For a skier with bottomless pockets, the ultimate holiday is based in one of the breed of superluxe chalets that have emerged over the past 25 years in a small number of world class resorts scattered across Switzerland, France and Austria. These include St Moritz, Verbier, Zermatt, Courchevel, Meribel, Val d’Isere, St Anton, and Lech. Compared against the average 1,200€ cost of a week’s chalet ski trip we’re talking mega-bucks here – with travel not included.
International guests can arrive in their resort by private jet, helicopter and limo. For example, 40,000€ low season to 160,000€ over New Year or February half-term buys you seven nights fully-catered in a piste-side chalet for eight in Courchevel. At the top end, swimming-pools, spas, and cinema rooms are all par for the course, along with haute cuisine of Michelin / Gault Millau standard. Of course, there are less exalted options – some of them semi-catered or self-catered.
As a consequence of Covid, demand this winter is higher than ever. Because they cater for such a limited number of guests, these chalets and apartments offer a level of service and extras to which even the most celebrated five-star hotels cannot begin to aspire. Most importantly, they offer the highest level of privacy and a privileged limit of exposure to the virus.
The downside is that luxury on this scale inevitably comes with a platinum-plated sustainability handicap. The reigning monarch of the superchalet is Consensio Chalets. Co-founder and MD, Ceri Tinley, admits that she has always struggled with how operating a luxury product with an associated high carbon footprint worked within a green environmental framework.
‘It’s a core aspect that we continue to work on. Since joining Protect our Winters, we’ve been able to acknowledge that certain aspects of luxury travel are unavoidably carbon heavy. But by working from the bottom up and analysing every part of our business we can make a huge difference to our operating impact. By using our influence, we can encourage other companies to also make a difference.
‘Certainly the argument over whether going green should be a priority for ski property no longer exists. It is a priority for lots of reasons, including guest loyalty and, most importantly, environmental impact. We work in collaboration with owners to encourage every decision made regarding renovations or improvements to their chalets to be as eco-friendly as possible. We care about it and it impacts our decision making when working with owners and when taking on any new chalets too.’
Here’s Ceri’s – and Consensio’s – 1 to 9 of sustainability:
First things first: all our electricity is supplied by France’s nuclear energy programme. This produces minimal amounts of carbon dioxide compared with gas. We can’t take credit for that – but it’s good to know that we’re not producing carbon. Hydroelectricity is the second biggest source of electricity production after nuclear energy and the major source of renewable electricity in France; it also provides flood control and clean drinking water. Read more here.
We adopt the practice of responsible energy management through reduced consumption and the encouragement of energy efficiency throughout the business. All new chalets are built following strict local environmental regulations. A number of our chalet owners have invested in ozone technology to enable pools and hot tubs to be completely chlorine-free, including Chalet Marco Polo and Chalet Lhotse in Val d’Isere. The natural freshwater oxygen process provides a non-toxic, healthy and environmentally-friendly alternative. In addition, we are changing all the light bulbs in our chalets and apartments to energy-saving bulbs.
Currently, all chalet electricity is provided via nuclear rather than fossil fuels. We are encouraging chalet owners to switch to renewable energy sources and will use 100% renewable electricity by December 2025, and 100% renewable heating by July 2026.
Staff are encouraged to travel to the resort by train where possible and it is company policy to book flights with companies that provide carbon offsetting as standard. The new overnight service to Bourg St-Maurice can be an attractive option for guests to travel by train instead of flying.
We ensure car share or use of public transport for staff getting to work in the resorts. We measure company vehicle fuel usage, are looking at electrical/hybrid options for guest vehicles, and are planning to be using zero-emission vehicles by July 2026. Chalet Bacchus is a brand new property in Courchevel Moriond (1650) that has a car charging port already installed, Shemshak Lodge in Courchevel 1850 is having one put in this year, and self-catered Apartment Jossane has one in the parking area under the building. All new properties for this winter have charging stations already installed and we have a programme to install them in all our properties.
Chalets, like small hotels, create a large amount of waste, so it’s time to seriously support recycling, and we’re not just talking about using paper straws instead of plastic ones. Also, when guests see that chalets are making an effort to help the environment, they will generally want to do their part as well.
At chalet level we’re also reducing energy consumption and increasing energy efficiency too. Our mantra is recycle, reuse, reduce. As of 2019, all Consensio chalets and apartments removed single-use plastic water bottles and give guests reusable stainless-steel water bottles to fill with natural spring water.
We are also reducing the single-use glass bottles of water in our chalets by offering guests the choice of fresh still and sparkling local mineral mountain water to be served in large glass bottles at the table. In addition we use only reusable shopping bags and provide recyclable, biodegradable paper straws for our homemade cocktails. Staff separate all our waste by hand and recycle it.
Our chefs source organic ingredients and buying locally helps reduce the impact on the environment as well as benefitting the community. We buy fresh produce from independent sellers where possible, allowing us to invest in the local community. This ranges from delicious cheeses and fresh bread collected from the nearby fromagerie and boulangerie and vegetables sourced from the local farmers’ market, to meat and fish bought fresh from neighbouring suppliers.
An example is the dairy produce from La Ferme de l’Adroit in Val d’Isere, and the fresh bread and baked goods from small local bakeries. Sadly, we’re unable to compost – the cold temperatures don’t allow for efficient composting and the chalets aren’t used in the summer. But our chefs reuse leftovers where possible for stock.
5.REUSING CLOTHING AND EQUIPMENT
At the end of every ski season, all unwanted ski clothing and equipment from both staff and owners is collected and sent to be reused by our chosen ski charity, Disability Snowsport UK. We buy our team matching winter jackets from Peak Performance, but our staff can keep them after the season to wear for the rest of their skiing lives should they wish to do so.
6.ELIMINATING CO2 IN ALL AREAS OF BUSINESS
According to The Live Earth Global Warming Survival Handbook, if one million people worked from home just one day a week, it could eliminate three million tons of CO2 each year. As such we pride ourselves on employing the majority of our full-time staff on a work-from-home basis. Throughout the UK and France, we all enjoy the freedom of working flexible hours from home offices with a great work/life balance across the whole team.
7.REDUCING OUR CARBON FOOTPRINT
We are committed to reducing our company and chalet operating carbon footprint and provide truly eco-friendly ski holidays. To help us achieve our goal of Consensio becoming carbon neutral by 2030, where we are unable to further reduce our carbon footprint we have pledged to offset via a sustainable tree planting scheme.
8.BECOMING MORE ECO-FRIENDLY
Our chalets are using up current stocks of bathroom goodies that were not used last winter due to Covid, and then we will be moving to l’Occitane because they use recycled plastic bottles that can be refilled. Sadly, the chalets have had to switch from eco-friendly cleaning products due to Covid hotel cleaning protocols – however, we look forward to reintroducing eco-friendly alternatives when possible and safe to do so.
What’s more: at a more local level, our host resorts are taking action to enhance their sustainability. For example, the aim of the Environment Day event in Val d’Isere is to respect the mountain environment by cleaning the mountain of litter and to raise public awareness. Every year one area is cleaned by volunteers. After becoming the largest combined ski area to obtain the Green Globe certification in 2016, the resort embarked on a comprehensive sustainable development strategy. This certification is inspired by the best practice in terms of environmental, social and economic transition and is awarded to resorts that fulfil 20 criteria connected with sustainable development – such as supporting local initiatives, recycling, energy control and respecting biodiversity.
Meribel has a new sustainable programme and a contract with the company, Direct Energie, which supplies green electricity –100% wind and solar electricity – for all of its lifts, snowmaking and buildings. In order to reduce energy consumption, the resort reduces the speed of its ski lifts when there’s less traffic. It also uses snow-cannons according to the temperature, so they only operate when temperatures are suitable and therefore without any unnecessary water loss. This means that for the same amount of snow produced, less water is used than before.
Courchevel has installed three ‘donation huts’ (St Bon, La Praz and 1850) to reduce waste, giving new life to things like books, clothing, and sports equipment. Then, instead of jumping into a car, you can now take a chair-lift from Courchevel 1850 to reach the water park, Aquamotion, at Moriond. Finally, it’s easy to forget how much waste children’s nurseries produce, so the resort’s kindergartens now use organic cleaning products and nappies, and home-made playdough/plasticine.
The Courchevel Meribel 2023 organising committee was among the first signatories of the Charter of 15 eco-responsible commitments drawn up by France’s Ministry of Sports in partnership with the WWF, alongside the biggest events such as the Tour de France and the Paris Marathon.
Discover more about Consensio and book their luxury holidays online here.