Sustainable winter holidays by rail
Railway networks such as Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) have been able to significantly improve the appeal of public transport for winter vacation travel. Their extensive rail network offering good connections to ski resorts, competitive pricing and a baggage handling service makes winter tourism more sustainable too. ÖBB offers combined rail-ski lift tickets for eleven of the most popular skiing resorts in Austria. These include the rail ticket, bus transfer to your resort and additional discounts on your ski pass and ski rental. A door-to-door baggage service is also available for an additional fee. As some of these eleven skiing resorts are designed to be car free, making the journey by train makes even more sense. Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) offer a similar service, which doesn’t charge extra for your luggage. Services such as these reduce the stress of rail travel considerably while helping holidaymakers and skiing resorts to make winter vacations more sustainable by decreasing individual traffic.
Up in the air – winter tourism and a new job for an old favourite
Complementing more traditional modes of public transport in topographically difficult areas, the cable car has already established its credentials as a popular people mover in a number of urban regions. In ski resorts, the cable car continues to transport people from valley floor to mountain top and back. It is rare however to see cable cars operating outside of the confines of a single resort.
As part of the ongoing trend of interconnected ski resorts and increasing emphasis on sustainable mobility, there is considerable potential in establishing intermodal mobility networks using cable cars. This very idea was picked up by the Norwegian Voss region which is popular with winter sport enthusiasts. Visitors from nearby Bergen are now able to take the train to Voss, seamlessly transferring to a cable car located directly underneath Voss’ Central Station thus reducing the excess levels of road traffic traditionally generated by winter tourism. The cable car then transports the passengers the 764 metres up to the ski slopes directly.
This smart and sustainable mobility concept has already reduced emissions and noise levels.
In order to connect nearby ski resorts, cable car stations should be connected to traffic hubs such as railway stations. There is an obvious downside: the impact on the environment. A cable car network planned between Ötztal and Pitztal in Tyrol, Austria, was delayed for years and eventually stopped via referendum after it was judged that the environmental impact would be too severe.
Car-free or car share! – An idyllic & electrified holiday
More and more holiday resorts are banning cars in order to be perceived as a truly idyllic tourism destination, reducing their environmental footprint and enabling tourists who either don’t own a car or want to leave the car at home, but still enjoy a holiday without having to make any sacrifices. The concept of a car-free resort extends from ‘no cars permitted’ to offering shared electric mobility services. In the Austrian village of Werfenweng, the potential of car-free villages is immediately apparent. Popular with skiers and hikers, Werfenweng encourages its visitors to leave their cars at home offering access instead to a fleet of electric cars. This includes free shuttles from hotels to the railway station and transport to the ski lifts as well as to neighbouring villages. The concept also comprises taxis and sharing services for cars, bicycles and micro mobility. The intention is clear: offering tourists a more sustainable holiday while simultaneously improving the quality of life for the local population, thus ensuring that the tourist destination remains sustainable in the future. Examples of such smart mobility solutions in other Austrian car-free resorts include Oberlech, providing a pedestrian tunnel system connecting hotels, lifts or Serfaus with its own subway.
No car? No gear? No problem!
Thanks to advanced technology and AI, software interfaces connecting local goods & service providers are becoming more and more common in holiday regions. A car rental company web page could offer links to local companies supplying goods and services. Customers wishing to book a rental car could receive activity options plus suggestions for the specific gear required for their particular travel destination and dates. While being provided with information and options for their next trip, they can order all items individually via the car rental platform. A co-operative eco-system enables customers to place one order encompassing their chosen vehicle, a booking for all their favourite activities and the gear required. In practice, this could be a rental car delivered to your door pre- packed with skiing equipment, child seats, ski lift passes and the car’s navigation system already programmed for your destination. The same rationale behind car sharing programmes promotes freedom of choice and a sustainable, shared economy.
Full service - Skiing equipment on demand
A ski-concierge takes the stress out of the journey between your accommodation and the ski slopes. The ski-concierge rents out skiing equipment, can store equipment overnight and even service it for the following day. Skiing equipment stays on the slopes at the ski-concierge’s facility thus, doing away with the need for it to be carried back and forth every day. Shuttle services and buses become more attractive as they are more like public transportation in a city than a shuttle bus full of skiers. Ski-concierge services are already offered, for example in Colorado, in the United States by the “The Little Nell Ski Concierge” and “Four Seasons Vail Ski Concierge”. The by-products of a significantly enhanced customer experience on and getting to the slopes include more sustainable and convenient mobility solutions for winter tourism regions.
This post was originally published in MOTION Magazine Edition Two - if you’d like to find out more about this topic and other amazing smart mobility stories, please visit our MOTION Magazine Shop to get your own copy of our latest magazines.
And here is a report from our author Tom Fortune on what it is like driving with an electric vehicle in the French Alps.
Title photo courtesy of Catharina Brecht.