Friday, 26 November 2010

The snow is here, so let's be nice yeah?

So it has dumped it down in Chamonix, officially kicking off the season. Here's a little something to get you on your skis and feeling good about the world rather than destroying it with your sport.

Can skiing ever be completely eco-friendly? Unlikely. But if you’re keen to reduce your carbon footprint while still get your powder fix, here are some ways to do it.

See? Snowboarders can be green. Ripping it in Keystone, Colorado. Photo: Tom Humpage

ISRA ECO CHALET –  Chamonix Mont Blanc, France
Described as a place of deep healing and relaxation, this beautiful five-star chalet with views on Mont Blanc was conceived using Feng Shui to harness the area’s natural energy. Heating is by solar power and for every group which stays the owners plant a tree in Scotland via the Trees for Life charity. 

CHALET CHATELETAbondance, Portes du Soleil, France
Built from scratch by Anglo-French couple Suzie and Pascal, Chalet Chatelet takes ‘leave no trace’ seriously. Insulation is provided by lambs wool, cork and hemp packed into the logs which make up the walls, heating is via solar panels and wood-burning stoves. The excellent cooking uses organic and local produce and even the crockery is handmade around the Portes du Soleil area.

LA SOURCE  – Samoens, France
Once a 19th Century farm, La Source is now a boutique, design-led yoga and adventure lodge which embraces the idea of sustainability and personal development. It could be a modern day hippy commune but is far too hip to succumb entirely – the wood-fired hot tub being a great example of luxury meeting environmental awareness head on.

WHITE PODLes Cerniers, Switzerland
Not so much accommodation as an entire resort located above the gorgeous village of Les Cerniers. The resort comprises of 15 futuristic dome-like pods surrounding a central chalet which houses a restaurant and spa. The pods sit at 1700m and have access to 7km of piste, the whole atmosphere being one of cosy wilderness camping rather than Jagerbombs at 4am.

In June Timberline Lodge became the first ski resort in the world to receive third-party recognition of its eco-credentials through Sustainable Travel International’s Sustainable Tourism Eco-certification Programme (STEP.) Some of the initiatives it was commended for included its work with the Forestry Service, its energy reduction plan and its employee-led ‘Green Team.’

KICKING HORSE RIVER LODGEGolden, British Columbia, Canada
Celebrating its fifth birthday this year, and located in the small and uncommercial but powder-heavy resort of Kicking Horse, the KHRL is an absolute find.  Geothermal technology is used to heat the building, reducing C)2 emissions by 77%. The owners revel in the spectacular natural environment which is on their doorstep and encourage guests to do the same – not hard when supping a beer from the gigantic outside deck after a day riding powder up to your knees.

If you want to check out the green credentials of a resort before booking, the Ski Club of Great Britain have an excellent resource on their website They list resorts from Austria to Australia looking at their green programmes, recycling initiatives and traffic reduction ideas. Currently coming out top is the North American resort of Aspen.

If you want to tread lightly once you’re in resort, ditch the downhill skiing with all those chairlifts and opt instead for ski touring or snowshoeing. Dream Guides ( run day and multi-day ski tours in France, Italy and Switzerland where clients use ‘skins’ on their skis to move up cols, accessing areas unattainable on tradition skis. If your skiing isn’t good enough to cope with hours of off piste try snowshoeing with Icicle Mountaineering which runs week-long courses in the Chamonix Valley ( 

Eco Expo ( is a new exhibition/ conference which launched last year in Chamonix, France and is due for its second installment in April 2011. As well as talks by environmental experts and enthusiasts on how to reduce the carbon footprints of both skiers and businesses, the event also hosts organic food and wine tasting, a clothes swap and gig sessions by local musicians.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Gothenburg, Sweden top five

'No wait, I think I have a death metal version of Britney Spears here somewhere,' said Hampus. And there in one sentence is Gothenburg or Goteborg in its Swedish spelling. The home of the melodic death metal scene, an industrial and maritime hub (Volvo and Ericsson have centres near the city) yet also sweet, the locals are hilariously good-looking and the city is becoming a surprising cultural herald. Got a weekend spare? Here's where to go.

1) Cafe Kringlan, Haga Nygatan 13, 413 01 Göteborg
Even when the staff are having a bad day (and they had two when I was there. Not because I was there I hope ... )the food and coffee more than make up for it. Massive cinnamon buns which were delicious and superb latte. Quiet in the early morning but soon packs out with students heading up to the University of Gothenburg which sits at the end of Haga Nygata. Kringlan has a cosy, farmhouse-style interior in shades of floral green with low lighting. You could sit here until you are bored of reading that same page of the intensely intellectual novel over and over and over again.

2) Bitter bar, Linnegatan 59, 402 33 Göteborg
Extremely, unashamedly (maybe because it doesn't realise) cheesy bar. So bad it's awesome. A homage to the ratpack with their pictures everywhere and a fake fire burning on one wall. But the rum choice is huge and superb and it's well worth a visit for that alone.

3) Bar Kino, Linnegatan 21 413 04 Göteborg
Sitting underneath the art house cinema of Hagabion, this bar is a gorgeous modern speakeasy without the illict actions but a lot of the feel. A piano sits in the corner demanding someone to let loose, and low lighting combined with the black and white check floor makes for a groovy, downtempo, funky atmosphere.

4) Bar Italia, Prinsgatan 7
No way is this the best coffee in Gothenburg despite what fans may tell you! But it has a blue vespa stuck to the wall and frankly that swings it into this list for me. The espresso is thick and wonderful and the modish Italian furniture spot on for that Roman feel. Crowded every single time I went in but then standing up and necking strong coffee is what Italy is all about so that even goes in its favour.

5) Soppkaffe, Karl Johansgatan
This place is way out from both Haga and Linne, the two hipster parts of town but for its homely, local, lack of style it is a superb place to chill. Big windows, Gothic mirrors, huge velvet sofas and cute little red-check tableclothed tables just begging to house a first date for two shy 17-year-olds on a budget. Plus it's warm and smells of food which in chilly, windy Goteborg is a plus. Oh and the latte was pretty unique with quite a nutty flavour. Whether that was intentional or not I'd rather not know.

And in terms of places to stay, you could do a lot worse than the boutique Avalon hotel. Although the best part could easily be said to be the walk-in shower, glass bottomed swimming pool which hangs over the edge of the building, or the inclusive, huge breakfast. but no. The best bit is the sound of fairy magic as you walk down the corridor. Think Tinkerbell. Superb.

Oh. And here's that death metal Britney.