Responsible tourism: Ski touring holiday in the French Alps
In the winter the high mountain environment in and around the Ecrins National Park is pretty much inaccessible except on skis. Whilst skiing itself isn’t really known for it’s environmental contribution, it is the only way to access some areas in winter so it is important to learn to ski responsibly.
It is a harsh and fragile environment with the vegetation covered by snow and ice and the non-hibernating animals competing against each other for food and shelter. On this trip you will learn the skills and techniques to venture into this habitat responsibly and safely with an understanding of the animals’ lifestyles. You will get to know the difference between a wild boar print and a chamois and suss out if they were running, being chased or just chilling out in the snow!
The remoteness of this winter wilderness experienced first hand and the insight you will gain into the lives of the animals just from looking around you (with a guide to explain what it all means!!) on your journey is a truly humbling experience.
The Ecrins National Park is a protected area for wildlife and there have been several projects to reintroduce animals such as the ibex and safeguard other species from the erosion of development elsewhere. This trip gives a good appreciation and respect for the work and it’s importance globally.
The accommodation has a very good restaurant (where vegetarians don't have to feel like lepers!), bar, internet access, library and some of the most beautiful views in the area! The building was been completely renovated in a joint project by the commune de Champoléon, le conseil Général des Hautes-Alpes, le Conseil Régional PACA and the Ecrins National Park to provide an ecologically friendly place to stay and access to this beautiful remote valley. It is run by a small team of passionate foodies and outdoories headed by Stephanie and Laurent and their two children, who will ensure you are well looked after.
Our office policy is to be as paperless as possible, to use recycled paper where necessary and re-use envelopes and jiffy bags where possible.
Although ski resorts by and large are not environmentally friendly, they do support the local community economically. We don’t use any large commercial ski resorts on this trip. However, on the first day where the focus is on learning off piste technique and mountain safety, it is more efficient to have the use of ski lifts! So we have chosen a small ski village resort which is run by the local community and the money made on the lifts and on any drinks bought in the only, very quaint and traditional, alpine bar goes straight back into the community rather than a large commercial ski company.
We use local guides and pay them the proper rate rather than importing ‘part time guides’ from abroad who have alternative means of income and do guiding for fun and not much money. These types of guides are able to reduce their rates significantly making it difficult for full time guides who have dedicated their lives to the mountains to be competitive.
We also use one of the few mountain refuges open all year in the area, thus supporting the guardian who makes his living from tourists. A refuge guardian’s life is a tough one and is done out of a passion for the mountains rather than a desire to make any money. It is getting harder and harder for the guardians to make ends meet and to justify their winters in the mountains, where sometimes they are totally isolated and can be snowed in without seeing anyone for several weeks.