Everyone’s heard about the importance of reducing carbon emissions in skiing, 75% of which are linked with getting to your resort – especially by air or road. However, what you might not realise is that over 20% of emissions in the mountains are caused by tourist accommodation.
A few hotels and lodges lead the way in greener living, with ingenious ideas such as water heated by hazelnuts and glacier meltwater stored in caves. They have low-energy lighting and instal solar panels and biomass boilers, whilst their kitchens use seasonal produce from local farms to help small businesses and reduce the number of vehicles on the road.
These days even the smallest B&B tries to conserve energy – not just for the sake of the environment but also to save money. Below we have picked out ten green ski hotels and lodges that stand out from the crowd.
Monte Rosa Hut, Zermatt
It took two years to build the five-storey Monte Rosa Hut up at 2883m, and it looks more like a space shuttle station than a mountain refuge. The aluminium shell houses a wood-panelled interior, and the building produces 90% of its power from solar energy. Glacier meltwater is stored in a nearby cave to ensure a year-round water supply, and a micro filtering system bacteriologically cleans the waste water.
The ‘hut’ is quite a lot more comfortable then other mountain refuges in the Alps, with hot showers, inside flushing loos, and a restaurant. It is a destination mainly for ski-tourers from March to June and in summer it attracts hikers. You get there by traversing or on a challenging hike from Zermatt’s Rotenboden station on the Gornergrat railway line.
Les Neiges d’Antan, Cervinia
The Aosta Valley has a large number of eco hotels, which are part of a programme to promote eco-sustainable tourism in the area. One of the hotels is three-star Les Neiges d’Antan in Cervinia, which is heated using wood, with photoelectric roof panels. The natural combustion of hazelnuts provides hot water for the whole building. The chef creates dishes using seasonal produce from local farms, the chalet-style rooms have larch wood panelling and the spa’s treatment rooms are lit by candles.
Bio Hotel Crystal, Obergurgl
Four-star Bio-Hotel Crystal is located at 1900m in the pretty Tirolean resort of Obergurgl and was the first hotel in Austria to be heated by 100% renewable energy. With 300m² of solar panels and geothermal heat pumps, it doesn’t have to rely on fossil fuels. Energy is stored in gigantic buffer containers and heating is then provided via floor and wall panels.
Hotel Terra, Jackson Hole
Hotel Terra is an environmentally sustainable boutique hotel in Jackson Hole that’s considered to be one of the premier green hotels in the USA. The hotel’s entire electric and natural gas power is offset by alternative energy including wind, solar and hydro power. There are recycled roof shingles over your head and organic carpets under your feet.
Hotel Pointner, Reith bei Kitzbuhel
Family-run Hotel Pointner in Reith is regarded as one of the pioneers of Austrian eco-tourism. It uses wind and solar energy, small hydroelectric plants and biodiesel installations. The hotel’s large vegetable garden and organic farm supply the kitchen, with milk, fruit and vegetables all stored in reusable packaging.
Great importance is placed on disposing of refuse correctly – with separating bins in all the rooms. To fully connect with nature, the hostel has hosted ‘body, mind and soul workshops’ for the past 20 years, and there are yoga classes in the Sivananda Yoga Seminar House. The small resort of Reith has just one ski-lift, but a free bus takes you to and from Kitzbuhel in 13 minutes.
Vigilius Mountain Resort, Monte San Vigilio
From the town of Lana, a cable-car with real leather seats – a 1970s replacement of the original cabin built in 1912 – takes you up to the lone building of Vigilius Mountain Resort in the tiny Monte San Vigilio ski area. Milanese architect Matteo Thun has designed the horizontal building to follow the outline of the mountain, integrating it into the landscape with an extensive use of wood. This is not a place for kilometre-hungry skiers – Vigilius Mountain Resort is better suited to those who want a relaxing break with good food and beautiful scenery.
Sustainability is the hotel’s aim. A ‘green’ roof, beams reclaimed from 300-year-old barns, natural clay walls, unbleached fabrics, the use of local spring water, and a biomass power plant using waste wood from the surrounding larch forest all contribute to its energy-saving climate management.
Hotel Saratz, Pontresina
In 1865, a traditional Engadine farmhouse was converted into a B&B pension, and over the next decade it evolved into the first-class Hotel Saratz. Today the old building has been revamped keeping its original Art Nouveau style, but adding new suites, apartments, a spa and swimming-pool. Not only are many of the rooms cutting-edge, but so too is the hotel’s philosophy.
For this was the first hotel in the resort of Pontresina – indeed in the whole of Switzerland – to use geothermal science for its energy requirements. A bore-hole 1500m beneath the garden provides spring water naturally warmed by the earth to 43°, which in turn supplies 90% of the hotel’s entire hot water and heating.
Naturhotel Edelweiss, Wagrain
Naturhotel Edelweiss in the resort of Wagrain is best known for its Green Spa – Europe’s first wellness centre built using low-energy construction and requiring just 25% of the energy of a comparable spa. The use of geothermal energy makes the spa almost completely independent of external power.
It houses an indoor swimming-pool with a separate children’s pool, saunas and steam rooms, as well as massage rooms offering Ayurvedic treatments. In summer the natural ‘swimming pond’ outside is filled with fresh water from the hotel’s own spring. Breakfast is prepared from organically-grown regional products.
Berchtesgaden Resort, Berchtesgaden
Berchtesgaden Resort is close to the small ski area of the same name in the Bavarian Alps. It was Hitler’s mountain retreat – but don’t let that put you off! The Eagles’ Nest is now a mountain restaurant.
The hotel kitchen uses local produce, and spa products are also locally sourced including salt products from Bad Reichenhall. The resort was built nine years ago, using natural materials. All waste water is treated and then reused, whilst the heating and air-conditioning have been designed to be energy-efficient.
Last but definitely not least is Iglu-Dorf – seven igloo villages in the resorts of Gstaad, Davos, Zermatt, Engelberg, and Stockhorn north of Erlenbach and near Lenk; the Zugspitze in Germany and Grau Roig in Grandvalira in Andorra.
The icy accommodation is created each winter (this is the 20th anniversary) from 3,000 tonnes of snow and each igloo sleeps from two to six people. They come complete with cosy sheepskin rugs and private hot tubs, are CO²-neutral and sustainable, and at the end of the winter they disappear without a trace.