The 10 greenest ski lifts
Saturday 17 October 2009
One of the world's first dedicated ski lifts was a very green machine. It operated in Germany's Black Forest in the early 20th century and was powered by the local water mill. A century later, ski lifts are going back to renewable energy.
1. Sonnenlift, SkiWelt, Austria
The world's first solar-powered T-bar lift completed the long-planned ski-lift connection between two of Austria's biggest ski areas of Kitzbuhel and the SkiWelt last winter. The tow is powered by a photovoltaic system which, even in poor weather, has enough power to keep the lift running smoothly.
2. Ranfoilly Express, Les Gets, France
Les Gets has replaced diesel generators on the Ranfoilly Express with solar panels. The resort also recuperates kinetic energy from the Les Planeys chairlift from the rotation of the return pulleys on the pylons.
3. Whistler Blackcomb, Canada
In the past few years, more than 50 ski areas (mostly in North America) have carbon-offset their entire energy needs, buying in equivalent green power. Whistler has gone one step further by creating its own hydro-electric plant. The Fitzsimmons Creek project goes live this winter and will supply all the electricity that the 2010 Olympic venue needs year round.
4. Horse-powered lift, Alta Badia, Italy
The lift that links the Lagazuoi piste to the Alta Badia ski area is, quite literally, horse powered. It consists of a long rope that the skiers hold on to and a sledge that is drawn by a "green engine" – a pair of noriker horses. Since the lift is fuelled by hay, it does not burn any fossil fuels. However, the amount of climate-changing methane gas produced has not yet been calculated.
5. The Cirque Lift, Aspen, Colorado, USA
Colorado's original wind-powered lift uses electricity purchased from Ponnequin Wind Farm in the north of the state. The drag lift was painstakingly built, largely by hand, in an area of great environmental sensitivity. The construction crews needed to carry 50lb loads uphill to the site up to seven times a day, using multiple routes to avoid wearing a path into the ground.
6. Panoramabahn, Kaprun, Austria
All lifts and other operations on the Kitzsteinhorn glacier are powered by renewable energy. In addition, the lift company has put solar panels on lift stations to generate more, and recycles heat from the green-powered lift motors to warm buildings on the mountain.
7. Sunshine Express, Steamboat, Colorado, USA
The sunshine express chairlift uses a combination of solar and wind-renewable energy and is believed to be the only chairlift in North America to be powered using solar energy.
8. Cairngorm Funicular, Aviemore, Scotland
Although not green-powered, Cairngorm's £14.8m Swiss-made funicular does generate energy itself. When the funicular has a full car going down and an empty one coming up, the kinetic energy is harnessed and returned as power fed back in to the National Grid.
9. Piz Nair cable car, St Moritz, Switzerland
St Moritz pioneered both winter sports and hydroelectricity in the 19th century, and in this one the Piz Nair cable car was rebuilt for the 2003 FIS Alpine Skiing World Championships, fitted with a solar-power system and a wind turbine at the top station.
10. You, on a snowy mountain, anywhere
Before ski lifts began to appear in the 1930s, people used to walk up the slope to ski down. Now, environmental campaigners are keen for more of us to do it again and to enjoy winter sports as they used to be.
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