Verbier, with its crisp alpine air and iconic peaks, has long been a haven for winter enthusiasts seeking slope thrills. Yet, beyond the adrenaline rush, this Swiss resort is quietly embracing sustainability.
Recognising the urgent need to protect its mountain haven, Verbier is making significant strides towards a greener future.
A Seamless Journey to the Summit
Verbier aims to provide visitors with a seamless and sustainable travel experience. The Go Verbier platform, developed by Antidots, integrates all modes of transportation, including trains, planes, buses, and even the valley lift, into a single booking platform.
The platform calculates CO2 emissions for each transportation combination, empowering travelers to make environmentally conscious choices. This pioneering initiative aligns with Verbier’s commitment to being a laboratory of ideas and innovation, setting a new standard for sustainable tourism.
The Green Grooming Initiative: Tackling the Carbon Slopes
Underneath the surface of Verbier’s winter playground, the delicate ecosystem is now grappling with the harsh impacts of climate change.
The resort faces the immediate challenges of melting permafrost, collapsing mountains, and erratic weather patterns. Buildings are shifting due to the melting ice, posing questions about how to adapt intelligently to rising temperatures.
One of the initiatives aimed at lessening the impact is the Green Grooming Initiative, however this isn’t without its hurdles. The grooming machines, essential for slope maintenance, are mainly oil-powered and churn out 2597 tons of CO2 annually. And despite the resort’s efforts to switch to electric powered machines, the current tech struggles at higher altitudes, and the machines’ weight poses challenges at altitudes exceeding 10,000 feet. However, the resort has taken steps to address these challenges, including a solar panel trial and exploring hydrogen production for powering public transport and grooming machines. The vision is clear – Verbier aspires to be diesel-free for its ski operations.
Lifts and Energy: Reaching New Heights in Sustainability
On a brighter note, Verbier has successfully electrified all its lifts, relying on renewable energy sources for 93% of its electricity needs. The resort’s commitment extends beyond the lifts, with lift buildings now heated using wood pellet systems. The adoption of electrical motors for lifts and innovative speed regulation strategies have resulted in an 8-10% reduction in energy consumption.
Mobility Revolution: Greening the Journey to the Peaks
Recognising that sustainability extends beyond the slopes, Verbier is reshaping mobility. Aiming to reduce the number of cars, the resort encourages visitors to opt for trains, with direct railway connections from Geneva making it easier for weekend skiers to access the resort. The extended operating hours of the gondola (5.30am-11.50pm), aligned with train schedules, ensure a seamless and sustainable travel experience for visitors. Verbier is also addressing plastic consumption in its restaurants and actively engaging in cleaning initiatives. Every June, employees embark on a collective effort to clean up litter, showcasing the resort’s commitment to maintaining its natural beauty.
Water Management: From Peaks to Pipes
Water, a precious resource in the mountains, is managed meticulously in Verbier. With rising temperatures threatening water sources, the resort has implemented innovative solutions. A robust water infrastructure, sourced from 81 natural springs, ensures a sustainable supply for the 60,000 winter and 10,000 summer inhabitants.
Additionally, Verbier harnesses the power of water, using turbine sewage systems to generate electricity. This dual-purpose approach not only treats wastewater but also contributes significantly to the resort’s energy needs.To tackle snow production and grooming more sustainably, Verbier employs advanced technologies like snow height measurements to optimise water consumption and reduce environmental impact.
Local Businesses: Leading the Way
Verbier’s sustainability ethos extends beyond the slopes, with local businesses championing green practices. Sungod, a British eyewear brand with a strong presence in Verbier, exemplifies how companies can balance profit and planet. Sungod’s commitment to sustainability includes carbon neutrality, offsetting sales into 2025, and a focus on recycling. The brand actively engages in environmental initiatives, such as collecting and distributing sunglasses to remote indigenous communities and supporting climate advocacy through limited-edition goggle selections.
Cirkle Supply Co. is a game-changing initiative that is redefining the way skiers and snowboarders experience the slopes. Introducing a novel approach to skiwear, this innovative platform specialises in premium outerwear, midlayers, and gloves available for rent, marking a paradigm shift towards a circular and eco-conscious model, particularly for those only visiting the alps once a year, or with growing kids. Partnering with premium brands, the platform seamlessly delivers technical outerwear directly to your hotel.
And, hotels in the area are also playing their part. During their refurb in 2019, Hotel de Verbier installed triple glazing, solar panels and re-used materials within its build. Their coffee capsules are biodegradable and they actively encourage guests to drink Verbier’s pristine tap water rather than opt for bottled. They’ve even ensured all bathrooms have eco-luxury skin and hair products by Björk & Berries.
Finally, Ferme De Soliel, a small, completely renovated farmhouse has mixed agriculture and tourism since its opening in 2017. The owners, Viviane and Blaise Collombin, fell in love with this old traditional goat farm and restored it to launch a warm and family agritourism.
The challenges are immense, but Verbier’s commitment to balancing the thrill of the slopes with responsible environmental stewardship paints a hopeful picture for alpine destinations worldwide.
A seven-night stay at Hotel de Verbier costs from £1,390pp based on two sharing with breakfast included. Husband and wife-team, Eld and Ebba Leijonhufvud, opened the hotel in December 2020. Since then, they have been presented the Sustainable award as a level III business, which is a comprehensive, recognised sustainability credential that covers all dimensions of sustainability and is regularly audited by third parties. The hotel is located at the very centre of Verbier in Place Centrale – close to the main lifts either by foot or by using the free buses. The hotel was thoroughly reconstructed, and now comprises twenty-nine rooms and three studio apartments. The body of the building has undergone a clever re-design that combines stone and wood, balancing contemporary style with traditional materials. Eld and Ebba have also added in several spa facilities that include a gym, hammam, jacuzzi, sauna and massage rooms.
All travel can now be booked via the Go Verbier booking platform will incorporate all modes of transportation, covering entire journeys from any location worldwide.
A return standard class train journey from London St Pancras to Verbier costs £320pp. The new Eco Calculator created by CFF/SBB (National Swiss railway company) makes it easy to compare the different ways of traveling from London St Pancreas to Verbier. Using Eurostar, TGV, trains and gondolas to resort saves 218.3 kilos of CO₂ and 80.6 litters of fuel per person and provides time to work, read or relax.
Ski Clothes Hire Cirkel Supply
Ski Guide Instructor Warren Smith Ski Academy
All images credit Sam Wilcox