Enviro Freeride Days: Busting powder with a purpose
March 17, 2021
The first Enviro Freeride Days of Andermatt Swiss Alps and Protect Our Winters (POW) took place on the weekend of March 13 and 14. On Saturday, with brilliant sunshine and on Saturday, with tons of powder snow. The mountain guide and POW ambassador Raphi Imsand led the groups to the world-famous freeride spot on Gemsstock. On the way, they learned about the impact of climate change on snow sports and the challenges for cableways and tourist destinations.
Snowfall during the night, then sunshine and blue skies: The recipe for a perfect freeride day. And that’s just the way it was on Saturday as the participants in the Enviro Freeride Days of Andermatt Swiss Alps and the climate protection organisation POW met at the valley station of the Gemsstock lift. Local mountain guide Raphi Imsand then led everyone up Gemsstock as fast possible for the first powder descent.
Impact of climate change
Shortly before lunch, the group got a peek behind the curtains on Gemsstock. Carlo Danioth, head of rescue at the SkiArena Andermatt-Sedrun and mountain guide, explained how the climate in Andermatt has changed since the 1970s and the consequences that melting permafrost and the retreat of the glaciers are having on infrastructure and the operation of the cableways.
Ski area that’s assured of snow cover
In the afternoon, Dr Maria Vorkauf from the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Basel explained how changing climatic conditions are affecting winter sports. Through her research on assurance of snow cover in the Andermatt+Sedrun+Disentis area, she has developed and compared various scenarios: Where will skiing be possible at the end of the century, and how much water and energy will be needed to accomplish this? What happens if CO2 emissions continue to rise at the current rate?
Protect Our Winters Switzerland
Nicholas Bornstein, head of POW, talked about how we can actively contribute to reducing our footprint. He and the freeriders discussed the challenges facing mountain sports, as well as possible solutions.
The second day also began with new snow. And it ended that way, too. Raphi Imsand also knew how to handle such conditions. He led the motivated group safely through the powder slopes and showed how you don't always need high altitudes for freeriding pleasure.
The Andermatt Responsible campaign is dedicated to ensuring sustainable, climate-friendly tourism in the Andermatt region. Its aim is to facilitate tourism operations in a way that preserves resources. Third place in the Minergie Rating is confirmation that the Andermatt Swiss Alps Group is on the right path with this sustainability strategy.