In 2014, SAP launched its "Environmental Research Institute" to gain a better knowledge of the biodiversity in the ski area. Its studies have helped to limit its impact on the natural world while following measures put into effect to that end.

In practical terms, in the summer flora and fauna specialists covered the ground to record the locations of protected species and to establish a database. They made 2500 sightings of 19 different species of protected flowers and 6300 sightings of fauna in 7 years.

What is being studied?

The flora and fauna, wetlands, watercourses, landscapes and the impact of development.

Some examples of the steps taken:

- The pylons for the new chairlift have been sited to avoid protected flower sites and wetlands.
- The calendar for carrying out work can be adapted to limit disturbance to some animals during key phases of their development. 

- "Markers" have been fitted to the cables to make them visible and to limit birds in flight colliding with them.

- Programmes have been established to monitor and research species impacted by development. 

- The progress of developed areas is being followed for at least five years to ensure they "grow back."

Our specialist interview

"The trick is to adapt as much as possible to the environment we are working in."
Raphaël CHENAL

Environmental consultant for the Société d'Aménagement de la station de la Plagne (SAP)'s projects.

How is the environment taken into consideration in development projects in the ski area?

lt must be understood that the majority of developments in the ski area (such as lifts and pistes) are subject to prior environmental impact studies. ln other words, for the

proposed line of a chairlift, we record the species of flora and fauna. If any of them are protected, we first seek to avoid them. When environmental impact cannot be avoided, we do our best to reduce it. If we are unable to avoid or reduce the impact, we take steps to compensate. If, for example, we have to cut down trees, we plant more in another site close to the project. The trick is to adapt as much as possible to the environment we are working in.

Could it be said that La Plagne has picked up the challenge of reconciling the tourist economy and the environment?

Environmental preoccupation is a major issue for ski areas. The mountains and nature form the backdrop to our business and it is in our interest to protect them. ln this respect moreover, in 2014, we set up an environmental research institute in the ski area. This institute, initially focussed on the themes of "Biodiversity" and "Landscape," expanded over time to include water resources, agriculture, geology and even natural risks which are new data to be taken into account. The aim is to be able to plan our future projects ahead through a better knowledge of and so a rational management of the environment.

Is there any particular advice you can give skiers on the slopes?

Re-cycling and respect for the environment (not throwing rubbish into the snow) are as important at the top of a mountain as in a town ­centre! Perhaps we could also draw la Plagne's visitors' attention to the nets at the side of some pistes which must not be crossed! They are there to protect recently planted trees or sensitive wildlife.
We are also installing large, red balls on the lift cables so that birds can see them and do not collide with them.