Car-free ski resorts: Greener, safer, quieter

Car-free Avoriaz in the Portes du Soleil

Car-free Avoriaz in the Portes du Soleil

Copyright: Gilles Galas / Avoriaz Tourisme

The demand for car-free ski resorts is on the increase. Environmental concern, child safety, and the desire for noise-free holidays are behind it.

Switzerland: Swiss ski resorts are striding ahead: Zermatt has electric powered buses, mini cars for hotel guests and even electric taxis. Also listed as Swiss car-free ski resorts are Bettmeralp, Braunwald, Mürren, Riederalp, Rigi, Sass Fee (since 1951), Stoos and Wengen. Wengen and Rigi boast mountain rack and pinion railways. Rigi in particular has the oldest mountain railway in Europe, installed in 1871 with sweeping mountain views.

Snow-clad Zermatt with the Matterhorn in the background  - © Zermatt Tourist Office

Snow-clad Zermatt with the Matterhorn in the background

Copyright: Zermatt Tourist Office

Italy: In Italy there is the attractive village of Chamois in the Aosta Valley with cable car access only. Courmayeur, Italy also has a fine old cobbled car-free centre. In the Austrian Tyrol, Serfaus is renowned for the world's smallest underground railway built in 1985: Dorfbahn Serfaus is 1280 metres long and can carry 1500 passengers an hour. The resort linked to the Serfaus Fiss Ladis snow fields is thus able to keep the village entirely car free. 

La Plagne Centre, France.  - © Elina Sirparanta

La Plagne Centre, France.

Copyright: Elina Sirparanta

FranceAvoriaz is the one French ski resort that claims that it is totally car-free. It boasts that "the children can fetch the bread" because there are no cars. From an environmental point of view it was designed with electric heating only thanks to award-winning architect Jacques Labro in the 1960s. One resort out of 200 in the entire country is not a lot, but Les Arcs, La Plagne, Valmorel, Valmeinier, Plagne Soleil, Belleplagne and La Norma are also listed as car-free.

It is all a question of exactly what is meant by a car-free ski resort. Many of the modern French resorts separate the cars from the people to a large extent anyway. If you can put your skis on in your accommodation and get straight to the lifts it usually means no cars to worry about. At Flaine for example you are only allowed to park your car outside your accommodation for 1.5 hours to load or unload your luggage otherwise you must leave it in one of the car parks both free and paying. That is not quite car-free, but it is getting close.

Wengen, Switzerland has one of the oldest railways in Europe.  - © Wenger-Lauberhorn

Wengen, Switzerland has one of the oldest railways in Europe.

Copyright: Wenger-Lauberhorn

It is important to differentiate between "car-free" and "no car needed". "You don't need your car" is not the same as "you are not allowed to use your car". Environmental concerns apart, resorts are increasingly trying to separate cars and people. Tourist authorities across Europe are aware of the growing focus on the issue and over the next few years the number of resorts banning cars will grow.




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