These days, a growing number of Swiss resort towns are hard-pressed to ignore global warming. Take Pontresina, perched 5,900 feet above sea level near the Italian border (and our new vote for town with the cheesiest marketing slogan: “a symphony in p-major”). Further up the mountain—and just above a 17th-century church and the area’s leading hotels—a coating of warming permafrost looms. Built four years ago as a preventative measure against avalanches, a $6.5 million dam stands guard between the permafrost and Pontresina.
According to NPR, the creation of the dam wasn’t an easy sell to residents, who doubted the seriousness of the issue and worried how tourists would react. But local authorities remedied the uneasiness by transforming the dam into a highlight along a new kind of tourist attraction: a climate change trail.
Pontresina isn’t alone in Switzerland’s fight to keep a grip on tourism dollars as global warming threatens their natural appeal. In fact, several Swiss resort areas are promoting themselves both as warm-weather destinations for hiking and biking and as leaders in the climate change struggle.
Famously hedonistic resort town St. Moritz is trying to “show the world that alternative energy is chic and sexy,” says NPR, by launching a solar-powered “clean energy tour” that travels via cable car past a windmill to observe local hotels using alternative heating systems. And the tourism office in Arosa, located in southern Switzerland, is using part of the money it collects through the local tourism tax to purchase carbon credits to offset the carbon footprint left by participating visitors.
Such initiatives join the ranks of other reactions to climate change’s effects on the Alps by the Swiss tourism industry, from the bizarre to the entrepreneurial.
- Nat Geo Expeditions