A carbon neutral ski resort - is that even possible?

It is well known that travel has a major impact on nature. That's why ski holidays in particular have been viewed critically in recent years. You've probably heard that cable car operations have a massive impact on nature. The construction of new ski slopes and lifts, snowmaking and piste preparation, as well as summer adventure opportunities on the mountain, interfere with the mountain world for all to see. However, many of these accusations are unfounded and no longer in keeping with the times. In order to preserve the mountain and nature experience of Snow Space Salzburg for future generations, an energy balance sheet was drawn up for the lifts and a scientific advisory board for climate, environment and biodiversity was installed to accompany and support the activities of the lifts on their way to becoming a carbon neutral ski area.
The experts on the way to a carbon neutral ski resort: Ulrike Pröbstl-Haider has been involved in research for sustainable, environmentally sound tourism for decades. Her extensive expertise is reflected in all our planning and activities.
Univ.-Prof.in Dipl.-Ing.in Dr.in Ulrike Pro¨bstl-Haider - Institute for Landscape Development, Recreation and Conservation Planning at BOKU Vienna
Thomas Bausch's research is in the area of demographic change and climate change in destination management, sustainable tourism and consumer behaviour in tourism. His expertise flows primarily into the aspects of guest behaviour and the design of our services.
Prof. Dr. Thomas Bausch - Munich University of Applied Sciences, Faculty of Tourism; Free University of Bolzano, Destination Management and Development; Head of the Alpine Research Institute in Bavaria
Florin Florineth is an expert in vegetation technology and landscaping in the Alpine region. His expertise is mainly used in the planning of slopes and facilities and is a perfect partner for the practical implementation by landowners.
Prof. em. Dr. Florin Florineth - Institute of Engineering Biology and Landscaping, BOKU Vienna, emeritus
How CO2-intensive is a ski day really and how can you contribute on the way to a carbon neutral ski resort? In this article you can find out how to make your trip to the mountains as low-emission and low-impact on nature as possible.

120 kilometres of slopes or 7.14 km by car?

Together with ClimatePartner, the energy consumption from the winter season 2019/20 was calculated and a CO2 footprint was created. The result: the total CO2 emissions of 4,148 kg, distributed over an average of 1.8 million ski days in the 19/20 season, results in an emission value of 2.30 kg per ski guest. This corresponds roughly to a distance of 7.14 km by car, 2.5 washing cycles at 60 °C or a small steak of 180g beef.A perfect excursion to the Pongau mountains naturally includes a stop at a mountain restaurant. With the latter comparison, however, it quickly becomes clear here that a large part of the emissions in the catering industry occur in the kitchen. With the right summer management, the ski slopes can be transformed from monotonous sports areas into attractive and diverse habitats for many plant species, insects, wild bees and the like, which serve as high-quality grazing areas for the regional alpine farming industry. "We are very lucky to live here in an alpine pasture economy and for me the most important thing is to make use of it. For me, that is sustainability," says Martina Rohrmoser from the Haibenalm in St. Johann. The regionality of the food can already save a part of the CO2 emissions.

As a guest, you also play a key role in achieving the goal of a carbon neutral ski area. Through your actions on the mountain, you can help to keep the nature of Salzburg's mountains intact so that future generations can also enjoy a carefree excursion. Here you can find some suggestions on how you can help to reduce CO2 emissions and prevent interventions in nature in the best possible way:

1.Arrival & departure "If you look at a normal skiing holiday, the journey is the main factor that generates the largest CO2 footprint," reports Univ.-Prof.in Dipl.-Ing.in Dr.in Ulrike Pröbstl-Haider. So, if you switch from car to train, you can save large amounts of emissions. To make travelling by public transport more attractive for you, there is a combined ticket available in summer and winter. You can also find useful tips on travelling by train in this blog post: https://www.bloghuette.at/en/2019/12/take-the-train-to-the-slopes-9-tips-for-a-stress-free-journey-to-snow-space-salzburg/

  • If you arrive by electric car instead of by train, Snow Space Salzburg offers charging stations at many entry points to the ski area, so you can charge your car without worrying while you enjoy the fresh mountain air.
  • Charging stations in Flachau: https://bit.ly/3QTesZb
  • Charging stations in Wagrain: https://bit.ly/3QTejoB
  • Charging stations in St. Johann: https://bit.ly/3yp5onG

2. Waste separation in the ski area

With the operation of the cable car, a lot of rubbish also accumulates on the mountain. Therefore, after the snow melts in spring, a clean-up campaign is carried out on our entire 400 hectares of slopes and the employees manually collect the rubbish that has been left lying around. During the season, we support the mountain hut owners in the ski area with waste separation. From those establishments that do not have a direct connection to the road system, the rubbish is transported away with our snow cats. You too can easily help to avoid waste on our mountains. There are rubbish bins at all our lift stations. If you bring your own food, please make sure that you use reusable containers such as lunch boxes, beeswax towels and reusable bottles. It is especially important that you do not leave any waste in nature, as even banana and orange peels take one to three years, cigarette butts 10 to 15 years and aluminium paper 200 to 400 years to decompose completely.

3. Stay on the right track

According to Pröbstl-Haider, an important point in behaviour on the mountain relates to compliance with the trail system and the designated ski area during winter operations. Wild animals adapt to the spaces used for tourism. They have a space-time behaviour there that is adapted to the presence of humans and need resting spaces outside these areas that must be respected. Wild animals do not find much food in winter and therefore have to use their energy reserves carefully. If they are disturbed in their resting areas, their flight instinct kicks in, which demands a lot from these reserves and weakens them enormously. Hikes, mountain bike tours or snowshoe walks across country terrain should therefore be avoided.

4.Renting instead of purchasing new

An excursion on Drachi's via ferrata or a ski tour as a beginner often tempts you to buy new equipment, which is then rarely or hardly used. In such cases, equipment can easily be rented in the surrounding sports shops, often at reduced prices. A list of ski rentals around the entry points to Snow Space Salzburg can be found here: https://www.snow-space.com/en/winter/information-ski-resort/service/ski-rentalIf your first attempts have convinced you and you decide to buy your own equipment, a personal consultation in the shop is a great advantage. Here you can make sure that your chosen products are of the right quality and perfectly suited to you, so that you can enjoy them for a long time.

5. Your summer outing as inspiration

A summer excursion to the Pongau mountains can be not only entertaining but also quite educational. The KUHbidu adventure trail on Wagraini's Grafenberg, for example, provides its big and small visitors with important information about the grazing four-legged animals. Guided tours of the theme trail also take place every Thursday, with an expert passing on exciting information about the regional dairy industry in a way that is suitable for children.

As you can see, Snow Space Salzburg attaches great importance to the preservation of an intact natural and mountain environment. Measures are being implemented to ensure that the area continues to be worth living in and to offer you a holiday amid unspoilt nature. Together we enjoy the Pongau mountains and everything the region has to offer. Book your holiday now and look forward to exciting, varied and above all educational hours with the whole family in the mountain world of Snow Space Salzburg.
You can find more information on this topic here.
photo credits: Lorenz Masser, Christoph Huber, Snow Space Salzburg