The people of Graubünden in Switzerland are blazing their own innovative trail. The Flims-Laax-Falera region, or LAAX for short, has been uncompromisingly focusing on three cards for some years now: ecological sustainability (greenstyle), freestyle and digitalization. With success, because in Alpine tourism LAAX is considered an absolute pioneer in all three disciplines. LAAX is young at heart. And much here is reminiscent of the alpine version of California’s surf and skate culture.
When it comes to sustainability in the region, there’s no getting around Reto Fry. In addition to his job as an environmental officer at the Weissen Arena Group (WAG), he is also a member of the board of the Greenstyle Foundation, a non-profit organization that works to preserve and protect the local environment. One of Reto Fry’s greatest visions is to cover the entire energy needs of Flims, Laax, Falera, Trin and Sagogn with 100 percent regional renewable energy. Loosely based on the motto: “Imagine we transform the entire destination from a consumer to a producer.” Just a vision or feasible?
In the current eMove360° magazine (in German) Reto Fry reveals what the starting point is, what has been achieved so far and what is still on the Greenstyle to-do list.
Sabine Metzger also wanted to know from Fry how sustainable a ski resort with four snow parks, 224 kilometers of slopes and numerous freeride options can be.
eMove360°: Can a ski resort be sustainable at all?
Reto Fry: Ski resorts need snow and should therefore be particularly committed to climate protection out of their own interest. Exemplary destinations publicly commit to ambitious climate protection. This should primarily be based on a CO2 reduction path. LAAX is fully committed to green energy! And electric snow groomers are already preparing the slopes. CO2 compensation is not fundamentally wrong – in any case better than nothing – but should not be used to clear one’s bad environmental conscience.
eMove360°: How long has the electric snow groomer driven by Iris Mannhart been in use? How many of them are there?
Fry: The Pistenbully 600 E+ with diesel hybrid drive has been in use since 2012. There are currently 2 of this model. Costs: approx. CHF 600,000/piece.
eMove360°: Can you tell us some technical details about the e-Pistenbully? Which brand? Battery power?
Fry: The Pistenbully 600 E+ is a hybrid solution, so up to 20% fuel (diesel) can be saved. The performance of the E-Pistenbully is currently not yet comparable with a conventional Pistenbully. Therefore, the E-Pistenbullys are mainly used for hiking trails and for cross-country skiing trails (www.pistenbully.com). In addition, each snow groomer is equipped with a snow depth measurement so that the snow can be distributed more efficiently. This means that the drivers and snowmakers can always see exactly where there is how much snow (www.snowsat.com).
eMove360°: There is great potential to save energy in the area of mobility. In your six-point plan, which shows how it could be done, you also mention electromobility. What concrete measures have been taken on this topic so far – apart from the E-Pistenbully? And what is the vision for the future?
Fry: Our climate protection promise is to be CO2-neutral by 2030 and, in doing so, to electrify the entire vehicle fleet in addition to the oil heating systems so that no more fossil fuels are consumed. In the case of snow groomers, we depend on what the manufacturers can offer us by then. The manufacturers are working on new drive technologies and on more climate-friendly fuels as a transitional solution – until the combustion engine is replaced by e-drives. In the case of the company’s vehicle fleet, the conversion from combustion engines to e-mobility has long since begun. Examples of this are:
The LAAX E-Shuttle: The modern call cab runs on 100% regional renewable electricity, it has been operating climate-neutrally since 2017 and is available within the destination.
The Sponti-Car: Anyone who spontaneously needs a car by the hour or day has had the option of renting an electric car since 2020. For as little as CHF 5 per hour, you can travel emission-free. Currently, one car each can be rented in Laax in the parking garage at the valley station, in Flims Dorf, in Trin at the Quadris bus stop and in Schluein.
The electric snow blower on the treetop path: Since autumn 2021, the electric snow blower has been clearing the 1, 56 km long treetop path.
The charging infrastructure: Since 2021, 50 charging stations for e-vehicles are available in the parking garage of the Signinahotel and the Rocksresort. In cooperation with PoIestar, there is also a fast charging station. There are well over 50 charging stations throughout the destination of Flims Laax Falera and new ones are being added all the time.
E-bikes: There are 18 charging stations throughout the destination, distributed on the mountain and in the valley. E-bikes are provided free of charge to guests of the Signinahotel in summer.
eMove360°: What does Reto Fry’s personal eco-balance actually look like?
Fry smiles: I am not perfect. I used to fly more often, but nowadays only rarely. But since I stopped, I know my home better and has become much fitter. Because no matter whether it rains or snows. I leave my car in the garage and ride my bike. Mobility doesn’t get any more sustainable than that.
Accommodations with charging stations can be found on eMove360° Travelguide.