Ski holidays might not be the most environmentally damaging way to take a break but the pristine white slopes are rapidly disappearing thanks to the effects of climate change.
As snow retreats further and further up mountain ranges and ski resorts are forced to close, destinations across Europe are seeking solutions to their environmental problems.
"The impacts of climate heating have already led to a surge in artificial snow use at downhill resorts," says Responsible Travel's Customer Director, Tim Williamson, "Fake snow is carbon and water-intensive to produce, and bad for biodiversity."
"Ultimately, we have to adapt to allow snowfall to dictate when we ski," he adds, suggesting that people swap to alternative seasonal pursuits like wildlife tracking and snowshoeing when there isn't enough powder.
This doesn't mean you have to stop skiing, however, as there are resorts out there trying to reduce their environmental impact and give you the opportunity to travel more responsibly. Williamson suggests, "if you love skiing but care for the environment, try to opt for resorts that don't use snow cannons,"
To help you out if you are looking for somewhere eco-friendly to ski, the Mountain Riders Association has created a certification for resorts that hold exemplary eco-credentials. The Flocon Vert or "Green Snowflake" is only awarded to those ski resorts that meet 21 green criteria (soon to become 31) put together by more than 70 experts.
Only the six resorts listed below have so far met these incredibly high expectations, so if you are looking for an eco-friendly ski break then keep reading.
Just 80km north of Nice and the French Riveria, Valberg is a small but cosy ski resort. In the heart of an area committed to preventing light pollution, it has also been given the first Villages Étoilés label in the Alpes-Maritimes. Not only does their well-considered public lighting scheme mean you get a great view of the night sky but it also saves 85,000 kWh of electricity every year.
Transporting people around these mountain ski resorts contributes 57% of their greenhouse gas emissions. With lots of narrow winding roads, congestion can become a big problem as tourists attempt to reach the mountain. Free buses during peak season and a fleet of electric cars have been brought in to help to solve this problem and the entire centre of the resort is pedestrianised to reduce air pollution further.
To check out where stay and what the slopes are like, visit the region's website here.
Vallée de Chamonix
Dominated by Aiguilles Rouge to the north and Mont Blanc to the south, the Chamonix Valley is over 17km long. A very popular ski destination, there are tens of thousands more visitors to this area than some other resorts on the list, making sustainability all the more difficult to achieve.
Nonetheless, Chamonix Valley meets all of the increased 31 criteria to receive the Flocon Vert. In two categories, public transport and the reduction of greenhouse gasses, the local area was exceptional.
A system put in place by the local government means that visitors can easily travel all over the valley using busses and trains, even between some of the best spots for skiing.
You can find more information about skiing in the Vallée de Chamonix here.
Chamrousse is located in an environmentally sensitive area in southeastern France, 30km from Grenoble. Discarded waste doesn't break down very easily at low temperatures so preventing pollution is very important. As well as composting workshops and 1,250kg of waste collected from the mountainsides, Chamrousse has also created a special campaign to collect damaging cigarette butts and recycle them.
The region runs a land stewardship project that balances the needs of local farmers and the impact of tourism with preserving the habitat of the Black Grouse. Shepherds allow their flocks to graze the already open ski runs reducing deforestation and also preventing the resort from having to mow.
See more about staying in Chamrousse and their eco-friendly efforts here.
La Pierre Saint Martin
Located between Béarn and the Spanish Pyrenees, the Ski resort of La Pierre Saint Martin has 75 hectares of slopes. Although small, it offers something a bit different from the usual Alpine experience with diverse options for beginners and experienced ski fanatics alike.
Hailed by the Flocon Vert as a "station of the future" for its standout sustainability actions, the ski station is committed to eco-friendly actions like revegetation, better public transport links and reducing pollution.
Thanks to a close relationship with the Office national des forêts (ONF), the ski station is able to make sure that important biodiverse areas, such as the La Pierre karst massif, aren't ruined by downhill skiing.
Get your ski passes and take a look at the resorts credentials on the Nouvelles Pyrénées website here.
In the Haut Jura park, Les Rousses is the perfect place to ski in a more natural environment. Native forests cover around 70% of the park providing exceptional an exceptional biodiversity of flora and fauna. Despite being protected, this environment is incredibly delicate so the resort engages in an active fight against any waste that may pollute of damage it.
A collaboration between the 4 local areas that make up the resort has allowed them to create a renewable energy plan that will reduce their carbon footprint by a considerable amount. Public buildings are heated using local power sources including solar panels and wood-fired boilers.
Discover more about the unique biodiversity of this region and which are the best places to ski at the Station Des Rousses website.
Châtel, Portes du Soleil
Just over the border from Switzerland, Chatel is high up at around 1180 meters above sea level. Still very much a rural agricultural region, the traditional friendliness of the people who live there makes the resort stand out.
Local sympathetic agricultural techniques help preserve the biodiversity of the mountain pastures and the town looks to balance these with its tourist activities. Committed to preserving both its heritage and its international appeal, groups of farmers from the area have been brought together to help protect the natural environment.
Waste sorting bins are placed across the ski area to prevent rubbish from ending up on the slopes to even further protect the Chablais Geopark where it is located. With a unique ecological richness of plants and animals, you can even take a guided tour to discover more during the less snowy seasons.
More about the activities available in Châtel year-round can be found on their page on the resort's page on the Portes du Soliel website.