Episode 1: Alpine winter resorts in the conditions of pandemic


Today, BNT launched a new feature called „Europe, the way forward – Recharge“. In just 5 minutes, the authors of the feature – Milen Atanasov and Bilyana Boneva, will introduce you to specific projects in the areas of the European economy, ecology, global and local challenges during a pandemic.

The first edition takes us to the Alps to see an amazing winter fairy tale, despite the limitations in the winter resorts.

Long time ago, about two and a half millennia BC, Scandinavians harnessed horses or dogs in order to move through the snow on their primitive skis.

 It was not until the beginning of the last century that the Swiss turned this tradition into a tourist attraction and a race presented as a sport at the 1928 Olympic Games in St. Moritz.

The discipline has attracted interest in many European countries. In France, the so-called horse joring was practiced until World War II, before it was forgotten. Logically. Alpine skiing has been earning points and new fans for decades. Horsepower can hardly be compared to modern fast lifts and express gondolas in modern winter resorts.


And so until recently when the ski lifts stopped, the gondolas froze, and the tow cables remained motionless due to the coronavirus pandemic, which affected the French alpine resorts. A ban to operate the facilities and a ban to use. The restrictions have brought confusion and loss to the tourism-dependent livelihoods of the local people. 

But the suspended facilities opened the mountain stage for another type of winter tourism – nature-friendly, low-carbon, entertaining, meeting the requirements for a safe distance and restoring forgotten traditions.

The name „joring“ comes from the Finnish word „tow“. It means skiing with the help of horse traction.

The riding technique requires basic skills to guide the horse with the help of long reins and provides skiers with almost the same sensations as on the piste, but in flat areas.

The children’s slopes in some French resorts have come to life again thanks to the working mountain horses. In Saint-Leger-les-Mains, for the price of a day pass, young skiers receive the horse equivalent of the so-called baby tow. This alternative saves the jobs of local ski instructors.

„We can’t expect miracles from the ski school, but we still bring joy to people and keep their spirits up.“

Fans of more serious slopes also have the opportunity to go down them, of course, they first have to climb them. In ski touring, no one relies on horsepower. Everyone relies on themselves. With these skis, the heel can be raised during transitions and fixed when descending. This year, experienced guides who know the avalanche-free routes enjoy special respect and demand.

In the lower parts of the Alps, resorts have been adapting for years to climate change, which is pushing the snow further and further up and inexorably shortening the length of the winter season.

„We are aware that the equipment and entertainment offered must be consistent with all seasons. We have mountain scooters whose wheels are replaced by sliders. Bicycles with thick tires are suitable for any terrain, including snow. There is a variety of solutions.”

In the far north of the European continent, where thousands of years ago people figured out how to ride through the snow on primitive horse-drawn skis, Norwegian director Inge Vege takes to the extreme the idea that it’s not the equipment that matters, it’s the desire. When one wants, one can surf the icy ocean on a board carved out of pure ice.

 Inge Vege, director: “It’s hard to surf like that. You have 5 to 10 minutes to catch the right wave before it starts to melt. ”

 The artist’s icy metaphor reminds us that decisions about a sustainable future are often hidden in the past, and it is good for people to learn from them before they suddenly lose ground under their feet.