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Samoens: Saving the planet!

By Barbara Allan

It’s a well known fact the importance of looking after the environment, and here in the Alps we have to take extra care. Each year millions of tourists visit mountain areas like Samoëns. In the winter months they come to ski and snowboard. In summer, it’s hiking, biking, rafting, climbing - the list goes on - which entices visitors to the region. The mountains of Samoëns really are an ideal holiday destination, but, all the great activities, and great numbers of people partaking in them, does have an impact on the environment. We know only too well what wonderful experiences we can take away with us from the mountains, but does anyone ever stop to think about what we can give back? Here in Samoëns someone does!

For some years now Samoëns has been growing its support for environmental causes. Not for profit organisation Respect The Mountains, in association with Alps Adventures, play host each summer to an important environmental event. Envirotrek is all about embracing sustainable tourism. Participants learn about keeping the mountain environment clean, so that they may continue to enjoy what that environment has to offer for many years to come.

Last Wednesday was the fifth annual Samoëns Envirotrek, and it was the most successful in the European event’s history. It was a little after 9am when the first of what would be a total of 146 participants began to descend on Samoëns’ Lac aux Dames. The sun blazed down from a clear blue sky, as event organisers and their team of willing volunteers welcomed tourists and locals alike to the event. Participants were given a souvenir Envirotrek T-shirt and divided into teams. Then, armed with everything one could need for some hands-on cleanup action, the teams set off to various locations for a two hour litter picking hike. If the Samoëns mountain scenery wasn’t enough to keep participants motivated, then the prizes up for grabs for things like ‘most amount of rubbish’, ‘strangest rubbish’, and ‘best team player’ certainly spurred them on. Local lad and birthday boy for the day, Anthony Hirst, led his ‘most enthusiastic team’ to victory, really getting into the respect the mountains spirit.

After a successful two hours cleaning up the mountain environment, participants were treated to a scrummy BBQ lunch. Local businesses Le Nez en L’Air and LVF Cuisine were also on hand to provide wine tasting and canapés. Samoëns Envirotrek 2013 really saw the local business community come together in support of a good cause. This was especially apparent during the afternoon’s activities, which I think were the highlight of the day. As a reward for giving something back to the environment, participants spent a fabulous afternoon cross-country biking along the river, splashing their way down it in rafts, or hanging from harnesses high above as they scaled the via-ferrata. The guides that led these activities all volunteered their time and so a special mention should be made to X-Treme Glisse and the Bike School, Ecolorado, Nunayak and Rando Rafting, and ZigZag.

All in all it was a fabulous day. Just as volunteer organiser, Jess, said, “The aim is to teach people about giving something back to the environment for all that we take away.” She hoped that “participants have a good time and are all smiling at the end of the day.” From what I saw, there’s no doubt that Samoëns Envirotrek 2013 achieved all of that.

Photos: Respect the Mountains