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The world of eco-tourism is becoming curiouser and curiouser - with a full-blown argument across the "green travel" e-mail conference, between two self-professed eco-tour operators.

Snowboarding can in fact be "eco-travel activism" says the Californian tour operator Global Travel Etc (http://www.globaltraveletc.com/srider.htm) which is organising the Snowrider Aid Ecofestival to be held in Chamonix, France, next March.

"Really?" says Noah Shepherd of Sea Canoe in Thailand (noah@seacanoe.com). "How is that so, when snowboarding regularly desecrates mountain summits? Could the Snowrider Aid Ecofestival even just be another way of selling snowboarding tours?" he asks.

Global Travel Etc's retort came flying across the ether. "It's our opinion that every time a skier or snowboarder rides down a mountain they are participating in eco-tourism - if you or they recognise it or not."

"That's certainly one of the most unusual definitions of eco-tourism to date," replies Sea Canoe.

But Global Travel Etc is adamant about its good intentions. "The goal of Snowrider Aid is to educate these snowriders to minimise their impact on the ecosystem. Because snowboarding is the fastest growing sport in the world, we feel it is very important to get this message out! We are one of the only groups trying to tell these people to be eco-aware and responsible snowriders. Is that a bad thing?"

Snowrider Aid will, it says, include a river clean-up below the slopes, talks by environmentalists and glacier eco-tours to "teach participants about the need to conserve the 70 per cent of our planetary fresh water supply that is perpetually frozen". The icy debate will no doubt continue until March.

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