Skiing holidays and the climate

Skiing is fun. Great fun. Here in Göteborg and elsewhere in Sweden, schoolchildren are enjoying the annual week’s break when they get the chance to go on skiing holidays with their parents.

How does their trip to the ski resorts impact the climate? Put simply, a short trip is better than a long one, and travelling by train is better than going by car, which in turn is better than flying. I’ve made my calculations using a few different examples, including a trip to the Alps (in this case Verbier) and two ski resorts in Sweden – Åre and Sälen.

The basic data for the project states that an aircraft emits 245 g of CO2/person km, a bus produces 40 g of CO2/person km, a Volvo V70 DRIVe 34.5 g of CO2/person km and a train in Sweden emits 1.5 g of CO2/person km. For the V70 we have assumed 4 people are in the car, and 500 g of CO2/l diesel during manufacture. The V70 DRIVe consumes 4.5 l/100 km and emits 119 g of CO2/km in mixed driving. The C30 Electric is not a viable alternative at present since the battery pack’s operating range is too much of a limitation. On the other hand, the V60 plug-in hybrid will handle a long trip perfectly.

We can begin with the Alps and their marvellous ski slopes. From Stockholm the distance is about 1800 km as the crow flies and 1900 km by road. It is possible to fly to the Alps, supplementing the last stretch with a transfer service, and it is also possible to get there by bus or in your own car. I have discounted the train as an alternative quite simply because it is far too complicated owing to the many changes necessary. By air, total CO2 emissions including transfer will be about 900 kg of CO2 per person for the return trip. By bus the figure is 155 kg of CO2 and by car it is 174 kg of CO2 there and back. The car and bus are thus quite close to each other in terms of CO2 emissions. For the car I have based my calculations on 30% higher fuel consumption since the car will be heavily loaded and speed will be relatively high through Germany. If instead the car and its occupants take the overnight ferry from Göteborg to Kiel in order to cut down on driving, CO2 emissions actually go up by 43 kg to 217 kg of CO2/person.

The distance to the Swedish ski slopes is shorter. Stockholm to Åre is about 660 kilometres. With an overnight train from Stockholm, total CO2 emissions for the trip are about 2 kg and by car the figure is 46 kg of CO2. Travelling to Sälen by railway means changing trains several times just as in the case of the Alps, making the train an impractical alternative. On the other hand, there are several direct bus services from Stockholm. Sälen is just over 400 km from Stockholm. The bus ride from Stockholm to Sälen results in 34 kg of CO2 per person. For the same trip in a V70 DRIVe emissions of CO2 will total 28 kg. So the result is somewhat lower emissions of CO2 for a family travelling by car to the Swedish ski slopes compared to taking the bus.

That was a whole lot of statistics, so here is a simplified table showing the results.

To the Alps kg of CO2 return trip per person
Air 893
Bus 155
Car 174
Car + ferry 217

To the Swedish slopes

Åre by car 46
Åre by train 2
Sälen by bus 34
Sälen by car 28

As I said initially, it can be clearly seen that shorter trips are better than longer ones, and the train is better than the car, which in turn is better than flying. However, it is not always that the bus is a better choice than the car. These two transport modes are roughly equal if there are four occupants in the car.

Have a really great time on the slopes! If you are in Sälen, take the opportunity to try out Volvo’s skid-pan with a bit of that really exciting “Ice Racing” feel. It’s both fun and educational.

You can find out more about Volvo’s various offers in Sälen at

David Weiner, Volvo