Travel Editor Frank Baldwin reports on Les Gets in France, and how they are cleaning up the area for a healthier and more eco-friendly experience for skiers.
Les Gets in France is aiming for a healthier and more eco-friendly experience for skiers, snowboarders, and resort staff by banning smoking.
The French ski area of Les Gets claims to be the first in Europe to ban smoking both on and off the slopes – except in five designated areas.
The ban came into force on 17 December and Benjamin Mugnier, who is in charge of the project, said: “We want to showcase our number one asset which is the clean air of the mountain. This is why thousands of people visit us every year.”
Previously, more than 3,000 cigarette butts were collected annually in the Les Gets ski area, and it is estimated each one represents 150 substances, that are toxic to the environment, and nearly 4000 pollutants. Butts also take 10 to 15 years taken to break down.
The resort had previously taken steps to minimise the problem by distributing free pocket ashtrays, but it has now announced the ban in order to drastically reduce this source of significant environmental pollution. Health was also taken into consideration as passive smoking on ski lifts and in queues affects other skiers and snowboarders, and particularly children.
Smokers will not be completely unwelcome in the resort. Five areas are being set up in the ski area to allow those who wish to have a ‘cigarette break. They will be located at the top of ski lifts and marked by banners and equipped with ashtrays, made from recycled skis by the cooperative company Skitec.
The cigarette butts collected in the various smoking areas will be collected and recycled into energy, in partnership with the association Tree6clope.
Sagets, the company operating the Les Gets ski and leisure area, has set up a ‘tobacco way out’ programme for its employees.
Although tobacco-free ski areas have already existed for several years in North America, Japan, and New Zealand, Les Gets claims its initiative is a first in Europe. With this initiative, the resort is consolidating its status as progressive, at the forefront of societal issues.
The new by-law took effect from December 17, 2022, the official opening date of the ski area, and is valid up to the end of the season. The ‘zero butt’ approach will be in operation in the village all year round.
Once the impact of the new initiative has been assessed, the smoking ban could be extended to the mountains during the summer season.
Gendarmes and local police will have the power to fine people if they smoke or throw a cigarette butt in the snow.
Supporters get behind the ‘territory without cigarette butts’ initiative
The ‘Tobacco-free Ski Area’ is part of the wider ‘Les Gets, territory without cigarette butts’ initiat\qive to fight pollution related to cigarette butts thrown on the ground.
Every year during the ‘clean mountain’ citizen’s day, the presence of cigarette butts remains a significant problem among the waste collected by volunteers. In 2022, more than 3,000 butts were collected on the ski area and in the village, in just one day. Approximately 25,000 tonnes end up in the wild every year in France.
Starting this winter, any cigarette butts deposited in the ashtrays of the rubbish bins of the village of Les Gets, as well as in the ashtrays in the five designated smoking areas, will be collected and stored at the Municipal Technical Centre.
They will be collected at the end of the season by the environmental protection association Tree6clope , a registered charity. The butts will be recycled at a local UVE (Energy Recovery Unit). 75% of cigarette butts are collected from businesses (bars, restaurants, snack-bars, hotels, shops…) Les Gets is encouraging them to join the Tree6clope association, which acts on a daily basis to create an area with no cigarette butts on the ground.
The goal is for each establishment to store the cigarette butts in a container provided to them, before they are collected at the end of each season by the association. The latter is also in charge of producing a map of the members at the resort which will be posted on the website of the town hall to promote this approach to the public, as well as a certificate of collection and a communications kit to display the commitment of the businesses.
The Mountain Riders association is supporting Les Get’s ‘Tobacco-free Ski Area’ approach. Other supporters include the League Against Cancer through the ‘Spaces without Tobacco’ scheme and Alcome, the eco-organisation for the reduction of cigarette butts in public spaces.
Les Gets: one resort, seven ways to ski
With exceptional sunshine, snow cover and panoramas, the resort of Les Gets has so much to offer you! Less than an hour from Geneva, between Lake Geneva and Mont-Blanc, this little corner of paradise offers unique features in the heart of the fabulous Portes du Soleil ski area.
To find out more about Les Gets and all the resort has to offer, please visit their tourism website at www.lesgets.com.