Save money, save the planet: Meet the new eco-friendly luxury ski operator

Cat Weakley
Lagom offers luxury seeking skiers the chance to be eco-conscious in glamorous resorts like Zermatt - Leander Wenger

When thinking of a luxury ski chalet holiday, eco-friendliness and sustainability are not the first things that spring to mind – more 24/7 butler, high-thread-count sheets and a carbon-guzzling number of towel changes.

However, a new company is encouraging guests not only to feel good as they sink into their goose-down pillows, but find extra feelgood factor from doing their bit for the planet while cutting costs along the way.

Partly in response to requests from their guests for a more cost-effective yet still pampering holiday – even the most wealthy like to save a few bob here and there – the team behind upmarket holiday companies Bramble Ski and Haute Montagne, with catered properties in resorts in Switzerland, Austria and France, has developed a new pared-down self-catering venture, Lagom, that comes with eco credit.

For this winter, it has 18 properties in the glamorous destinations of Zermatt and Verbier in Switzerland. With apartments finished to a high standard in central locations, guests are assured that there’s no stinting on quality of accommodation.

And the bonus is that by forgoing elements such as toiletries, linen changes and cleaning hours during their stay they can shave both carbon emissions and up to £500 per person from their holiday.

Lagom's Kern Peak chalet Credit: Copyright Yves Garneau 2015/Yves Garneau

While environmentally-friendly travel, and skiing holidays in particular, might be regarded as an oxymoron, holidaymakers do increasingly have an urge to travel responsibly. The annual Booking.com Sustainable Travel Report revealed in April 2018 that 87 per cent of travellers worldwide would like to travel sustainably. This compares to 65 per cent in 2017 and 34 per cent in 2016.

Skiers can up their eco Brownie points by choosing ski resorts that are making efforts to become more eco-friendly. Step up Wolf Creek in Colorado for example, the first solar powered resort, or Vail Resorts, owner and operator of 15 ski areas in North America and Australia, which aims to cut carbon emissions to zero by 2030.

Uncertain snowfall patterns, whether too much or too little, and fluctuating temperatures have also seen resorts turning to initiatives such as snow farming and covering glaciers to preserve snow during the summer months.

While many holiday companies may have an eco-friendly ethos that encourages guests to use fewer towels, or offset carbon emissions with a donation, Lagom is taking things a step further with the choices on offer and an easy tool for making them.

Natasha Robertson, founder and CEO says, “We have realised that the time is right for a new offering in the luxury segment. We want to offer people the opportunity to make beneficial decisions when booking a luxury holiday without compromising on the quality of their stay. You used to stay in a five-star hotel and they would tell you exactly what luxury is and how to behave. Lagom is designed to put choices back into the hands of the guests.”

So how does it work? When choosing accommodation on the Lagom website, holidaymakers are shown a price range for their dates, and then have the option of using a simple tool to decide which services they can and can’t do without, from cleaning, through robes and slippers to plastic water bottles.

As guests reign in their luxury urges, a sliding scale shows how much money is saved. Towels can be changed mid-week, daily, or just at the end of the stay; water can be drunk from the tap or glass bottles.

Verbier is home to some of the world's most luxurious chalets Credit: verbier.ch / Melody Sky/Melody sky

I experimented with a stay in Lagom’s six-person Haus Andy apartment, week beginning March 23. It comes a price tag of CHF7,816 to CHF12,352 for the whole place, depending on guests’ choices – a hefty difference of CHF4,536 (£3,324).

Opting for end-of-stay housekeeping rather than daily or mid-stay saves up to CHF1,092 on the total stay. Choosing no towel or linen changes rather than mid-week or daily changes saves up to CHF2,590.

When calculating the differences in price, carbon emissions caused by manufacture of linen, laundering processes and travel by staff are all taken into account. And as well as the difference in price guests are immediately shown how this benefits their carbon footprint. Making the right sustainable choices can save up to 18kg of CO2 emissions in Haus Andy.

When it comes to choosing robes and slippers, these are purchases to take home, while opting out saves CHF120 per robe and CHF20 per pair of slippers. Seriously, people would spend £90 on a bulky toweling robe to take home? Maybe not. Robertson says it’s not unheard of for upmarket travellers to buy robes in resort then leave them behind.

For toiletries, Lagom has already made eco choices for its guests, supplying refillable bottles of Swedish-made organic L:A Bruket toiletries, but money can still be saved by bringing your own. Choosing that option in Haus Andy saves the group CHF32.

The word Lagom is also Swedish, translating roughly as moderate, but it is now also an increasingly popular lifestyle concept of not too little, not too much, but just the right amount. And it can be applied to everything we do, buy and experience, including holidays.

Robertson says Lagom plans to grow its portfolio in European resorts to 100 properties over the next couple of years. “We will initially focus on resorts where we have infrastructure with Bramble and Haute Montagne then expand out,” she says. There is however no overlap between the companies. “In Zermatt all the properties are new for Lagom. In Verbier some are new, and some used to be Bramble.”

I found it fun and educational making the choices using the online tool and watching how they make a difference to both price and carbon footprint. However, Robertson says most guests so far have chosen to go with Lagom’s presets of what is just right – no robes or slippers, no linen changes, mid-week clean – rather than make their own choices.

They are nonetheless still doing their bit. For even more feelgood factor, Lagom donates 1% of total revenue to the Swiss charity Summit Foundation, which focuses on clearing litter from the mountains, and will funnel the money raised by Lagom guests to Lagom resorts.