Litter discarded in the mountains does not degrade; even natural waste such as orange peel can take between six months and two years to decompose, and cigarette butts five years to degrade. Water bottles take a hundred years after that. Just like beaches, ski resorts have to do massive clean ups every year – if they can be bothered, that is.
Wildlife is disturbed by ski developments and skiers. One example is with birds which are killed or maimed when they collide with ski-lift cables. Or the dwindling Colorado population of the Canadian Lynx is said to be caused by the skiing industry. Also, some animals, such as chamois or hares, injure themselves in soft deep snow, where they would not instinctively roam, in order to escape skiers heading towards them at speed.
In the larger downhill skiing resorts, there is a problem with second homes, many of which are left empty throughout the year. This creates resentment in the small mountain communities among residents, where it is felt that the cultural landscape of many mountain villages is being changed by mass tourism.
What you can do
Make sure you travel with a company that has a responsible tourism policy. These experts understand the mountain environments, use highly qualified guides (local ones ideally) and also support small local communities by staying in small, locally owned accommodation and eating in rural restaurants and bars. If downhill is your thing, then consult a sustainable skiing website such as Save our Snow
, which highlights which downhill resorts are taking big moves to be responsible and green.
Take all your litter home with you and, if you see litter, please pick it up and remove it.
Respect the natural habitat of mountain animals and plants by taking care not to damage vegetation, knock off branches or damage shoots when skiing. Many areas are out of bounds to protect the natural habitat of animals and plants – not just for safety reasons. And also, support the invaluable work of Mountain Wilderness
by following and sharing their pioneering projects on social media/blogs and so on.
The Final Call: Investigating Who Really Pays for Our Vacations, by Leo Hickman (Eden Project Books)