of the leading environmental-friendly accommodation providers is AliKats, a chalet company owned and run by a British couple, Al and Kat Judge.
“We always had a desire to respect the environment and I would say that since 2018 we stepped it up,” Al tells PlanetSKI.
“In the last couple of years we have got our own house in order.”
They’ve gradually been ending their contracts with chalet owners whose properties don’t meet their environmental standards.
Of the 12 chalets they’re operating this season, 11 have air source heat pumps or are fully electric.
Five years ago, roughly 60% of the company’s carbon emissions were from oil-fired heating.
Now they have only one chalet with oil-fired heating.
All their food is sourced locally where possible from suppliers who can demonstrate ethical credentials.
Some is provided by Al and Kat themselves, including eggs from their chickens, vegetables and fruit from their garden.
And there’s zero food waste.
What’s not eaten goes into a special bin for anaerobic decomposition and is later added to compost for their garden beds.
Clients are also encouraged to do their bit.
Each guest is asked if they would like to make a 9 Euro voluntary contribution to offset the carbon emissions caused by their travel to resort.
The money is invested in environmental projects.
And in January, AliKats has offered up to 20% off for guests who planned to travel by train, opted for a plant-based diet and agreed not to use the hot tub.
Al and Kat are also President and Vice President of the Morzine-based environmental non-profit association, Montagne Verte, which was founded by concerned locals in 2019.
Its aim is to turn the region into the most sustainable tourism destination in the Alps.
It has a popular shop in the centre of town selling donated ‘pre-loved’ ski and other gear.
Increasingly, local businesses are getting involved and making environmental pledges.
From restaurants to the Bec Jaune micro brewery, which brews and sells its own beer at its town centre bar.
But perhaps my favourite environmental initiative in Morzine is one that concerns wildlife protection and preservation.
It can be experienced here only in the winter.
The Aigles du Léman have set up aviaries housing birds of prey on the mountain at the Pointe de Nyon, accessible on skis, snowboards or on foot from the Nyon gondola.
Eva Meyrier lives on site, caring for the birds and passing on her passion and knowledge.
Their main base is at Sciez on Lac Léman (aka Lake Geneva) where they have 80 different species – the largest collection in Europe.
Last year they started a 10-year re-introduction programme for the White-Tailed Sea Eagle (so called because it’s a fish eater, not because it lives by the sea).
Extinct in the wild for 130 years, 4 birds have been born and successfully released so far.
Look out for more of these in the future if the project continues to go to plan……
There are 13 birds of prey in the aviaries from a little owlet to an Andean Condor.
Meet Yule, the Snowy Owl, whose cousin is Hedwig of Harry Potter fame.
I had hoped to race an eagle down the piste – the bird travels up on the chairlift with its handler and is then released to race the skier down the mountain.
Sadly, it was too snowy and windy for the birds to fly outdoors.
But I did get to feed a mighty American Bald Eagle.
Wow, what an experience that was.
And certainly not what I expected to be doing in the middle of a ski trip.