Sustainability Focus: Greener Skiing in Austria

From snow management and energy production to the use of local ingredients and slippers made from recycled bottles, here are some of the ways in which Austria is helping to make ski holidays greener.

Sustainable Snow Production

A destination's snow sureness is one of the most important factors for skiers when it comes to holiday planning, along with a region's ability to prepare the slopes with man-made snow for the rare days on which the weather refuses to play ball. While artificial snow production is vital, it can have a negative impact on the surrounding environment, putting great demands on supplies of water and energy.

Austria's ski industry recognises these risks and, in response, pursues sustainable snowmaking, meaning that 90% of the energy required for the process comes from renewable sources and the use of additives is prohibited. Only air and water from designated reservoirs can be used in snow production to avoid damage to the mountains' sensitive ecosystems. In SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser-Brixental, the snow groomers are even equipped with unique GPS snow measuring systems to further improve resource efficiency.

Eco-friendly winter sports enthusiasts can be reassured that Austria's ski regions understand the importance of such low-impact techniques, with the Federal Economic Chamber and the country's cable car companies having invested 154 million euros in sustainable snowmaking methods for the future.

Sustainable Energy

Sustainable energy is used widely across Austria's ski regions, with Lech-Zürs and Zell am See-Kaprun as just two shining examples. In Lech-Zürs, a biomass heating plant creates enough sustainable energy to cover 80% of the village's needs, supplying 100 hotels and more than two hundred residences. In doing so, it prevents the production of 22,000 tons of carbon dioxide and the use of 8 million litres of heating oil each year. In this beautiful region, solar panels on ski lifts are also a common sight.

In Zell am See-Kaprun, every single ski lift and catering facility on the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier runs on 100% renewable energy. As if this wasn't already an impressive enough feat, the heat generated by the lift motors is then recaptured and harnessed to heat the surrounding buildings, some of which are equipped with solar and photovoltaic systems. It doesn't stop once summer arrives: powered by melt water, the snowmaking facilities are used as turbines during the warmer months, generating the power to be used when the next winter season arrives.

Eco-friendly Accommodation

When looking for environmentally friendly accommodation in Austria, holidaymakers are spoilt for choice: the mountains are home to a plethora of hotels making sustainability a priority. There are six hotels in the province of Tirol alone carrying the Bio Hotels certification, with many more proudly wearing their Österreichisches Umweltzeichen (Austrian Ecolabel), Green Pearls and Blaue Schwalbe stamps of approval. Gartenhotel Theresia and Mama Thresl in the Skicircus Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn region are two examples of eco-friendly hotels in SalzburgerLand, used below to discuss just a few of the ways in which Austria's accommodation providers are implementing sustainable practices.

Gartenhotel Theresia's dedication to sustainable practices can be found at every turn, from the use of local, seasonal and organic foods, as well as fresh spring water from the hotel grounds, to energy-saving lightbulbs and careful recycling. Heat generated by the hotel is recaptured and used to heat the pools, while all electricity comes from sustainable sources such as hydroplanes, wind farms and biomass. For its commitments, Gartenhotel Theresia has received awards and labels such as the Green Toque and the Austria Bio Guarantee.

Similarly, a stay in Mama Thresl can be completely carbon neutral, with energy provided by a biomass cogeneration plant and even the lifts running on an energy recovery system. All food is regional and seasonal, with plenty on offer for vegans and vegetarians. The little things matter too, which is why the hotel's warm and comfy slippers are made using six plastic bottles in a closed-loop reclycing system which, within the last five years, has put more than 132,000 bottles to good use.

High-res images are available to download at the end of this page. For more information, please contact eleanor.moody@austria.info.