The snowsports world is suffering from an undeniable hypocrisy at its very heart. Snowsports gives the participant the chance to connect with nature on an innate and magnificent level but we have to acknowledge the impact our sport is having on the environment we so crave to connect with.
Climate change in our mountain environments is not a new phenomenon and it is something we know to be happening. However in recent years the impact of this change has become more and more stark to the point where it is now impossible for us as snowsports enthusiasts not to take notice.
Tackling an issue as large as climate change can feel like a daunting and often thankless exercise. There is unfortunately no magic bullet we as snowsports enthusiasts can shoot to alleviate our consciousness from our complicity in this seismic event. However, and this is important, small changes done at a large scale can have dramatic impacts on slowing our rate of decline. Furthermore, an added and often understated benefit of starting to change our behaviours is that it simply opens up space for discussion surrounding snowsports and its long term sustainability. From this space innovation can flourish and our positive impacts can start to grow at an exponential level.
So the question that then needs to be answered is, what can I do now to start changing my behaviours on a snowsports specific level. Hopefully the below can offer some (non-exhaustive) helpful solutions as a start:
We truly believe that circular economies are the future. Our current system is more linear and as such relies on the idea that people use products for a short finite period and then dispose of them. This is unsustainable on an environmental level as it creates a huge amount of waste and requires a large amounts of energy and water for the endless production cycles required. Companies and businesses focused on circular economies take a step back and analyse different ways of creating an economically successful enterprise whilst removing the waste and/or energy consumption elements of our traditional linear economies. Innovation in the field of circular economies is rife and the opportunities here are enormous.
From a strictly snowsports perspective we are seeing a shift from a few of our major brands towards more environmentally conscious circular practices of production. This includes the use of recycled or waste materials, water preservation and wider educational missions on the issues around mass production. It is a fact that we all need stuff to enjoy the mountains safely but one thing we can do is to make conscious choices when we are buying our snowsports products. Research the brands you purchase from and determine whether they align with your environmental thinking and, if they do not, whether you might be better suited purchasing elsewhere.
Another way to participate in circular economics is to purchase second-hand items instead of buying new. These items already exist in the world and are more often than not fully functional and can be acquired at a fraction of the price than the same new product. Historically it has been challenging to purchase second hand but with the rise of snowsports specific marketplaces such as Bluebird Snow Exchange it is now easier than ever to buy and sell second-hand snowsports equipment and clothing.
Think differently about travel:
Your impact can be lessened before you even arrive in resort. With the majority of winter holidays still happening overseas, long-distance travel to resort is often going to be an essential part of any ski holiday. This unfortunately has created an overreliance on air travel which in turn contributes towards the aviation industry’s enormous global carbon footprint. It is important to remember though that flying isn’t the only way to reach your destination.
Taking the train can have a huge environmental benefit. This was shown by research from carbon-consultancy Best Foot Forward as commissioned by Snowcarbon in 2011. The research shows that a journey from London to Tignes by plane emits 82kg of C02 (per person) and that same journey by train only emits 14kg of CO2 (per person).
These figures show that train travel emits a whopping 83% less carbon than the same journey taken by plane. The train therefore offers a good environmentally sensitive alternative route to the European Alps. Companies such as Snowcarbon offer insightful information on some of the best rail routes along with package holidays inclusive of the rail fare so it can be easy to make the change.
The snowsports space is really starting to wake up to issues around climate change due to the obvious reliance we have on colder conditions. The best thing we as enthusiasts can do is to really start thinking and talking about this issue and how we can individually and collaboratively work to fix it.
There are also organisations and charities such as Protect Our Winters UK and One Tree at a Time which are helping to raise awareness of the issue and introduce new strategies to assist businesses and individuals to effectively change their behaviours to suit a more environmental agenda. You can donate to these charitable organisations or get in contact to see what more you can be doing.
None of us are perfect and it is important to remember these are not all or nothing suggestions. A shift in attitudes and behaviours can make a great difference and assist in creating the space needed for more people to take climate change in our mountain environments seriously. The time for action is now and together we can hopefully ensure we are able to enjoy snowsports for many years to come.