What is a climate-neutral ski resort?
A ski resort is climate neutral if the activities of the ski resort do not cause any additional CO2 through skiing operations. Snow Space Salzburg Cable Car Company has set itself the goal of being climate neutral by the 2025/26 winter season.
What is artificial snow made of?
Artificial snow is the colloquial term for technical snow or snow produced by machines. It consists exclusively of water and air. According to the Salzburg Purity Law, even the water used for technical snow must be of drinking water quality. Snow Space Salzburg Cable Car Company produces this itself by irradiating the water with UVB light.
Do you use drinking water from households for snowmaking?
No, definitely not. The majority of the water we use for snowmaking comes from our storage ponds. These store the melt water from the previous year and natural rainwater. Irradiation with UVB light produces the drinking quality of this water. Thus, we are not in competition with personal households. You can find out exactly how the snowmaking process works on the page „Sustainable snowmaking and piste preparation“. A total of 1.2 million m³ of water is involved in this water cycle on the mountain. Only in rare cases is water from the Kleinarler Ache and the Enns fed into the snowmaking circuit. However, it is important to know that Pongau is a water-abundant region. This means that there is more water available than can be used.
How much impact do skiers have on the ground?
Through the preparation of the pistes and mechanical snowmaking, we ensure that the snow cover is sufficiently thick so that the load on the ground is minimised. It can still happen that small cuts are made by ski edges. However, the piste mapping of a section of the Flachau ski area has shown that the damage is very minor and unproblematic. Smaller cuts can even be beneficial for the biodiversity of the soil, as new plant species can settle in them. When new plant life establishes itself, animals also find a habitat for themselves again. According to Prof. Dr. Pröbstl-Haider, animal species that were already thought to be extinct have been found again on the ski slopes in Salzburg, which are managed in alignment with nature.
Are the piste machines a burden on the soil?
No, piste grooming equipment is not a burden on the soil. The weight is evenly distributed on the slope by the bars underneath the caterpillar. Therefore, the pressure is similar to that exerted by a skier. In the interview with Ulrike Pröbstl-Haider you can hear that snow groomers can even be found in the management of wetland and bedding meadows, because the pressure distribution is so well optimised. Our piste mapping carried out in summer 2020 proves that the mechanically caused damage is very low and can be classified as unproblematic.
Is mechanical snowmaking bad for the environment?
Many media outlets claim that ski resorts with pure natural snow are more environmentally friendly than ski resorts with mechanical snowmaking. This statement was certainly true for snowmaking technology 20 years ago, but there have been and continue to be many changes in the entire industry. The development of the whole industry, and therefore of snowmaking technology, is moving towards working sustainably and conserving resources. New snowmaking systems use more modern technology, which produces snow crystals that are very similar to natural snow. In addition, modern snowmaking systems consume much less energy and water than 10 years ago. Furthermore, in the area of piste preparation, developments are moving towards processing the technically produced snow in such a way that it resembles natural snow.
Can ski slopes be used for agriculture at all in summer?
Yes, most definitely. Studies have found that piste areas often have an even higher biodiversity than meadow areas in valley locations. The biodiversity of a meadow area is influenced by the agricultural use. Extensively managed areas have a higher biodiversity than intensively managed areas, and meadows in valley locations are often intensively managed. In order to go beyond the present study results and find out how our ski slopes can be optimally managed, we are also expanding our slope mapping in the summer of 2022 to include tests of different forms of management.
What happens to the rubbish left behind in the ski area?
At the end of the season, we always carry out a big clean-up campaign. Cable car employees walk our entire 400 hectares of slopes and cable car routes and collect the rubbish manually. Ideally, of course, a lot of rubbish should not be left lying around in the first place. That is why we provide our ski guests with sufficient rubbish bins in the lift station areas.
During operation, we support our hut keepers in separating rubbish at their ski huts. For those establishments that do not have a direct road connection, we transport the rubbish away with our snow groomers.
Does the melting snow create wetlands?
Technically produced snow crystals are round, while natural snow crystals are hexagonal. This makes technical snow denser and more compact, and it melts more slowly. This means that more moisture is created. In order to collect this moisture, we have installed equalisation basins that collect the water and transport it underground to the storage pond. There it is stored until it is used again for snowmaking.
Can there be electricity shortages in people’s households because the cable cars need the electricity for skiing operations?
Salzburg AG is designed in such a way that electricity and load peaks can be managed at any time. For this purpose, storage power plants and pumped storage power plants are operated, which make it possible to generate additional electricity when needed or to temporarily store the energy surplus that occurs. This ensures that a large consumer – such as the ski resort Snow Space Salzburg – with a seasonal strongly fluctuating energy demand is supplied just as reliably as any private household. You can find out more about this in the interview with Markus Matschl , Head of Renewable Energy at Salzburg AG.
Are wild animals driven away by skiing and noise?
When building a ski slope or facility, care is already taken to interfere as little as possible with the habitat of wild animals Here you can find more information about what we took into consideration, for example, when building the new Flying Mozart gondola lift.
Moreover, wild animals adapt to human behaviour, as Ulrike Pröbstl-Haider points out in our interview. It is therefore important that our ski guests only move within the marked areas. In this context, Snow Space Salzburg Cable Car Company is involved in the initiative “Respect your borders” which works together with tourism, nature conservation and sports officials as well as hunters to raise public awareness.
As far as wild birds are concerned, new cable car installations with fewer supports and wires are better than the old drag lifts which had many supports and wires.
There is also often criticism that ski areas would restrict the migration possibilities of animals. However, according to Ulrike Pröbstl-Haider, research by the Association of Alpine Protected Areas shows that the mountains above 1,500 to 1,800 metres are not the problem in this respect. The problem is rather the valleys, where roads, settlements, industrial estates, power lines, etc. prevent the crossing possibilities.
Is skiing destroying the Alps?
According to Ulrike Pröbstl-Haider, skiing accounts for about 1.5% of the area in the Alpine region. It is not possible for 1.5% to ruin everything. You can listen to Ulrike Pröbstl-Haider’s comments here.
Why does skiing have such a bad reputation as far as environmental protection is concerned?
In the 60s and 70s, massive numbers of pistes were built in the Alpine region, and that caused damage. The construction of pistes then was done completely differently to how it is done today. Back then, everything was removed with excavators, mixed and dumped back on top. Today, the soil is removed in layers and put back in place. You can find out what we do to build our slopes sustainably here.
What can I do as a ski guest to reduce CO2 emissions?
The majority of CO2 emissions are produced by travelling to and from the resort. The easiest way to reduce CO2 emissions is to use alternative means of transport (train, e-car, ski bus). You can find out more about our efforts in terms of sustainable arrival and departure here.
If you are staying in a ski resort for several days, you can also make sure that your accommodation is sustainable. You can also pay attention to your carbon footprint when eating out, for example by choosing food made from locally grown products. When it comes to the overall carbon footprint, you must of course also include ski equipment in your considerations. Here, too, it is important to be aware of the production methods or switch to rental equipment.
In-depth information on the topic of skiing and sustainability
We have listed below the sources on which the content of our website is based. All sources are from professionally recognised experts.
Interviews (in German):
• Professor Ulrike Pröbstl-Haider (Chairperson Ecology Advisory Board), 27 May 2021, Alpendorf. To the interview >>
• Martina Rohrmoser (mountain hut manager Haibenalm), 6 August 2021, Haibenalm. To the interview >>
• Markus Matschl (Salzburg AG, Head of Renewable Generation), 26 August 2021, Salzburg. To the interview >>
Technical literature :
• Pröbstl-Haider, Ulrike; Brom, Monika; Dorsch, Claudia; Jiricka-Pürrer, Alexandra (2018): Environmental management in ski resorts. Download work >>
• Pröbstl-Haider, Ulrike; Wittmann, Helmut; Neumayer, Johann; Gros, Patrick; Illich, Inge (January 2020): Biodiversity study on eco-piste management. Download work >>
• Federal Environment Agency (October 2018): Comparative greenhouse gas balance of different holidays. Download work >>
• Bedek, Wilfried (20 May 2021): 10 EUB Flying Mozart, report on the ecological measures concept and field report. Download press release>>
• Professional Association of Cable Cars: Ecology and Environment