“Surrounded by the most picturesque mountains in the world, we’re passionate about looking after our beautiful planet and believe in making changes to make this a better place for future generations to enjoy” says Ceri Tinley, MD of Consensio, the luxury ski chalet operator renowned for its attention to detail, fabulous service and gorgeous properties in the French resorts of Val d’Isere, Courchevel, Meribel and Les Gets.
A sea change is sweeping across the Alps and what started as a trickle has now become a flood – we’re talking about healthy mountain living. So to truly benefit from a ski holiday and come back glowing, not just from a suntan, you’ll need to be a bit more discerning about what you put into your body.
A growing number of people are saying non and nein to all those cheese-laden staples such as fondue and raclette, along with leaden dumplings and cream-laden chalet dinners. Heidi might have been a lot healthier and happier if she’d eaten her five-a-day.
For a ski holiday is a continual workout, so it really helps to pump yourself full of decent stuff – we’re talking wholesome ingredients like smoothies, fresh vegetables and good quality fish and lean meat.
People often expect to come home a few pounds heavier, but how about returning feeling fitter, refreshed and more fulfilled? You’re bound to have noticed the recent enthusiasm for ‘mindfulness’. Even the NHS website has a section on it. Spiritual jargon aside, it just means paying attention to the present moment, and looking after yourself. And where better to do that, than when you’re in the most peaceful and pastoral setting imaginable.
Maybe you’ve been over-working in the office, or at home looking after the children, or perhaps you just don’t allow yourself enough ‘me time’?
Whether this rings a bell or not, we think everyone deserves a bit of extra self-care. And these days we’re realising more and more that, yes, you can treat yourself to a holiday in the Alps and splash out on luxury accommodation. But even then, your mind might be racing and you may still be feeling the effects of the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
You’ve probably enjoyed being pampered in a spa and eating fine food, before sinking into a comfy bed, waking up to fabulous mountain views, and yet much to your dismay still not felt totally relaxed.
As the world is changing, mental health is being increasingly talked about. People are recognising that our hectic lifestyles are not always the best for relaxation and happiness, so why shouldn’t this extend to skiing too?
So we’ve come up with six suggested ways to maximise your rest and relaxation whilst on a ski trip. You can truly make the most of the beautiful nature around you, ensuring a hugely nourishing holiday in the mountains.
1. Practice yoga in the mountains
Yes, we’re talking downwards dog in ski pants and goggles. One of the best ways to recharge your piste batteries is with yoga, especially with that breath-taking backdrop outside. If it’s something you’ve never tried before, don’t let the concept daunt you. Although it can help ease your aching muscles, yoga, contrary to popular belief, is not about flexibility. Yoga, in its traditional Indian form, is also not about pushing your physical boundaries, but rather about deep rest in the mind, balance, and a feeling of wellbeing.
Allowing yourself to truly let go and be totally ‘present’ is easier than ever when you’re in the midst of the most gorgeous views. You can breathe in the pure mountain air, worlds away from the polluted cities back home. Yoga doesn’t need to be a big deal – you could simply perch on a sunny terrace or at the side of a slope and spend 10 minutes focusing on your breath going in and out of your body.
To immerse yourself in the yogic ski world, Snowga in Meribel-Courchevel hold yoga sessions at 11am-12pm daily on the Folie Douce terrace – mats, blankets and boot warmers all provided. You strip off to your thermals to take part. While you’re in the 3 Valleys, venture across to Val Thorens where experienced yoga experts run a programme of lessons at 2000 metres.
Consensio offers yoga, Pilates and yogalates in any chalet where there is space (that’s most of them). If it’s is warm enough, the classes are held on the terrace to make the most of the mountain views and fresh air. What is yogalates? You may well ask. It’s a fitness routine that combines Pilates exercises with the postures and breathing techniques of yoga.
2. Nourish your body
Ski holidays don’t have to be all about stuffing yourself full of heavy meat and cheese fondues, rich, creamy puddings, and drinking countless pints at apres. It might be stating the obvious, but it’s surprising how many of us forget that what we fuel our bodies with has a profound effect on how we feel mentally. If we punish our livers with abundant alcoholic drinks or give ourselves sugar rush after sugar rush, stuffing ourselves in mountain restaurants, we aren’t going to feel our best.
To truly feel fantastic and be worry-free on your holiday, try being slightly more discerning about what you put into your body. As you’re exercising most of the day, it helps to pump your body full of the good stuff – we’re talking smoothies and fresh vegetables and good quality, lean protein.
In our chalets we source our fresh produce from local independent sellers where possible – to invest in the community – providing better-tasting ingredients and reducing our carbon footprint as a company. Our chalet hosts can create fantastic virgin cocktails for you – all our chalets are stocked with all three flavours of Seedlip, the world’s first non-alcoholic gin. So you can still have an ice cold G&T when trying to drink less.
The ever-growing range of healthy Alpine eateries include Wild Beets Kitchen in Les Gets for veggie wraps and fresh smoothies. Then there’s the Arctic Cafe in Meribel and Val d’Isere, which have a brilliant selection of yummy and healthy smoothies and juices, as well as delicious sugar-free, dairy-free, and gluten-free options of food that will leave you feeling satisfied but light – rather than heavy and slightly regretful as you trudge back to the slopes.
We dare you to switch the usual post-slopes vin chaud or hot chocolate for a turmeric latte with almond milk, and notice the difference in your mood the next morning!
3. Go on a ski touring-Qi Gong adventure
Val Thorens in the 3 Valleys has a whole programme of wellbeing, super alternative activities introduced with the intention of making it a happier, ski resort. If you’re an intermediate skier or above, you can easily get here from Meribel, too.
This winter, they have introduced Ski Qi Gong – which is an afternoon of ski-touring combined with a Qi Gong lesson on the slopes. The unique experience is intended to help you connect with the beautiful natural surroundings, become aware of your body and its physical sensations as well as your emotional feelings.
Qi Gong (or Chi Gong/Gung) is an ancient Chinese type of meditation as well as a martial art, building strength and guaranteeing increased relaxation in the body and mind. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how simple and subtle the movements are and how incredibly effective they are at enabling you to really ‘feel’ your body and return to the chalet rejuvenated, energised, and with a real sense of peace.
4. Master the art of apres-ski
You’re on a ski holiday, which means you have to party, right? If you want a break that truly feeds your body and soul, and means your mind can be at ease, carefree and tranquil – it’s time to rethink apres-ski. How about just this once, not indulging in the classic shots and table-dancing routine? Instead, choose a ski resort with low-key nightlife such as Les Gets and opt for a spa treatment, a warm bath lit by candles, a good read and an early night. Sure, some people will think this sounds boring, but in reality they’ll return from their holiday more exhausted than before they went, whilst you will be glowing with health and rejuvenation. You’ll be amazed at how much you-time dropping the nightlife frees up.
There are some fantastic spas in the Alps that will leave you feeling your best. Saunas and steam rooms are brilliant for releasing toxins in the body, but be sure to stay hydrated. At Consensio, all our chalets have a sauna or steam room, plus a Jacuzzi or swimming-pool.
Early nights are key to mental wellbeing, as sleep increases longevity and happiness. It’s particularly important when you are exerting yourself physically all day on the slopes, as it gives it time to recover. Try a relaxing Epson Salt bath (you can buy these on Amazon) or adding a few drops of lavender essential oil to ease you into deep and lovely sleep. A massage in your chalet is a big benefit, too, and we offer them in all of ours.
Herbal teas are also hugely under-appreciated – if they’re not available in your chalet or hotel why not bring some in your suitcase? Try Pukka’s Night Time Tea (oat flower, lavender, and limeflower), Relax Tea (camomile, fennel, and marshmallow root), or Yogi Bedtime Tea (fennel, camomile flowers, and valerian root). We offer a selection box of Marriage des Frères tea in all our chalets. Come 7 or 8am, you’ll be feeling fresh-faced and ready for some early-morning tracks. Especially as every breakfast we serve includes a tasty and healthy fresh fruit and vegetable shot.
5. Be kind to the earth
How best to enjoy healthy, sustainable luxury of the Alps? Going green helps the environment by reducing the amount of pollution that enters the soil, water, and air. By using alternative energy sources rather than fossil fuels, and by recycling and reducing waste and operating more efficiently, fewer pollutants are released into the environment. Making for a greener and happier world.
Hotels such as the new Solaise high above Val d’Isere are leading the way. What was the oldest cable-car station in France (you can stay here overnight) is working on reducing its environmental impact by recycling its refuse, with the furnace for waste paper and cardboard linked to the hotel’s heating system. Organic and plastic rubbish is compacted in giant storage bins for disposal in the summer.
All of the rubbish from our chalets is separated by hand and recycled, and we keep waste to a minimum. Similarly, we cut down on single-use plastics wherever possible. We are currently fitting our chalets with energy-saving bulbs, which can also be recycled, unlike traditional bulbs. Two of our swimming-pools are chlorine free – Mont Tremblant and Grande Corniche – using an environmentally-friendly ozone water treatment system. Understandably, all of this is all a drop in the ocean, but it’s a step in the right direction.
And don’t forget to wrap your body in natural fibres that are sustainable and biodegradable. Merino wool made by companies like Icebreaker, bamboo clothing from BAM, and even yak hair make good base layers. More than 50% of the skiwear from Picture Organic Clothing is made from recycled plastic bottles; the linings are made from salvaged materials waste. Picture’s ski helmets are made from 100% recycled and organically sourced components; the linings from discarded dashboards from the Japanese car industry. Retro-look OOSC clothing is made from recycled polyester from plastic bottles. Patagonia‘s Powder Bowl Jacket is made from 100% recycled GORE-TEX® and uses 35 plastic bottles per jacket. Sundried makes yoga and fitness clothing, soft shell and padded jackets using recycled plastics and…coffee grounds.
Ski equipment, too, is making strides forward, with Grown, a new climate-neutral freeride ski made with a 100% hemp fibre composite construction. The use of hemp replaces the conventional non-renewable materials used in skis, such as glass and carbon fibres. Hemp is renewable and organic, so this new technology decreases the environmental footprint of skis by about 47%.
6. Deal with a phone addiction
Finally, turn your mobile phone off. Of course, nobody expects you to go completely cold turkey for the entirety of your trip. But try leaving your phone in the chalet for a few hours or switch it onto airplane mode. You’ll be astonished by how it affects you in a positive way – the incessant emails, the Facebook and Instagram scrolling that many of us are addicted to…all they do is draw us away from the magical environment we are in and teleport us back to the world of stress and work and commitments at home!
So go on, challenge yourself not to spend all evening on your phone or view the stunning snow-capped mountains through your phone’s camera lens. Instead, look around you. Connect with your family and friends as you focus on the scenery and, most importantly, on looking after yourself. The mountains are a place of tranquillity – so make the most of it.
It’s time to change the idea of the boozy, gluttonous ski holiday, and indulge in healthy, really relaxed trips. Most of the time we forget to look around us as we whizz up a chair-lift. Our challenge to you is to have a fantastic skiing holiday an return home healthier and more refreshed than when you arrived.
So, put your mobile away, focus on the breath, have a smoothie or a herbal tea, treat yourself to an early night and just LOOK at where you are, because it’s pretty magnificent.