With the Copenhagen summit on climate change underway, its all the rage to be talking low carbon. The ski industry is no exception, and over the last few years there has been more and more emphasis placed on energy efficiency and cutting carbon emissions for the sake of the snow we rely on. However, amidst the financial downturn and weak pound, there is another important reason to be choosing green ski companies: their continued support for the local communities. As the rain clears from outside our chalet in the Alps, we take a closer look at this issue.
With the poor pound to euro rate and slow British recovery, there has been much made of the threat of falling ski visitor numbers. Thankfully, there has so far been little evidence that this will materialise. During the pre-season rush however, we have noticed another worrying trend which could have a significant impact on fragile alpine economies this season the temptation among UK run chalet companies and seasonnaires to avoid spending money locally by stocking up back home.
We started thinking about this while chatting to the British owner of a chalet company in the Portes Du Soleil ski area. In a situation familiar for many British ski chalet owners, he admitted that the financial situation was hitting their margins hard, particularly as their main income is in pounds and most of their costs are normally in Euros. This year they have taken great care to bulk buy in the UK and make significant savings over the same purchases made in Euros. From toilet roll to detergent, cereals, alcohol, tinned foods and even (frozen) baguettes, more and more produce normally purchased locally is now coming in from the UK. They are also looking to do as much as possible in house, with British staff paid in sterling, to avoid local costs. This is very bad news for local communities for whom ski chalets are normally an important or even essential source of business.
Our second example comes in the form of Luke, a 21-year-old snowboarder and seasonnaire, out in the Alps for his third season in a row. As is often the case, he has been offered part time work with a UK chalet company that will pay him in pounds. In previous years he has happily converted his wages and spent them in the bars and local shops to feed and water himself. This year however, things are different. To combat the poor exchange rate and high prices he has thought ahead and brought a seasons worth of food from Makro and Tesco with him. He too will be spending far less in the local economy this season. We are not sure that crates of baked beans, instant noodles and curry in a can are going to be to everyones taste, but for him and many others it might be the only way to get through another winter in the Alps.
If these two examples turn out to be fairly typical, which we suspect they might, then it could be an even more difficult year for alpine communities. This is why it is more important than ever to travel with companies who are committed to their local communities and will not let financial pressures totally undermine their principled and ethical approach to buy local. Putting money back in to the local economies is crucial to their long term sustainability. Furthermore, whether a small supplier to ski chalets or large ski resort, investments in environmental improvements are only likely to come about during times of economic confidence.
You can use our site to find the chalets and ski operators we have chosen because their brilliant ski holidays are also muchbetter for everyone else. There are more coming on board all the time so check back if you cant find your perfect choice just yet. You can also plan and book your lower carbon ski journey through the get there section. It has never been easier to make a better choice.