On a mountain map, ‘green’ tends to be synonymous with ‘easy’ – but making a ski resort truly green in the environmentally-friendly sense? That’s about as difficult as it gets.
Turning a remote, inhospitable mountain peak into a playground – and keeping it that way – requires a lot of energy. Just think how much goes into running just one chairlift, or piste-basher, or restaurant, for an entire winter. When the end result is so intrinsically linked to the enjoyment of nature, the irony can get a little depressing.
“Laax aims to harness its entire energy supply from renewable sources”
The good news is that more and more operators are looking for ways to embrace renewable energy, and leading the charge is the Swiss super-resort of Laax. For the last few years they have been quietly upgrading, from installing solar panels to heating the restaurants with excess warmth generated by the lifts. The famous Rocks Resort accommodation is also fossil-fuel-free, heated with a wood-chip burning system.
They’re still only getting started, though, and the long term goal is a bold one – as soon as possible, Laax aims to harness its entire energy supply from renewable sources.
So how realistic is that goal? On a recent visit to Laax we met with Reto Fry, who heads up Laax’s ‘Green Style’ initiative. He admitted that the dream of harnessing 100% of Laax’s energy use from renewable sources is still a way off, but also explained how this isn’t just “greenwashing”. Far from it, in fact.
Over the coming years, massive projects have been tabled that will allow Laax to provide all of its energy in-house, including a windfarm is being constructed that has the capacity to provide power to over 5,000 homes. Then there are the measures to improve what’s already there; data from the hybrid-engine piste-bashers is constantly analysed to ensure maximum fuel efficiency, and the food supply chain has been made as sustainable as possible.
There are also efforts to make customers more aware of impacts to the environment; Cafe NoName now provides sustainability information on the produce it sells (as well as providing free water stations, in partnership with Drink Water), and electric-car drivers are encouraged with an abundance of convenient charging stations.