Decked in a multicolored landscape underscored by birdsong or in the silent blanket of snow, it’s no wonder that mountains call to us. To preserve these ancient beings, especially in the face of dwindling snow with each passing year, this winter you can hit the slopes with a clean conscience thanks to these five ski hotels where sustainability is more than a buzzword. Not only have the hotels taken steps to be environmentally friendly, the destinations they are located in are protecting the fauna and flora by cordoning off sections that are off-limits to skiers. They are also using the latest technology for green energy and snow depth measurement in order to use the snow with maximum effectiveness and efficiency and reduce artificial snow making.
Bad Gastein, Austria
Perhaps best known for its starring role in Wes Anderson’s Grand Hotel Budapest, the ski resort town of Bad Gastein has been making waves for an altogether different reason. For starters, all its cable cars are powered by green energy. Then there are the improvements to the use of artificial snow-making machines with the help of innovative measures like GPS snow depth measurement, which determines exactly how many centimeters of snow are on the slope and how much needs to be re-covered. Finally, the village has invested in emission-free rental vehicles and forged smart collaborations with environmentally friendly public transport providers like the Austrian Railways (ÖBB) so that you can get around sustainably.
Perched high in the sleepy village of Bad Gastein, the cōmodo is doing its bit too. The awe-inspiring mountain surroundings provide the hotel with more than just scenic views. Among other sustainable and self-sufficient practices, the hotel has solar panels on its roof, gets its drinking water directly from Austrian springs—thought to have healing properties as far back as the 15th century—while the hotel’s restaurant uses ingredients from its own organic farm as well as regional biodynamic producers.
A car-free resort, Zermatt is easily accessed by train and has impeccable eco credentials: a photovoltaics (solar) system powers its gondola lift station; plastic waste is repurposed to resurface roads; snow groomers run on eco-speed diesel; electric buses whisk skiers around; and any construction work is overseen by environmental experts. The resort also has protected forests and wildlife sanctuaries.
At Cervo, the importance of sustainability is placed front and center. This includes a newly implemented geothermal heat pump, which allows the hotel to generate up to 95 percent of its energy requirements for hot water and heating. Its restaurant, Madre Nostra, serves contemporary dishes crafted with ingredients from suppliers within a 150-kilometer radius. Ferdinand, with its Valais-focused cuisine, offers regional specialties made wholly from local produce. Even the spa channels the power of its Alpine surroundings to offer holistic wellness.
Elsewhere in the Swiss Alps, Crans-Montana is an integral part of the "Swisstainable" program, which commits to comprehensive sustainability by involving all tourism providers. The ski resort is committed to short circuits, nature-friendly operations, respect for sensitive natural areas, and minimization of waste and renewable energy.
The dedication to environmental responsibility at Chetzeron began with the idea to breathe life into an abandoned gondola station rather than build anew. The materials were carefully and consciously chosen. The stone that covers the structure was sourced from a ski slope less than three kilometers from the property. The furniture that comprises the cozy interiors was designed with the help of local Valaisan artisans. And energy-efficient systems were installed—including solar panels, natural ventilation, and a heat recovery system—eventually earning Chetzeron the Swiss Minergie certification, which honors buildings with very low energy consumption.
Lana, South Tyrol
Located within a conservation area, the Vigiljoch (Monte San Vigilio) ski resort practices soft tourism which includes the wellbeing of local people and protection of nature. The slopes are only opened when snow levels are sufficient. The Vigilius Mountain Resort was the first hotel in South Tyrol to receive the "KlimaHaus A" award. Environmental protection plays a big role on Monte San Vigilio.
Set on a car-free mountaintop in South Tyrol, Italy, Vigilius Mountain Resort is an eco-friendly hideaway with pristine views of the Dolomites. Vigilius has earned the prestigious EarthCheck Gold certification, which means that the hotel must regularly evaluate its progress and set new goals under EarthCheck’s guidance. The hotel prides itself on using only renewable resources. Rather than oil or gas, Vigilius generates heat from wood chips sourced from surrounding farms. In addition to lowering emissions, this practice generates income for the local community—and supporting its neighbors is also high on Vigilius' list.
Team at Vigilius Mountain Resort
The environment is a very important concern at the ski resort of Niseko, which is part of the Niseko-Shakotan-Otaru Kaigan Quasi-National Park. Skiing is prohibited in certain areas and these are fenced off. Sorting of waste is a priority in the ski resort while public transport services run to Niseko.
An intimate mountain lodge in Niseko—one of Japan’s most popular ski resorts—Kimamaya by Odin is a charming and soulful retreat with just nine rooms. Redesigned from an existing structure, the hotel retains the original wooden framework of the building, which brings a Japanese touch to the Swiss chalet-style roof. Architect Koichi Ishiguro placed special attention on using sustainable, renewable, and recyclable materials.