Destinations / Nature & Mountains / The Alps / Travel Tips

How to protect the mountains this winter

Every year, human activities have a serious impact on the Alps, threatening this fragile ecosystem.

In fact, according to WWF data, glaciers are retreating by an average of 3% every year and this melting is an alarming sign of global warming. Ski resorts can generate significant waste and pollution that is harmful to the natural mountain environment.

That’s why each and every one of us has a share of responsibility and can take action to preserve this natural treasure. Here are a few things you can do to play your part and protect the mountains this winter…

Use energy responsibly in the resorts

When you stay in the mountains, choose eco-certified resorts to reduce the impact on the mountain ecosystem. These resorts are committed to respecting nature and the mountains and are taking strong action to protect the environment. By opting to stay in one of them, you are supporting an eco-responsible and sustainable approach.

Les Contamines-Montjoie

Les Contamines-Montjoie is a ski resort in Haute-Savoie, France. It has been awarded the “Flocon Vert” label by the Mountain Riders Association for its commitment to sustainable development and environmental protection.

Les Contamines-Montjoie has earned its reputation by:

  • Investing in energy-efficient systems for producing artificial snow;
  • Encouraging the adoption of eco-responsible practices among its visitors and staff;
  • Developing local partnerships to promote the sourcing of sustainable products.

These concrete actions demonstrate the ability of ski resorts to work to protect nature while offering winter holiday experiences that respect the ecosystem.

Les Contamines covered in snow with trees and chalets
Les Contamines in winter – photo by Jean-Baptiste D

Les Orres

Located in the Hautes-Alpes region of France, Les Orres has been awarded the Green Globe label for its commitment to protecting nature and its sustainable development initiatives.

Les Orres has earned the label by:

  • Installing solar and wind power systems to reduce its consumption of fossil fuel-based energy;
  • Introducing free shuttle buses and infrastructure to encourage the use of public transport;
  • Encouraging the adoption of nature-friendly practices among skiers and local residents through educational workshops and awareness-raising campaigns.
People travel up the mountain on a chailift
The Télésiège des Orres – photo by Mathilde Fouque

Val Cenis

Situated in Savoie, Val Cenis has been awarded the “Flocon Vert” label for its actions to protect the environment and its biodiversity, plus the promotion of sustainable and responsible tourism.

Val Cenis has:

  • Invested in water-saving management systems for artificial snow;
  • Encouraged the use of public transport to access the resort;
  • Implemented programmes to inform visitors about the importance of preserving fragile alpine ecosystems.

This approach illustrates how a ski resort can play an active role in protecting the ecosystem while offering sustainable, nature-friendly ski experiences.

Snowy mountains with blue skies
La Canopée des Cîmes, Val-Cenis, France – photo by Hadyn Cutler

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Saving water in the mountains

Water is a precious resource in the mountains, and it is vital to preserve it. The responsible use of water in ski resorts and mountain huts is essential and certain initiatives, such as the use of dry toilets in mountain refuges, can considerably reduce consumption.

Another major issue concerns the production of artificial snow. This practice requires a lot of water, so it is crucial to make skiers and ski resorts aware of the issues involved, in order to preserve this resource that is vital to the alpine ecosystem.

For example, some resorts, such as Les Gets, have adopted an approach based on protecting natural snow. They favour sustainable snow management methods, such as preserving natural snow through grooming and distribution techniques.

The sun sets over Les Gets with chalets and trees in foreground
The sun sets over Les Gets – photo by Clémence Bergougnoux

Visit Les Gets this winter


Reducing waste during your mountain holiday

Ski resorts generate a considerable amount of waste each season. To combat this problem, we can adopt the “zero waste” principle and opt for reusable containers for picnics and snacks in the mountains. By avoiding disposable packaging, it’s easier to limit the amount of waste that ends up in the environment.

You can also take an active part in waste collection operations organised by local groups. These actions help to clean up natural areas and raise awareness among visitors of the need to preserve the mountains by leaving them clean and healthy.

Book a chalet in nature


Respect nature in the Alps

The mountains are home to some exceptional flora and fauna, which are often fragile and at risk. So it’s vital to respect the marked trails to preserve the natural balance of mountain ecosystems.

We also need to be aware of when animals are nesting and avoid disturbing sensitive areas for certain creatures, by keeping clear of them and staying as quiet as possible. This helps to protect vulnerable species and preserves the beauty of wildlife in the mountains.

Finally, if you’d like to find out more about initiatives to protect mountain wildlife, you can visit the Vanoise National Park website.

Preserving wildlife

Mountain wildlife, such as chamois, ibex and marmots, are sensitive to disturbance. It is therefore crucial to watch these animals from a distance so as to not disturb their natural behaviour. Approaching them too closely or feeding them can have serious consequences for their health and survival. But how do you know how to behave in the presence of wild animals?

To help you understand these issues, associations such as 30 Millions d’Amis are raising awareness of animal protection in the mountains. When we visit the mountains, we have the opportunity to admire the beauty of wildlife and perhaps enjoy some memorable encounters, while at the same time preserving their habitat. By respecting the rules, we play an essential role in preserving these species and protecting the mountains in winter.

A mountain goat grazing on grass
Always respect the local wildlife in the mountains – photo by Nico Miot

Respect the Alpine flora

There’s a wonderful variety of flowers and plants in the mountains, but many are under threat. Therefore, it’s vital not to pick flowers and plants, even if they seem to be common. Picking them can upset the balance of the ecosystem and threaten certain species.

To preserve the beauty and diversity of mountain flora, you should follow the marked trails and avoid trampling delicate areas of vegetation. Every careful step helps to safeguard these precious natural resources for future generations.

Alpine forest covered in snow
Tread carefully and don’t disturb any local flora or fauna – photo by Joe Eitzen

To protect the mountains in winter, we need to adopt a global approach and take concrete action. By adopting eco-responsible practices with regard to energy, water, waste and respect for nature, animals and plants, we are preserving the fragile ecosystem of the Alps and doing our bit to combat global warming.

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Finally, it’s important to remember that every little bit counts. To protect the mountains in winter, it’s essential that we all take responsibility for preserving this exceptional natural heritage.

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