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Travel and retreats: Love skiing, love the planet

24 January 2020

Want to eco-ski? Christine Miles sources companies that offer no-fly ski breaks and websites to help plan a more earth-friendly trip


No-fly UK skiing

ABERNETHY runs four Christian outdoor-adventure centres which cater for school and church groups as well as individuals and families. At its Nethybridge centre, located in the Cairngorm National Park, a ski and snowboard school is available between January to March (with full instruction from Abernethy’s British Association of Snowsport Instructors, or Snowsport Scotland qualified instructors at either the Lecht ski area or Cairn­gorm Mountain). The centre also has a dry ski slope for complete be­­ginners, and for when the weather does not permit skiing. A two-night stay with two days’ skiing costs £192 per adult; £168 for under-16s (mini­mum four people, otherwise the cost is higher). Price includes trans­­port to ski slopes, equipment hire, instruction, accommodation, and all food. Abernethy can also pro­­vide transfers to and from Aviemore Station (£25 one-way per minibus) or Inverness (£120 one-way per minibus).

Visit abernethy.org.uk/our-centres/nethybridge, or phone 01479 821279.

Fellowship in the French Alps

RICHMOND HOLIDAYS provides ski holidays at two chalets in the heart of the Three Valleys area of France: Chalet des Neiges, at 2000m, in Reberty, and Chalet Elise, at 1600m, in Le Bettaix. The chalets are ten minutes from Les Menuires, and provide access to a range of pistes for skiers of all levels (there is even a dedicated “Learn to Ski” week for complete beginners). Accommoda­tion includes breakfast, afternoon tea, and three-course dinner with wine; and chalets have saunas and outdoor hot-tubs with beautiful mountain views. As a Christian holiday company, there is optional morning prayer and pre-dinner prayer, worship, and Bible-teaching. Ski lessons, ski equipment, lift passes, and childcare can all be pre-booked. Should you wish to travel by train, Richmond can provide return transfers from Moutiers station for £45 per person.

Visit richmond-holidays.com, or phone 020 3004 2661.

Christian skiing breaks

OAK HALL offers holidays largely aimed at those in their twenties and thirties. All holidays are open to a broad age-range, however, including children from the age of seven (a family week in summer and winter is open to families with children aged three and over). Besides various activities and full-board accom­modation, Oak Hall holidays feature optional evening worship, prayer, and a Bible talk. You can opt to travel by car or train to your resort, or book on to one of Oak Hall’s overnight coaches (from Victoria Coach Station, or Otford or Folkestone in Kent). Not only is coach travel an economical and low-carbon way to travel, it means arriv­ing having already met other people booked on to the same ski holiday; great for single travellers. Oak Hall features ski holidays in Austria, Switzerland, Italy and Germany.

Visit oakhall.co.uk, or phone 01732 763131.


Planet-friendly fun

RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL was set up in 2001 to promote sustainable-holiday options. Today, it is one of the largest green travel companies in the world: there are more than 6000 responsible holidays on its books, from more than 400 holiday pro­viders. Its website lists holidays by category, and its winter section pro­vides 14 types of winter adventure, from cross-country skiing to dog sled/husky safaris to snowshoeing and winter wildlife-watching. If you are keen on cross-country skiing, there are 14 breaks available from providers in Finland, Norway, Italy, Austria, and Chile. For a family ski trip, there are 16 holidays on offer from providers in Norway, Finland, Lapland, France, Slovakia, Italy, Austria, Montenegro, and the Span­ish Pyrenees.

Visit responsibletravel.com/types, or phone 01273 823 700.

Eco ski and snowboard

SNO, a one-time winner at the Telegraph World Snow Awards, is the fastest-growing ski travel busi­ness in the UK. Its website features more than one million ski and snow­board holidays. For those concerned with protecting the climate, there is a webpage promot­ing the best in green ski-breaks, acknowledging that many chalets, hotels, and resorts are work­ing on sustainability — whether through energy efficiency, offsetting carbon emissions, or initiatives such as planting trees. They highlight the leading eco ski resorts, the best ways to travel with the environment in mind, and even eco skiing tips and ski equipment.

Visit sno.co.uk/ski-holidays/green-eco-sustainable, or phone 020 7770 6888.

Best ‘green’ hotel

FOR eco-luxury with a clear conscience, the World Ski Awards last year named the Valsana Hotel and Apartments in Switzerland the “World’s Best Green Hotel”.
The hotel complex has impressive green credentials: recycled building materials; a heating system using geo­thermal probes and heat recap­­tur­ing (largely from its spa and hotel kitchen); LED lights; eco beauty- and cleaning-products; local and sustainable food and European wine on its menus; recycled kitchen waste (into biogas); a paperless office system, and free guest bicycle hire. Valsana promises to plant a tree for every booking made through its website. Guests are also given the opportunity to offset their journey by supporting the Mountain Gorilla Project in Rwanda, made famous by Dian Fossey. The complex offsets its own unavoidable emissions, too, supporting the mountain gorilla project and the restoration of moor­land in Glarus, Switzerland: a carbon-dioxide sink (natural systems that suck up and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere).
Valsana’s four-night “Winter Tast­­ing” package for two, including dinner, night sledge-ride, one-day ski pass and rental, snow hike, spa and sport-club access, and more, is priced from £670pp.

Visit valsana.ch/en.

Hit the slopes by train

A FORMER London Bridge Station manager, Mark Smith, runs the website www.seat61.com, which advises how to travel the world by train. The site includes a section advising how to “ski by train, not by plane” to slopes in the French Alps, Switzer­land, Austria, Italy, and Andorra. The most extensive information covers the main resorts accessible by ski train and other rail routes in the French Alps; there is advice on trans­fers, accommodation, and more. The Swiss section features information covering rail travel to Zermatt, St Moritz, Klosters, Davos, Gstaad, Grindelwald, and more. The site is invaluable: it has links to rail-company booking sites and plenty of helpful route recommendations.

To see rail-route options visit seat61.com/ski-by-train.

Eco-rated resorts

SKIRESORT is the largest test portal of ski resorts worldwide: it has detailed information about all 5600 resorts. It considers the environ­mental friendliness of resorts for things such as artificial-snow pro­duction, use of renewable energy, waste disposal and separation, trans­portation options and car-free villages, fauna conservation, and pro­­­motion of regional produce.

To check their ratings visit skiresort.info/best-ski-resorts/europe/sorted/environmentally-friendly.

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