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A red and white banning sign on top of a black burning cigarette – the universal non-smoking symbol – will be the new addition welcoming ski enthusiasts from around the world in the small village of Les Gets in the French Alps this month.
On December 17, as the ski grounds of Les Gets opened its doors for the snowy season, it also became the first ski resort in Europe to ban smoking in its entire communal area, or to quote its new campaign slogan: “Les Gets, territory without cigarette butts.”
“It has been years since we started handing out free pocket ashtrays and it didn’t change a thing [about] how many cigarette butts we would find at the end of the skiing season,” said Benjamin Mugnier, marketing director at the Les Gets ski resort.
“We had a cleaning day last spring with 100 volunteers and after we went through the mountain, we found 3,000 cigarette butts.”
Mugnier added that he is sure there are more they haven’t found yet.
That was when he decided to suggest a smoking ban.
Municipal police will conduct patrols alongside the pistes, and those caught lighting up could be fined.
Nonsmoking ski resorts are already operating in other parts of the world, like Japan, New Zealand and Canada. But Les Gets is entering new territory.
About 32% of French adults between the age of 18 and 75 identify as smokers, according to the latest data published by the French Health Ministry, compared to only 12.5% in the US.
Mugnier said the decision to go cigarette-free was hard but necessary.
And the rule doesn’t just apply to skiers and snowboarders. Les Gets, located in eastern France near the Swiss border, has an active year-round season, with hiking, rock climbing and camping all on offer.
It also hosted the 2022 Mountain Bike World Championship.
While snow could hide the piles of cigarette butts for part of the year, it caused unattractive surprises when the snowmelt began in the spring.
Les Gets is not, however, implementing a total smoke ban. The resort has set up five designated smoking zones at the top of their lifts for those who crave the taste of tobacco during their ski breaks.
All the cigarette butts collected at these areas will be recycled for energy usage, the resort said in a press release.
But by being the first to try this smokeless approach, Les Gets hopes it can start a new trend in hospitality while also caring for the Earth.
Although there were concerns that some visitors might cancel their reservations or not return next year because of the smoking ban, Mugnier said it hasn’t been an issue.
When the resort informed their first round of incoming guests about this new ban, the overwhelming majority expressed support – even the smokers were in favor of the ban.
“There are some who said, ‘we won’t come and ski with you,’ but they were not the ones who made a reservation with us,” Mugnier said.
Top image: Fresh snow at Les Gets. Photo courtesy Les Gets Ski Resort.