Around the world, ski resorts are working towards a more sustainable tourism and the preservation of their environment. Our properties at the foot of the slopes are also working in this direction. Find out how in our first sustainability report.
Read our first sustainability report
Mountain regions are under the effects of climate change and the activity of winter sports resorts has an impact on the environment, from the consumption of water and energy to the generation of waste and road traffic, as well as the impact on the fauna, flora and topography of the landscape. Here is a selection of 10 resorts that are working towards a more sustainable tourism, from the Alps to the Rockies, including the Dolomites and the Great Scandinavian North. Their actions mark the first steps in a process of continuous improvement that is essential for the preservation of the planet and its ecosystems.
The Chamonix-Mont-Blanc Valley, aware of how fragile its natural wonders are, plans to become “a laboratory for energy and ecological transition.” In 2022, it once again earned “Flocon Vert” certification from the non-profit organization Mountain Riders, demonstrating two remarkable strengths: teaching sustainable development in schools and conducting an energy-consumption assessment of the resort’s various activities – performed since 2014 by La Compagnie du Mont-Blanc (the ski lift company) – to reduce energy use.
An initiative: These assessments of the Les Houches ski area helped identify avifauna wintering grounds. To protect this habitat and create a quiet zone for the birds, a 2500-foot rope perimeter is put in place each winter to limit off-piste skiing there, which is increasingly respected by area skiers.
A Relais & Châteaux property: In 2023, the Hameau Albert Ier celebrates its 120th anniversary. The former “Pension du Chemin de Fer” came into being with the arrival of the train and now provides a superb reason to plan your visit using this eco-friendly form of transportation.
In 2021, the resort celebrated its 75th anniversary and was already making plans for its 100th! “Courchevel 2046” is a policy roadmap drawn up by the present town hall, committing to a sustainable, economically viable model. Between June 2021 and June 2022, an analysis was performed on climate change’s impacts on the resort and the results were revealed in an illuminating drilldown report. The Société des 3 Vallées (S3V), operator of the world’s largest ski area, runs its lifts entirely on 100%-renewable energy from solar panels.
An initiative: The S3V has set up an Environmental Observatory to study the ski area’s impact on the endemic fauna and flora. It is also re-turfing remodeled runs and trails using seeds from local plant species.
A Relais & Châteaux property: The legendary, pristine-white Le Chabichou was renovated in 2019 and is right at the foot of the slopes.
Lech Zürs, Austria
In the 1960s, resisting the trend of unchecked tourism development, Lech had a single motto: “Quality, not quantity.” From 1978 to 2000, refusing to allow the village to lose its soul, Skilifte Lech hosted international conferences on environmental issues and conducted scientific assessments, thereby becoming a pioneer. In 1997, the Austrian resort modified the operating model for its ski area and its efforts were rewarded with several important certifications (ISO 9001, ISO 14001).
An initiative: Skilifte Lech incorporates agriculture in the plan to protect alpine flora, revegetating the high-altitude slopes and acclimatizing a Scottish cow breed that lives at the summit. The Schottenhof Farm, built at an altitude of 5,775 feet, has become a model in alpine agriculture and the farm’s cows are the benign stewards of the landscape.
A Relais & Châteaux property: The Post Lech Arlberg, a historic inn at the resort’s center, entrusts a local company with its weekly compost materials to turn them into electricity and gas for the community.
Though Kitzbühel is world-renowned for its legendary Streif slope, it also has a notable neighbor: SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser-Brixental, the first ski facility to run on renewable hydroelectric energy, as it has for two decades, and one of the largest eco-friendly ski areas in the world. Kitzbühel and SkiWelt have been connected since last year.
An initiative: In 2010, the Austrian Alpine Club invested 2.4 million euros to bring its mountain refuges up to ecological standards. In Tyrol, three-quarters of these establishments are now ecolabel-certified.
A Relais & Châteaux property: The Tennerhof Gourmet & Spa de Charme Hotel, a former 15th-century farmhouse, is the resort’s smallest five-star establishment. A number of hiking trails start right from the hotel and lead visitors to unique panoramic views of Kitzbühel and the surrounding peaks.
When people think of Zermatt, they often think of the Matterhorn, that emblematic mountain profile sometimes called “the peak of the meadows.” But something else stands out at this resort: It is utterly car-free. People travel on foot or by horse-drawn carriage, electric taxi, shuttle-train, or mountain bike when the weather’s fine. Automobile traffic stops at Täsch, three miles away, as the road cuts off there and you must leave your vehicle in a parking lot.
An initiative: The Gornergrat Bahn, Switzerland’s first electric rack railway, has been linking Zermatt and Gornergrat since 1898, initially as a way to effortlessly admire the Matterhorn glacier. Since it was first built, the Gornergrat Bahn cars going uphill have been powered by the energy generated during their downhill runs. Three descending trains produce enough energy for one to two ascending trains.
A Relais & Châteaux property: The Chalet Hotel Schönegg overlooks the Matterhorn, a peak with one foot in Switzerland, the other in Italy, offering a mountain experience in which two alpine cultures meet.
The Dolomites, with their jagged profile and pale rock, are one of Europe’s most recognizable mountain ranges. You can gaze upon this geological curiosity when skiing in parts of the Val Gardena and the vast Dolomiti Superski. Alto Adige or South Tyrol is an exceptional region in Italy that has always worked to protect its natural and cultural treasures. The most important of these efforts is water management, preserving a priceless resource that is well worth defending.
An initiative: In 2021, the pilot project Rispetta la Montagna (Respect the Mountains) – aimed at tourist operators, visitors, and residents – increased everyone’s responsibility when it comes to waste and water: The two are inextricably linked, with everything eventually ending up in the waterways. Giuliano Vettorato, Alto Adige Provincial Councilor for the environment, explains, “We have excellent-quality tap water, but not everyone knows that, so they buy bottled water, often in plastic. What’s the best way to manage waste? Don't create any.” By 2019, the “Plastic-Free Dolomites” program had already identified and mapped all the drinking-water sources on the trails.
A Relais & Châteaux property: In the charming village of Ortisei, the Gardena Grödnerhof Hotel & Spa invites you to follow its hiking guide Emanuel Demetz on fascinating snowshoe hikes. He will teach you how to identify animal tracks in the snow without disturbing them: you’ll feel as if you were nature’s guest.
Reit im Winkl, Germany
In 1956, this Bavarian village was identified as a wellbeing resort by virtue of its healthy climate, particularly the air quality. The village embraces its role as steward of such natural treasures, now limiting emissions and regularly testing the air quality to consistently live up to its reputation. Hiking trails start directly from the village, meaning cars can be left behind. People continue to come to Reit im Winkl just to breathe the pure mountain air.
An initiative: People also come to admire the unpolluted sky by night. The IDA (International Dark-Sky Association) has ranked Reit im Winkl as among the darkest, cleanest skies, as the policy of minimized electric lighting lets the dark of night settle over the land unhindered.
A Relais & Châteaux property: At Gut Steinbach Hotel Chalets Spa, you will share the 126 acres of meadows and forest with deer, yaks, pigs, poultry, goats, rabbits, and more. Klaus Graf von Molke took over this former farm in 2011 and has since earned organic certification, making his long-cherished dream come true: giving back to the land what the land gives him.
Scandinavia is where skiing was born! For aren’t the very origins of the word (skidh) Norwegian? Which is why we’re headed due north to the Sunnmøre Alps to rediscover the first type of ski, designed as a means of transportation. We’ll put seal skins under our touring skis to ascend slowly in the muffled silence, moving with the rhythm of our breath, with the rhythm of nature. Our gaze will sweep upward to the hundred peaks above and downward into the fjords.
A Relais & Châteaux property: There is no ski resort here per se, but there is the Union Øye Hotel, a Relais & Châteaux property at the ends of the earth. It’s the ideal location for ski touring in one of the world’s most epic backcountry skiing destinations. Still raw, remote and uncharted. Among these steep and rugged peaks is where you’ll find the thrill seekers.
Lake Louise, Canada
Can skiing and wildlife truly coexist in the Canadian Rockies? Lake Louise Ski Resort believes they can. The facility has a year-round department devoted exclusively to environmental matters, with a dedicated director and a biologist specializing in the study of fauna and flora. The objective is to protect biodiversity and wildlife. LLSR focuses especially on protecting the habitat of grizzly bears, as habitat loss is the greatest threat to wildlife in the world. Banff National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
An initiative: To ensure ecological integrity as part of the resort’s Long-Range Plan, Lake Louise Ski Resort has exchanged skiable terrain for areas of high-value wildlife habitat. Portions covered by the original lease, such as Purple and Wolverine Bowl, were returned to Parks Canada, with some 1,653 acres of ecologically sensitive land and grizzly bear habitat already restored to the Banff National Park.
A Relais & Châteaux property: The riverside Post Hotel & Spa is just five minutes from the Lake Louise Ski Resort and offers much more than just skiing, as you can also skate on a frozen lake or explore the countryside on a sleighride.
Aspen, United States
Welcome to Colorado! If you want to ski in the Rockies, this is one of America’s most-renowned ski areas. The Aspen Skiing Company embraces a clear philosophy: “If we legitimately care about our own impact, we need to figure out a way to do clean energy in some fashion that isn’t token.”
An initiative: In the busy year of 2012, the Aspen Skiing Company committed to renewable energy by converting waste methane from a coal plant into electricity to power the resort, including the ski area, hotels, and restaurants. In real emission terms, it has achieved the equivalent of removing 517,000 passenger vehicles from the road for a year. Revenue is generated on electricity and carbon credit sales. The goal is to prove this model could be a viable option for other businesses or municipalities. A virtuous and inspiring circle.
A Relais & Châteaux property: The Little Nell, ISO 14001-certified, embraces sustainability through self-sufficiency, with fully energy-efficient lighting and several solar panels to reduce CO2 emissions. The chef who took over the kitchens in 2017 has switched to composting and, in the garden, pesticides are nowhere to be found.