Making sustainability sing in ski resorts – spotlight on: Les Gets

When it comes to climate change – and there’s no doubt any more that it has come to that – many ski resorts have historically had a tendency to keep a low profile, because they don’t want to draw attention to the fact that they generally have, today, less (natural) snow.

This is ironic, because actually mountain resorts have enormous potential to differentiate themselves by engaging positively on the environment. All the motivation you could possibly need to respect and be inspired by nature is right there, on the doorstep. I know it’s why I live here.

#ActOnClimate

Protect Our Winters (or POW), a non-profit organisation fighting climate change on behalf of the snowsports community, recognises this and highlighted it powerfully by campaigning around the hashtag #ActOnClimate:

More specifically, acting on sustainable development in mountain tourism has great potential to build brand awareness and exposure, reputation, consumer engagement and loyalty.

I want to be part of that

So how to engage people in what the resort is doing to become more sustainable and activate them to become fans of the effort, without dwelling on the negative effects of climate change? So that, as POW executive director Chris Steinkamp put it“consumers say to themselves, ‘that’s cool, I want to be part of that'”?

This is essentially the key challenge of marketing sustainability and the question I decided to pose to a number of different French ski resorts over the next several weeks. Several of them are doing great stuff to make sustainability sing and I’m hoping to help just a little bit by identifying, highlighting and sharing some creative solutions and ideas that work.

Environment is core in Les Gets

First up: Les Gets.

“For us, communicating on sustainability started out as a natural strategy, not a calculated one, but now it is: it is part of our brand. We are a family resort, a charming village, a part of the Portes du Soleil and we protect the environment – these are our four core characteristics now.” (Gaëlle Le Coz, Les Gets Tourist Office)

Thanks very much to Gaëlle and Chrystelle Felisaz at the Tourist Office there for taking the time to take me through everything that’s going on in Les Gets.  There was plenty to talk about but three initiatives in particular stood out for me as cool:

Nature-friendly accommodation scale

Edelweiss label Les Gets

The resort has launched an ‘Escale Nature’ for landlords and hoteliers, whereby their accommodation can be classified as 1, 2 or 3 edelweiss, depending on how many eco-efficiency criteria they comply with. Criteria include energy economy, waste management and a reduction in noise pollution.

What’s cool about this? It raises awareness among accommodation providers, engages them in the overall resort effort and gives them a way to differentiate their offering from the competition, as well as encouraging them to make eco-efficiency improvements. Neat. At the same time, it also raises awareness among visitors to the resort about the choices they can make.

The resort just needs to make sure the system is robust enough, in terms of criteria and compliance, so that the edelweiss rating is credible and meaningful. It could also make it more prominent on its central reservation site, so you could easily search for 3-edelweiss accommodation, for example. It’s early days yet, but looks promising.

20% off a day pass for eco-citizens

Second, a special offer this year is delivering the clear message that it pays to be more environmentally friendly.

This coming winter, drivers of an electric vehicle can get 20% of a day ski lift pass, as well as benefiting from reserved parking spaces and two electric car charging points in the resort. Simple, and highlights the resorts new electric car charging facilities.

Night navettes

Better still, don’t use a car at all, electric or not.

les gets navette nocturne flyer

Les Gets has a free shuttle bus circulating during the day to outlying areas and the lifts to encourage people to leave their cars at home.

That’s not unusual, but often these buses only run until the early evening. If you want to go out at night and are staying centrally, you still have to get your car out, or get an expensive taxi.

This resort’s answer? In the evening, it subsidises a pick-up on demand service that will take you where you want to go in the Les Gets area for just 2 euros per adult.

Win-win… win

So three quite different initiatives with one thing in common: they’re a win-win – for the resort and its customers. Oh, and there’s a third win, for the environment.

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No fooling: top 50 French ski resorts on Facebook (1 Apr ’14)

So I checked up on the top 50 French ski resorts on Facebook today and found hardly any  April Fool’s posts!? Kudos to La Tania for this little video at least:

As for the month just past, fresh snow re-energised ski fans on social media in March and average fan growth of all the top 50 on Facebook picked up to 5.8%, from 4.4% in February.

The most engaging posts were a mixture of both pow and sunshine:

Pow in Les Arcs

Piau-Engaly in the Pyrenees was even able to announce it is extending its season:

Piau extends opening

A few resorts ran Facebook contests this month and piled on the fans as a result, including Aussois (+49%), La Pierre St Martin (+45%), Chamonix (+28%) and Le Dévoluy (+29%).

Here is the ranking in full, as recorded on 1 April 2014:

Top 5 French ski domains on Facebook

  1. Portes du Soleil – 115,096 fans
  2. Nouvelles Pyrénées – 45,540
  3. Haute Maurienne Vanoise – 38,956
  4. Les 3 Vallées – 22,865
  5. Grand Massif – 12,035

Top 50 French ski resorts on Facebook

  1. Val Thorens – 155,271 fans
  2. Megève – 114,768
  3. Tignes – 53,048
  4. Chamonix – 51,631
  5. Courchevel – 49,036
  6. Les Menuires – 48,332
  7. Les Arcs – 44,338
  8. Val d’Isère – 42,375
  9. La Clusaz – 39,258
  10. Alpe d’Huez – 38,234
  11. Les 2 Alpes – 32,046
  12. La Plagne – 31,695
  13. Cauterets – 31,573
  14. Serre Chevalier – 30,070
  15. Saint Lary – 27,418
  16. Avoriaz – 27,003
  17. Vars – 23,500
  18. Le Grand Bornand – 21,971
  19. Méribel – 19,888
  20. La Norma – 17,266
  21. Ax 3 Domaines – 16,142
  22. Les Gets – 15,762
  23. Le Dévoluy – 14,188
  24. Les Sept Laux – 12,712
  25. Châtel – 12,310
  26. Peyragudes – 12,289
  27. Les Contamines – 12,241
  28. Les Orres – 11,785
  29. Lac Blanc – 11,673
  30. Morzine – 11,280
  31. Orcières1850 – 11,000
  32. Montgenèvre – 10,469
  33. Grand Tourmalet – 9,644
  34. Sainte Foy – 9,194
  35. Aussois – 9,143
  36. Piau-Engaly – 8,723
  37. Les Saisies – 7,950
  38. Les Angles – 7,934
  39. Le Lioran – 7,722
  40. Gourette – 7,054
  41. Praloup – 6,109
  42. La Pierre St Martin – 6,059
  43. Valloire – 5,939
  44. Le Corbier – 5,392
  45. Metabief – 4,745
  46. Luz Ardiden – 4,714
  47. Villard de Lans – 4,704
  48. Arêches Beaufort – 4,665
  49. Luchon – 4,615
  50. Samoëns – 4,586

Please note: these are official pages only and only those resorts are included that have at least some alpine ski uplift capacity, ie a ski lift. Sorry if I’ve missed anyone and please let me know so this list can be improved for next month. Linked resorts/domains like the 3 Valleys are ranked separately and the count was done on 1 April.