I choose a committed station
Issued on the basis of 20 criteria, the Flocon Vert label is the benchmark when it comes to rating mountain resorts. It validates social and cultural commitments, but also those related to the environment and the management of natural resources. The label has been awarded to Megève, Valberg (Alpes maritimes), Chamrousse, the Chamonix-Mont-Blanc Valley (which includes Vallorcine, Chamonix, Les Houches and Servoz), and Chatel, in the Portes du Soleil area, as well as Les Arcs.
I favour soft travel
Coming by train or at least not using your car during your stay is possible in all the resorts of the Alps. Yes, but how to get organised? To combine train, bus and carpooling on the same journey, Valloire, Pralognan-la-Vanoise, Saint François-Longchamp, Sainte Foy Tarentaise, La Toussuire and Morzine-Avoriaz have formed a partnership with Tictactrip.
La Clusaz has joined forces with the Mov'ici platform, which puts travellers in touch with drivers who have free places. Free shuttles in Brides-les-Bains, an app to find the next bus or train in the Chamonix-Mont-Blanc valley, self-service electric bicycles, electric/hybrid/biocarbon vehicles and shuttles in Auron, Les 2 Alpes, La Plagne and Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc, initiatives abound.
In terms of equipment, some inaugurations promise to make news this winter: the 10-seater gondola lift in Vallandry is a model of eco-responsible design with photovoltaic panels on the roof, heat recovery from the machinery and rainwater. The one installed between Orelle and Val Thorens via the Cime Caron will allow access to the heart of Europe's highest resort in 45 minutes from December onwards without having to use the road. Less road traffic and a panoramic ascent in sight!
I opt for eco-responsible accommodation
In the mountain hotel industry, even more than elsewhere, the attention paid to natural resources and the integration of buildings into their environment is fundamental! In all of France's massifs, new accommodation is imagining the mountain tourism of tomorrow. Farmhouse inns (such as Le Toî du Monde in the Val d'Arly), luxury refuges (Le Refuge de la Traye in Méribel, or the Halle des Cascades in Les Arcs), a bioclimatic hotel (Hôtel La Croix de Savoie in Les Carroz), tree houses (Entre Terre et Ciel, in the Val d'Arly)... there is something for everyone!
Those who are looking for more traditional accommodation can turn to the Green Key label (for example, available in certain Pierre & Vacances residences) or the Green Globe certification (notably in most of the mountain Club Med).
The 5-star resorts are also innovating in green. In Val Thorens, the 5* Pashmina hotel-retreat has installed a 70 m² retractable veranda-loggia on its panoramic terrace. When the weather is bad or very cold, it can be opened in 2 minutes. And to heat the interior, without making the climate soar, the self-heating bay windows, thanks to a low-energy technology, ensure an ideal temperature for a lunch or dinner with a view. Who can beat that?
I favour local products
More than ever, from one valley to another, cooperatives and farms invite you to discover and savour the good products of the Alps, in a short circuit. One address among others? In Savoie, in Valloire, La Ferme des Etroits (also an inn and guest house) is renowned for its "persillé" cheese, a typical cheese from the Maurienne region, made using an ancestral method.
In Haute-Savoie, in Grand Bornand, Savoyard charcuterie and cheeses, organic crozets, beers from local micro-breweries and local honey taps have found a choice setting at Comptoirs des Alpes, a historic building transformed into a friendly grocery shop.
To be in tune with the times, La Grande Casse Vrac, in Pralognan la Vanoise, is a new ethical alternative to mountain minimarkets. Direct from the producers and in bulk, to encourage zero waste, local cured meats and cheeses, teas and natural infusions, beers brewed in the valley, mountain flour from the Vercors, renew the chore of shopping in the mountains. We vote for it!
I use equipment made in France
As the world's leading ski destination, France has of course long manufactured the equipment... before relocating the vast majority of its factories abroad. But hey, congratulations! For a few years now, factories have been setting up again in the Alps. The best known of them is the Fabrique du Ski, located in Villards-de-Lans in the Vercors. Two other brands with English names are however French: Blacksmith, located in Flachère-en-Isère, and Rabbit on the roof, which makes freeride skis in Chamonix. At the top end of the market, wooden skis are still made in France, notably by Tardy in Saint-Gervais-Mont-Blanc or Marcel Livet in Annecy. Very chic.
I take the opportunity to understand the fauna and flora around me
What if this year we took the time to marvel at the fauna and flora? Of the 11 French National Parks, 4 are located in mountain areas: Vanoise, Pyrenees, Ecrins, and Mercantour. These are protected areas, with awareness-raising and information activities carried out all year round. Beyond the National Parks, we are also looking for the Nature Reserves: in the heart of the Mont Blanc Massif is the highest Nature Reserve in France, that of Les Contamines-Montjoie. It is the only protected area in the massif!
In Peisey-Vallandry, the appointment is made at 2,138 m, at the Museum of Mountain Animals, in the Paradiski ski area. In 6 minutes, by the new Vallandry cable car, pedestrians and skiers will have free access to this panoramic area designed in partnership with the Vanoise National Park.
In Sallanches, it is in a completely renovated Château des Rubins that the Observatoire des Alpes is taking up residence. On more than 500 m², installations and interactive modules tell the story of the mountain, the species that inhabit it and their fragility.
I enjoy the benefits of natural water in the mountains
There is nothing like a stay in the mountains to recharge your batteries thanks to the natural waters rich in minerals and trace elements. To take advantage of these natural benefits, head for the thermal spas of the Alps. At the Thermes de Saint-Gervais, the water is drawn from the source before being given to the curists.
I am participating in an eco-friendly event
Discovering peat bogs and local biodiversity, initiation to eco-actions with a ski instructor, conferences, the ski resorts of the Alps are multiplying initiatives for holidaymakers to raise awareness of the fragility of the mountain ecosystem. At the end of winter, visitors can take concrete action to protect the environment by participating in an eco-responsible event such as collecting the waste that covers the ground once the snow has melted. The Mountain Riders association organises around fifty "Mountain Zero Waste" operations each year, collecting over 7 tonnes of waste thanks to the mobilisation of 3,000 volunteers.
I opt for lift-free and non-motorised leisure activities
In winter, the mountain is spontaneously silent. Animals hibernate and are weakened by the cold and lack of food. Although downhill skiing remains the star of winter sports resorts, it brings with it a whole range of installations (ski lifts, groomers, etc.) which have a significant impact on the mountain ecosystem, generating noise and CO2 emissions. So, from time to time, we leave the downhill skis in the cupboard to discover soft mobility in the mountains: snowshoeing, ski touring with sealskins, cross-country skiing... We forget about motorised vehicles such as snowmobiles, 4x4s, and helicopter drops, which are in fact forbidden when leaving France. Motors weaken the natural environment, disturb and endanger wildlife. The mountain conservation association Mountain Wilderness regularly runs awareness campaigns entitled "Silence".
I want to know more about the sustainable commitments of mountain resorts
Mountain holidays and eco-responsible activities are not (or no longer) mutually exclusive. Aware of the environmental challenges, the winter sports resorts in the Alps have committed themselves to making significant energy savings and eliminating all their CO² emissions by 2037. This ambitious goal requires better resource management and the use of sustainable technological innovations. Since last winter, Val Thorens has been using hybrid snow groomers and software to forecast water requirements in order to create artificial snow in a specific area. Mountain destinations are also developing new energy-efficient lifts to enable skiers and pedestrians to link several villages in a resort or ski area. This is notably the case at La Norma, in Haute-Maurienne Vanoise, where a 100% electric gondola is opening this winter, or at Alpe d'Huez with Huez Express, in the Oisans massif.