Mountains are some of the most pristine natural environments anywhere. These wilderness areas provide enjoyment for many tourists and local people, as well as livelihoods, money and jobs for mountain communities. They must be conserved for the future so we must make efforts now!
What could be more sustainable than skiing? All you leave behind is tracks in the snow… At first glance skiing might appear highly sustainable and it surely is a “nature sport” overall, but unfortunately there are some significant environmental and cultural impacts.
Downhill ski slopes are graded in some areas, which in some case involves the removal of trees and flattening of slopes to create larger areas for skiing. With respect to vegetation that grows slowly at altitude, skiers who are skiing the trees and cutting up vegetation can have negative impact as well.
The addition of large infrastructure and ski lifts can creates further environmental scarring. Building at altitude, remotely, far from where people would build if not for the ski area, entails putting roads, driveways and other manmade infrastructures, high altitude often means visible from a long distance, so there can be visual impacts. I love to ski and have skied all my life, but some ski resorts can leave scars on a mountain depending on the planning, development, and on both short and long term management.
Due to global warming more resorts will develop at higher altitudes that will create new challenges and possible negative impacts higher up the mountains if no proper action is taken early on to adopt a sustainable stance. As a further consequence of global warming the use of snowmaking machines has increased. In some cases water is drawn unsustainably from local waterways. In other cases chemicals used to ensure that the water freezes at a low temperature leach back into the soil when the artificial snow melts. Litter discarded in the mountains does not degrade well and takes longer time even for so-called biodegradable. Higher altitude ecosystems tend to be more fragile and recover slowly, so there can be greater impacts on wildlife and vegetation by the mere presence of people. Animals in their weakened winter state being disrupted by people are a major concern.
Respect the natural habitat of mountain animals and plants by taking care not to damage vegetation, knocking off branches or damaging shoots when skiing. Many areas are out of bounds to protect the natural habitat of animals and plants – not just for safety reasons.
Born Skier’s environmental specialists are available to assist resorts and mountain professionals make a difference in their planning, management, and development strategies in order to make them more sustainable. Just as important is education and awareness; education works everywhere, even more so on the mountain! People traveling to mountain resorts and practicing sports or leisure activities are attracted by the outdoor, nature and so are sensitive to environmental issues. Not only will they change and become aware on environmental problems and understand the necessity of being eco-responsible but they will also make a difference in their own communities…