Vicki Brown of Responsible Travel explains why the online agency now screens out snow cannons

Using snow cannons on Europe’s mountains to cater for skiers at Christmas, New Year and Easter is environmentally damaging.

We’ve tightened our policy on all the winter holidays we promote at Responsible Travel as part of our drive to reject the use of fake snow.

We understand that downhill skiing remains an incredibly popular winter holiday choice, but the skiing industry’s focus on Christmas, when snowfall can be patchy, and on extending the season into Easter – which can fall in late April – is driving up fake snow production.

A BBC report suggested 50% of slopes in Switzerland and 70% in Austria can now be snowed artificially. This is good news for skiers, but terrible for the environment.

Making fake snow is a huge undertaking, requiring vast amounts of water taken from and degrading local watercourses or drawn from reservoirs built expressly for fake snow production, which damage the mountain landscape.

The energy required to power these snow cannons is considerable. Swiss conservation group Pro Natura estimates that over a season it is enough to fuel a small town.

Our focus at Responsible Travel has always been on wilderness winter activities such as dog sledding and snow shoeing that, where possible, make the most of natural snow.

We are now taking a stand against the use of snow cannons. We only promote winter holidays that either take place in locations where no fake snow is produced or run at a time of year when the likelihood of snow being manufactured is low – in January or February, for instance.

We carefully screen the winter holidays we sell, and for each one based in a resort which has facilities to create artificial snow we will include a ‘No Snow’ box below the itinerary.

This will outline the months when snowfall is most likely and may suggest other activities available in the absence of real snow.

A 2016 study by the University of Neuchâtel and two Swiss research institutes found that on average the snow season starts 12 days later and ends 25 days earlier than in 1970.

Manufacturing fake snow is not a responsible or sustainable solution to this dwindling snowfall.

The reliance on artificial snow means downhill skiing is no longer an authentic winter holiday. Rather than being in a natural environment, the skier is essentially in a man-made one.

Our new policy on winter holidays gives travellers the chance to be more selective and we urge anyone looking for a winter break to consider other, responsible alternatives away from the bustle of ski resorts and surrounded by real snow, solitude and the silence of a natural winter landscape.