With hundreds of eco-certifications and greenwashing rife in tourism. Behind the Green takes it back to BASICS. Back to storytelling and human connection. Meet the visionaries and inspiring teams behind the world’s leading sustainable and regenerative travel experiences.
Written by Rebecca Woolford
A story from Europe’s highest, greatest, and most famous mountain range…
Getting an interview with Claudio Laager, the manager of Valsana Hotel Arosa, wasn’t easy. As one of the most in-demand properties in the Swiss Alps, and awarded the title of ‘World’s Best Green Ski Hotel’, Valsana isn’t your average accommodation and travel experience.
So, why is this Swiss hotel named one of the world’s best sustainable hotels? Is it the unique architecture and design inspired by the surrounding alpine forest and nature, or its smart technology (an ice battery no less) which generates clean renewable energy to power the hotel?
Or perhaps the ‘Moving Mountains’ concept which creates a holistic experience for guests based on 5 pillars (MOVE, PLAY, NOURISH, REST, and GIVE); or the carbon-neutral stays made possible by rewilding wetlands in Switzerland?
Whatever you put it down to, this enchanting 40-rooms and 9-apartment hotel set in the mountains is showing no signs of slowing down. With more commitment, passion, and enthusiasm for sustainability than when they first started in 2017, it’s a pleasure for me to share this behind-the-green interview with you all.
Discover Valsana’s leaf-rating, highlights, and eco-activities here.
What’s the story that led to you managing one of Europe’s best sustainable hotels?
“Well, I grew up in the Engadin valley, Switzerland. After high school, I went to a Swiss hospitality school and then completed my Master’s in tourism and hospitality. I then lived and worked in Canada for a while. I’ve been at Valsana since July 2021.”
Which eco initiative are you most proud of at the hotel? And why?
“I’d like to talk about 3. The first is the ice-battery technology. Our hotel runs on 98% recycled, clean energy.
The second is our Green Globe certificate. It’s hard to get this level of recognition. This isn’t just a certification, it reflects our daily commitment to making our hotel and its operations as sustainable as possible.
The third is Valsana’s collaboration with causes such as ‘we care’ and ‘my climate’.
For the ‘we care’ campaign our guests are given the opportunity to offset the emissions generated by their journeys to and from our hotels. With ‘my climate’ we are supporting 2 projects. The first is rewilding alpine wetland in Switzerland and the second is supporting the mountain gorilla project in Rwanda.”
What are the top 3 nature experiences for guests coming to visit Valsana?
“I would say wild foraging of mushrooms, deer watching, and fishing at Urdensee lake. All of them, are meditative and close to nature.
As a true Grisons native, I know the mountains like the back of my hand. That’s why it’s important to me to accompany our guests personally.
I like to share my knowledge – and always learn something new. That’s what makes our hotel so special. Authentic experiences and real stories from the region.
Have you ever heard of a hotel where the general manager takes guests out for deer watching and mushroom foraging? :)”
How are guests empowered to be a part of being ‘eco-conscious’ when visiting the hotel?
“We encourage all our hotel guests to make use of the great public transportation network and offer them the chance to offset their travels.
We often engage guests in our ethos by talking about it, as people often find it interesting. I personally love to talk about the nature experiences with all our guests, part of our ‘moving mountains‘ experiences.
We have a series of empowering expeditions and curated adventures for our guests. On the trail of ibex and chamois is one of them and under 10° degree mountain lake swimming is another.
The hotel is surrounded by a biodiverse lawn area that includes a house for wild bees, which guests can also enjoy seeing.”
What are the two most recent sustainable initiatives you’ve implemented at the hotel?
“We are looking into the total carbon footprint of Valsana’s food and beverage. By doing this we can learn which products and ingredients have the smallest footprint. We can then utilise this information to reimagine and recreate our menus at the restaurant.
A hotel can always do more when it comes to being sustainable, so this process will always evolve.
We are also relooking at our waste management and separation process, to find ways to improve it even more.”
What’s next for Valsana?
“I guess the most important thing now is to keep on improving. When we first launched the Valsana hotel in 2017 we were way ahead of time in terms of our approach to sustainability.
Today is a different story. We must go deeper into the matter and find more possibilities to get better and find a way to finally have a zero balance.”