The Problem

Climate change

TignesAs skiers and boarders its not all our fault, we didn't get together back in the day and start the industrial revolution, but we are going to be the first group (in the western world) to see irreversible alterations to our lifestyles directly as the result of crapping on the environment so hard for so long.

It's not something that will happen a long time in the future when the deterioration of our knees means we're stuck at home with the cocoa and the old footage of those 180 safety grabs that we so nearly stuck, it's already here. The average temperature in the Alps has advanced three times the average world rate in recent years according to Shardul Argrawala (author of 'Climate Change in The European Alps'). The seasons are changing, there's less snow in December, low-level resorts struggle for snow and rely on snow cannons to provide 'skiable' conditions.

Possibly the most worrying notion is that of the disappearance of 75% of Alpine glaciers within 45 years (according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development), the Alp d'Huez glacier closed indefinitely in 06 summer adding to the list of resorts that once offered summer skiing, Alagna and Bardonecchia in Italy and St Moritz and Verbier in Switzerland. The same report also suggested that in 100 years' time only the highest resorts like Val T and Tignes will be able to offer reasonable snow conditions, meaning unimaginably packed pistes and a return of snowsports to an elite pursuit.

For us at HUK it brings the simple question. Do we want our grandchildren to experience the mountains as we have? The answer is simple, we need to act now.

Resort development

Litter in the snowThe resorts themselves take a great toll on the surrounding environment. The wildlife is displaced by construction and destruction of natural habitats and noise pollution, alpine vegetation is destroyed by machine grading slopes and large amounts of water is required to service the buildings and snow cannons. There is also a body of evidence that links snow cannon use to increased soil erosion and altering of the species composition of mountain vegetation.

The impact varies from resort to resort, resorts like Avoriaz, France, were designed and built with their environment in mind. Supporting resorts like these is likely to bring up the overall standards of ski resorts' environmental policies.

As the Alps warm up and the freezing level rises, so too will the resorts. They are likely to follow the snow up the mountain further impacting on even more delicate environments at higher altitudes. But this also brings with it greatly increased dangers of avalanches as increased precipitation will bring more snow at higher altitudes (more snow isn't always a good thing!).

Snow Tourists

Waste from a holidayFinally and possibly the most important area to act on is our direct affect as snow tourists.

First off, how we get there. Going by train emits 5.7g of CO2 per person per kilometre, going by plane emits 180g per person per kilometre (Rail Europe). That's a bit of a difference! It's not just that, self-drive or hiring cars produce a great deal of emissions directly into the mountain atmosphere. Don't drive, take the public transport.

When up there think about everything you throw away, everything you wash down the drain, everything you use up, especially on the hill. Orange peel takes 2 years to break down and fags stick around for 5 years! If you have to smoke, whatever substance, take an eco-box with you (available from either Respect the Mountains, or Ski Club of GB).

These are just a few of the facts. There is tons of info out there. If you want to find out more the organisation links on the left are a good start.

The mountains keep us sane, let's keep them available.