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Sustainability
Sustainability

Sustainability in the Saas Valley

Sustainable development plays an increasingly central role in our everyday lives. This also applies to tourism.

We want to shape the future together and lay the foundations for the present and future generations. The careful handling of our environment and resources is at the forefront. Especially here in the Saas Valley, the development due to climate change can be seen and experienced. Our glaciers are also retreating noticeably. This is why we want to do something now and commit ourselves.

Vision for sustainability

Sustainable development in the Saas Valley does not only mean environmental protection. Sustainable development strives for a balance between economic, ecological and social objectives. It is also a creative process and requires a new understanding of cooperation.

Ecology: We want to protect our distinctive landscape, our wonderful nature and the unique biodiversity in the valley.

Society: We want to maintain and/or improve the quality of life for present and future generations in the Saas Valley and beyond.

Economy: We want to support our local economy in sustainable development.

The glaciers in the Saas Valley

The Saas Valley is surrounded by glaciers. In total there are almost 20 glaciers in the valley. The best known of these are the Allalin-, Fee-, Trift-, Grüebu- and Schwarzberg glaciers.

Like everywhere else, the glaciers are retreating. There are various comparative pictures which show this drastic retreat. Across Switzerland, there is even talk of a ten percent loss of ice volume over the last five years (srf news).

In principle, the snow cover from winter could protect the glaciers from the heat in summer. However, this effect is diminishing and the snow is usually no longer sufficient, as hot summers predominate.

Here in the Saas Valley you can experience the glaciers up close. Whether in summer on hikes in Hohsaas, Längfluh, Mittelallin and for alpine hiking enthusiasts at our four SAC huts (Weissmies, Almagell, Britannia and Mischabel) or of course in winter for snow sports. Nevertheless, we want to protect our nature and take care of it.

"In an avalanche, no snowflake ever feels responsible." - Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

Certified and sustainable accommodation establishments in the Saas Valley

Tourism in high alpine and sensitive areas today always brings with it a great responsibility. Saas-Fee with its unique glacier world also feels changes in the climatic conditions. The Walliserhof is convinced that everyone can make a contribution to protecting and preserving our indescribably beautiful nature and environment.

The Walliserhof takes this task seriously and has therefore been certified with the ibex fairstay certificate SILVER in 2022.

You can find out more about sustainability at the Walliserhof here.

The Swiss Youth Hostels are committed to sustainability. Sustainability is an important part of the organisational philosophy, in dealing with stakeholders, in the design of products and in environmental protection. By sustainability, the Swiss Youth Hostels understand the consideration of social and ethical concerns as a whole, as well as the sensible use of resources.

Social aspects

  • Our prices are set in a way that ensures that services will remain affordable, while still guaranteeing good quality and fair wages.
  • Our products and services are designed in such a way that allows anyone to stay at a youth hostel.
  • When constructing and running our youth hostels, we don’t just take the needs of our guests into account, we consider the consequences for our partners, neighbours and the locations, too.

Economy

  • Swiss Youth Hostels is a non-profit organisation. Our services are designed in a way that allows us to generate enough revenue to ensure security for our employees and to nurture the development potential of our organisation.

Ecology

  • The results speak for themselves: the energy consumption and emissions resulting from all Swiss Youth Hostels’ activities – whether in construction, operations or sales – are truly groundbreaking.
  • We place great value on applying sustainability principles along the entire value chain.

The Wellness Hostel 4000 has been awarded the following labels:

ibex fairstay

my climate

swisstainable

Projects in the Saas Valley

Sustainable development has been pursued in the Saas Valley for some time now. A good prerequisite for this is the car-free Saas-Fee. In addition, with the Mattmark dam and its power station, we have a hydroelectric power supply that covers all destinations. Below you will find a list of individual sustainable activities in the Saas Valley.

 

As early as 1951, the glacier village decided to remain traffic-free. There had previously been no road to Saas-Fee; the village has always been car-free. In the same year, the village became a member of the «Gemeinschaft autofreier Schweizer Tourismusorte» (GAST, a community of car-free swiss tourist resorts). Saas-Fee is also a founding member of the "Alliance in the Alps", a network of municipalities comprising over 200 international Alpine communities. These are committed to ensuring that the objectives of the Alpine Convention for sustainable development in the Alpine region are implemented in concrete terms.

The World Tourism Organization UNWTO has been looking for the best tourism villages globally as part of its "Best Tourism Villages" initiative. As a member state of the UNWTO, Switzerland was allowed to send three candidates into the race, all of whom received awards on 2 December 2021. No other country was as successful as Switzerland. Saas-Fee, as well as Gruyères and Valposchiavo, were honoured.

Tourism villages with traditional activities such as agriculture and forestry that also use tourism to promote and preserve their cultural heritage and use it for sustainable tourism development were eligible to apply. Saas-Fee, for example, is also convincing with its strong focus on sustainable development, its proximity to agricultural activities and the local added value generated by tourism in the Saas-Fee/Saastal holiday region.

As part of a nationwide call for proposals, the three villages were selected in summer 2021 by a jury consisting of representatives from the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO, the Federal Office for the Environment FOEN and Switzerland Tourism and submitted to the UNWTO. With its convincing dossier, Saas-Fee prevailed over the other Swiss applicants and ultimately convinced the Advisory Committee of the UNWTO initiative of its commitment to sustainable development. The UNWTO General Assembly announced the winning villages in Madrid. From the more than 170 applications received, 44 were awarded the "Best Tourism Village" label. Switzerland is the only country to have sent three prosperous villages into the race.

In 2002 the municipality was awarded the label «Energiestadt». This label is a record of achievement for municipalities that exemplify and implement a sustainable municipal energy policy. Since 2012, Saas-Fee has been using clean electricity from Valais hydropower for municipal territory. With the construction of the wellnesshostel4000 and the Aqua Allalin, the village is the first high-alpine municipality in Switzerland to have a solar thermal local heating network.

On 25.05.2021, the municipality of Saas-Fee was awarded the Energistadt GOLD label. The label is granted by the independent association European Energy Award based in Belgium. It is the highest award at the European level concerning energy and climate and requires at least 75% of the action potential to be implemented. The municipality of Saas-Fee exploits 78.6 % of the potential and thus scores excellently in the evaluation. The municipality thus guarantees the continuous implementation of energy and climate policy measures.

Saastal Tourismus AG is part of Swisstainable - the sustainability strategy of Swiss tourism and fulfilled the criteria for Level I. Sustainable travel means greater awareness and depth and more enjoyment. Swisstainable is all about having one’s finger on the pulse and maximum relaxation in a natural setting:   

  1. Enjoy nature up close and at first hand 
  2. Experience the local culture in an authentic way 
  3. Consume regional products 
  4. Stay for longer and delve deeper

The energy saving alliance brings together organisations that support efforts to ensure the security of supply this winter by voluntarily taking measures to use energy in a more efficient and sparing manner.

In times like these, it is also a great concern for the Saastal Tourismus AG to save energy, reduce costs and protect the climate at the same time. Saastal Tourismus AG has therefore decided to sign up for the energy saving alliance. One measure is the campaign of the departments DETEC and EAER to reduce energy consumption quickly and significantly on a voluntary basis.

 

NIKIN makes sustainable fashion affordable. They are young, in a good mood and close to nature — a real TreeTeam. A portion of every NIKIN sale goes to tree planting programmes worldwide. A single tree does not change the world overnight, but this community makes the earth a greener place little by little. However, the quest for more sustainability does not end there for NIKIN. They always try to be innovative, modern, open-minded, and sustainable and fair. In production, the materials for the articles, external & internal sales processes, and as an employer and as part of society.

This sustainable vision fits perfectly with the destination Saas-Fee/Saas Valley. For this reason, a NIKIN T-shirt is now part of our workwear, and the joint Mountain Clean Up Day will take place on 31 May 2022.

The Mattmark reservoir in Saas-Almagell is the largest earth dam in Europe. It holds around 100 million m3 for the supply of electricity. The water power generated by the reservoir is used throughout the Saastal. The average annual production is 649 million kWh, enough for around 97,000 people per year in Switzerland.

 

network, including the "Aqua Allalin" youth hostel, the Hotel Walliserhof, the Hotel The Capra and the community centre in Saas-Fee.

The heart of the district heating network is located in the technical centre of the car park in Saas-Fee. Here, especially in summer, heat is extracted from the ambient air and supplied to the related properties.

In summer, the heat is used to produce hot water, producing some excess heat. The heat is stored in the rock below the car park during the warm months in 90 geothermal probes. In winter, heat is consumed by this storage unit for heating the village. Part of the energy for the heat pump is supplied by the photovoltaic system on the roof of the car park. The remaining part is supplied by EnAlpin (NaturEnergie). This NaturEnergie consists of 100% Valais water and solar energy. (nau)

The network is currently being extended to 2022. The street «Untere Dorfstrasse» is to be developed in a further stage, and additional buildings will enable the use of sustainable and renewable energy. In the future, the completed district heating network will supply up to 200 single-family homes.

The photovoltaic system of the Bergbahnen Hohsaas on Kreuzboden Saas-Grund serves the sustainable energy supply of the cable car system. The system produces 160,000 kWh of electricity annually. This electricity is fed into the power supply at Kreuzboden and consumed directly by these systems. In 25 years, they have reduced CO2 emissions from their installations by 570,000 kg, corresponding to about 45,600 trees.

 

Since November 2020, an e-car sharing service has been available to the residents of Saas-Fee - and of course, to all guests. And it's 100% electric: a brand new Renault Zoe is waiting in the car park at the entrance to the village, which can be rented very simply and without complications. The compact sedan has a range of about 300 km, which is enough for a trip to Montreux and back, for example.

The new e-car sharing service is a joint project of the Saas-Fee local authority, the Raiffeisenbank Mischabel-Matterhorn and the my-e-car car-sharing platform of the Upper Valais energy company EnAlpin. Anyone who wants to benefit from this can register at my-e-car.ch and receive their access card within five working days. From then on, the Renault Zoe can be conveniently reserved online - at my-e-car.ch or via the app. Guests who can rent the Renault Zoe spontaneously do not need to register: Register with the parking administration at the Saas-Fee car park! However, if you are a regular visitor to the glacier village, it is certainly worth having your own card. Alternatively, if you have a Swisspass, you can use it as an access card.

Billing should also be as simple as possible. That's why there's a flat hourly rate of CHF 6.90 and a daily flat rate (24h) of CHF 69 (each including VAT) for the new e-car sharing. The minimum booking time is one hour - from the second hour onwards, bookings can be made at quarter-hourly intervals.

At the EnAlpin charging stations, you can fill up with green electricity from 100% Valais hydroelectric and solar power at the standard rate of CHF 0.40/kWh. You can find all charging stations here: www.enalpin.com And if something should go wrong, the 24-hour hotline will help you immediately: 062 869 25 03. We wish you a safe journey!

The Saastal Bergbahnen are also sustainably active. In 2018, they cooperated with myblueplanet and thus made a promise. myblueplanet is a non-profit and independent Swiss climate protection movement. The focus is on reducing consumption, increasing efficiency and promoting renewable energies. Since 2015 they have been spreading the campaign «I AM PRO SNOW» in Switzerland, which motivates snow sports enthusiasts for climate protection with the help of winter sports athletes. After the Paris conference, the campaign will be supplemented with "100% Committed", whereby ski resorts and mountain communities are committed to 100% renewable electricity by 2030 at the latest.

 

Since the 2016/17 winter season, winter sports guests in Saas-Fee have benefited from a striking innovation: a shuttle bus service for skiers. The shuttle buses connect the route between the bus terminal/car park and the Alpin Express station. As befits a car-free holiday resort, the buses run emission-free. On the one hand, this serves the comfort of our winter guests, while at the same time, ecological sustainability is also taken into account.

 

The energy city of Saas-Fee is committed to a sustainable energy supply with the solar power project "solarPerle" in 2020. There is a solar power system on the roof of the Saas-Fee school building. You can acquire subscription rights for this solar power locally and invest today in your ecological energy of tomorrow. You are setting an example for innovative and sustainable electricity production in doing so.

Saastal Bergbahnen AG has submitted an application to ProKilowatt for subsidies for the shaft heating project at the snowmaking facility. ProKilowatt, the subsidy programme of the Swiss Federal Office of Energy, supports efficiency measures that reduce electricity consumption. The energy-optimised shaft heating system provides much more efficient heating for 175 shafts. According to information from Saastal Bergbahnen AG, up to 75% of the heating energy can be saved. The system also offers many other advantages.

According to the supplier Techno Alpin, the heaters have an output of 100W and operate practically all year round. Because of the moisture in the shafts, the heating must remain on even in the warmer months. (Moisture causes corrosion damage to the relays/components of the power panel).

According to calculations, up to 105,000 kWh can be saved in technical snowmaking through this measure - independent of how much technical snow (m3) is produced annually.

How can I participate?

Tourism should continue to be sustainable in the future. In this way we want to make our guests aware of climate change and its consequences in the Saas Valley and at the same time encourage them to help.

Travel comfortably by public transport. The bus will take you from Visp directly to us in the Saas Valley.

Stay overnight in one of our hotels, which actively promotes sustainable development.

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