Rail travel that hits the heights with carbon footprint site

A new website aims to help skiers reduce their carbon footprint by taking the train. Ben Ross talks to Snowcarbon's co-founder, Daniel Elkan
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The Independent Travel

What does Snowcarbon provide for the traveller?

Everything you need to know in terms of getting from the UK to a ski resort by train. If you take the carbon footprint of a typical Alpine ski resort, 73 per cent of it is made up of how people get there. So a train is the most important thing that you and a resort can do in terms of preserving the ski slopes.

You can find out which snow resorts are convenient by train, and you can find out exactly how to get there. You've also got all the connections at the other end. In many cases, ski resorts are not on railway lines, but they've got train stations very nearby. Often the tricky bit isn't finding out the information about how to get to that station, it's just putting it all together. Is there a bus up to the resort? How much will a taxi cost? Does the bus connect to the train?

Other key insider information on Snowcarbon: it provides details on restaurants on board trains. Some of the Swiss and Austrian trains have proper table-service à la carte restaurant carriages, with reasonably priced meals. They are a delight!

How did Snowcarbon come about?

As a journalist, I'd been writing about this subject for four years. I'd write a big feature for a newspaper or a travel magazine, get people excited, and then what would happen was that, if they tried to book the train journey and find out the details themselves, they would get really frustrated because the information isn't there in one place.

It's very easy to run into trouble booking rail tickets, especially online. It's easy to find prices that are more expensive than is available. We give specific guidance on each destination and how to book the lowest fares. The Eurostar direct snow train is bookable well in advance, but other trains are only bookable 90 days beforehand. We've got an email reminder service on the site, and it will remind you of the first date that is available for booking.

What's wrong with flying and buying a carbon offset?

Carbon offsetting isn't a terrible idea, and it's better than nothing, but it's flawed. When you get on that plane, the carbon emissions are doing the damage there and then. Offset schemes invest money into carbon-reducing activities such as planting trees, but the results of those activities don't happen for a delayed time period. The average train CO2 emissions [to a European ski resort] is around 10-12kg per person one way. By plane, it's around 80-110kg one way. So it's around eight to 10 times better in that sense.

What's the most distant ski resort I can get to on Snowcarbon?

Andorra, which is just two trains away. Take the Eurostar to Paris and then an overnight down to a little station called L'Hospitalet, where you arrive at about 7.30am. Half an hour later, you're in the resort – there's a connecting bus that waits for the train.