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Ski resorts commit to green mobility

28.02.2020

Inadequate access roads, traffic jams, pollution and spoiled landscapes are prompting ski resorts to employ increasingly creative tactics to address the mobility challenge.

Every year, from end-November to mid-April, the same scenario plays out at the foot of the ski hills: long lines of cars creep along in single file, waiting hours before reaching their final destination. Due to insufficient parking and access-road capacity, over the past several years ski resorts have been focusing on introducing alternative solutions to the car. The aim is to make it easier for holidaymakers to get around, while reducing their impact on the environment.

Trains at the foot of the slopes, specialized carpooling

“Customers often tell us that it’s not necessarily the cost of the ski trip that makes them hesitate but the fact that it’s too complicated to get to the resort,” says Laurent Vaucher, CEO of Téléverbier, the company that operates the Swiss resort Verbier. To tackle this problem, Verbier has introduced a 300-seat train linking Geneva airport and Châble, the village lying below the resort. Inaugurated on December 23, the line operates on Saturday and Sunday. The goal is to bring passengers directly from the platform to the slopes, thereby saving time and avoiding traffic, congestion and stress. More and more Swiss resorts are looking to rail as a way of improving access. Leysin, for example, has decided to move its train station to the foot of the ski area, while Fiesch has built a station that includes access to a gondola lift. Carpooling is another alternative. The online platform Skivoiturage connects riders and drivers heading to the same ski destination, while global leader BlaBlaCar offers special deals in partnership with resorts. Its offer with Ax 3 Domaines in the Ariège region, for example, provides a 10% discount on ski passes and a reserved parking space at the foot of the slopes to drivers who have transported three other people in their car.

Reducing CO2 emissions

Faced with problematic access, climate concerns and an increasing scarcity of land, ski resorts have set their sights on collective transportation. According to the trade association Domaines Skiables de France, “57% of a ski resort’s greenhouse gas emissions are related to the skiers’ mode of transportation from their home to the resorts”. Green transportation and electric mobility are thus being taken seriously. In addition, these solutions could help ski resorts obtain Flocon Vert certification. Similar to the Blue Flag label for coastal areas, Flocon Vert certifies that mountain destinations comply with rigorous sustainable development standards.

New cable car systems are popping up in many mountain areas. In the Pyrenees, the Skyvall line connecting Louron Valley to the Peyragudes resort came into operation last August. The three-kilometer line climbs to an elevation of 700 meters in less than nine minutes and has an operating capacity of 800 passengers per hour. In less than one year, the system has eliminated 89,000 car journeys and 274 metric tons of CO2. Another cable transportation system that will soon be seeing the light of day will carry skiers from the village of Allemont to the slopes of Oz-en-Oisans in only eight minutes. Its capacity is set at 1,100 people per hour.

Cable cars, autonomous shuttles, E-Bikes

The use of electrical vehicles is also booming. Valberg has introduced Auto-Valberg, a 10‑vehicle carsharing program designed to improve traffic flows and cut CO2 emissions by 13.5 metric tons annually. The fare is €6 per trip or €60 for the season. Les Deux Alpes and Val Thorens have invested in electric, driverless autonomous shuttles. The vehicles have a battery life of eight hours and a top speed of 25 km/h. They can carry 15 passengers – 11 seated and four standing – and are suited for people with reduced mobility. Most importantly, for the first time the vehicles are equipped with four-wheel drive and snow tires, enabling them to negotiate 20% slopes covered in snow.

Mobility on the slopes

Electric bicycles are another green option favored by mountain resorts. Verbier has acquired around 100 E-Bikes with either big tires or small chains, which can be used by tourists to travel between the valley and the resort. Getslib, a bike-share scheme specifically adapted to mountain conditions, has been rolled out at Les Gets. The fare is €1 for 30 minutes. Courchevel and Les Deux Alpes have introduced Segway gyropods which, unlike snowmobiles, have snow tires that are silent. The non-polluting vehicles are popular among tourists, particularly after a day of skiing. New mobility solutions are even making their way to the slopes. Skiflux, a monitoring system used at Val Thorens, provides real-time information on traffic conditions on the ski trails. It is ideal for skiers wishing to avoid the crowds, and it enables maintenance crews to plan grooming and snow production operations according to traffic levels.

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