By Esme Bourne
La Rosiere overlooks the beautiful vistas of a mountain range that leads to Val D’Isère and Les Arcs. It’s a town that exemplifies the traditional French way of life, where chalets are attached to working farms and most of the food is locally sourced from people whose names you know. I’m here with Philip and Alex Volkers, owners of Chalet Rosiere, and a few other guests to experience a seven-day Full Moon ski and yoga retreat, where the yoga compliments both your skiing and your ability to be mindful. The cuisine for the week is vegan, and the agenda is activity-packed.
In fact, on the first evening after I arrived, it was time for yoga already. As I precariously rolled my hips backwards into downward dog, I felt slightly out of my league. But as we slowly went through various yoga poses, focusing on progressive sequences tied to the breath, the heat of the crackling of the fire in the front of the room slowly melting me into my stretches. Perhaps I could get used to this.
This is a far cry from doing the usual yoga class at your local gym, where you are crammed into a small studio whilst simultaneously hearing the pounding of house music and the whir of treadmills in the other room. Bec Black or Balance Bec, as she is more commonly known, our yoga teacher, completes a melange of different yoga styles and techniques including Vinyasa flow, pranayama or Nidra, creating the perfect ‘snowga’ to compliment our skiing throughout the week.
On the evening of the first full moon of the year, a rather bohemian ritual is undertaken here: yoga Nidra. We drank raw cacao to energise the mind and we meditated into a state of consciousness that was a go-between state before sleep. The sole purpose to feel the energy of the full moon and to acknowledge its power. After this relaxing meditation, we entered the tepee at the back of the garden to set our intentions for the coming year. A peaceful energy surrounded us that evening, and I settled into a deep sleep later that night.
Ski Heaven For Yoga Bunnies
Perched on the Italian border, La Rosiere is the perfect place to ski into La Thuile in Italy for a hearty pizza lunch – you can easily be back in France for some petits fours for afternoon tea…all vegan of course! As we skied past the breath-taking vista of iconic Mont Blanc on the wide empty slopes, the sun shining down on the precarious rocky peaks, I felt as though I had arrived to ski heaven. That is, until I found myself tumbling down a slope. Admittedly, this was the women’s ski championship slope, so a fall was practically inevitable, not just for me, but for others, too. I didn’t feel so bad as I saw others take a spill while I picked up my poles from the trees.
But never fear: La Rosiere have wide slopes, suitable for beginner and intermediate skiers. With its quiet and peaceful slopes, it’s a far cry from the wild and crazy Val D’Isère – a mere thirty minute drive away. Every day, I discovered a new delight on the slopes, be it the charming restaurants Philip took us too, the magical cloud formations over the mountains, or the incredibly bright blue skies. Every day was idyllic. On one of those perfect days, Elly Polhil, the chef for the season, took a fellow yogi and me on a beautiful hike through the mountainous forest. As we emerged, a little breathless from my end, we looked over and down on La Rosiere. With its crystalline silence, the sight of the snowy trees reminded me of Narnia; a magical world indeed.
But back to yoga! While on this retreat, we completed 75 minutes of yoga twice a day, every morning and evening. I thought I would be exhausted, but in reality, I never felt so energised. I found that my skiing progressed dramatically, which paralleled my improvements with yoga. Unexpectedly my shins didn’t ache as they normally do and I was skiing into my turns easier than I have ever before.
Food & Fun
The gardens that Alex Volker had created provided most of the food, with the rest being bought locally. The use of fertilisers or pesticides are strictly forbidden for all food served here, and the nourishing combination of protein-rich, detox friendly vegan food created the perfect menu. Over the course of the week we indulged in wonderful meals such as chickpea curry; tofu, mushroom and sweet potato stew, and always had fresh, thick soups or salads to start. We were even treated to vegan coconut ice cream and truffles. It was my first time trying vegan treats like those, and I must confess that I now prefer them over their unhealthier counterparts!
After a long day of skiing, it felt wonderful to snuggle up in front an enchanting fireplace, where you can pick a book from the extensive library and snuggle down to read, or settle into the outdoor Jacuzzi overlooking the mountains, before attending the deep stretching and meditation-focused yoga in the evenings. As for checking your emails and social media, well, you can, but to be honest, after a spell here, you won’t want to. The warm energy that flowed throughout the retreat was perfect for those seeking more than the instant gratification of the social media-obsessed world we live in. This retreat immerses you into a love affair with the natural, organic rhythms of the seasons and your own body.
And speaking of bodies, mine was a bit sore after all this exercise – something as a Londoner, I’m not quite used to. I treated myself to some massage therapy to undo the tension knots on my back and legs. Emerging from this holistic experience lighter and more energised, I was overwhelmed by a feeling of well-being. Philip calls it ‘serendipity,’ others called it our ‘destiny’, but I swear, this positive energy that vibrated through the chalet was palpable through our dinners full of laughter and a connection that made the whole experience a journey of discovery of the self and our relation to the natural world and fellow humans. Using an analogy that Bec used in yoga, my pile of snow – representing my fears and anxieties- was now melting away, leaving room for more important things in my life.
For some this retreat may seem too intimate, but for solo travellers such as myself, this was a chance to make new friends and to feel part of a group. So as my plane departed from Lyon Airport, I was both sad and excited to return home. Sad in that I would leave the beautiful chalet and the wonderful team that is Alex, Philip, Joanna and Elly, and the natural rhythm of the mountains. But I was also excited to place my newly found mindfulness and focus into my busy London life, and to begin the year with an entirely new perspective.
The retreats are flexible – stay a week or four days. The next retreat begins the 4th February where it includes the combination of live piano and Skiing or for something more upbeat on the 11th March, the retreat will be deep house and skiing.
Chalet Rosiere is also available to visit outside scheduled retreats, as it’s built on the idea of all year round detox and mindfulness. As the business is budding, there are great plans for the place. Alex is looking into creating a miniature forest behind the chalet to carbon offset all guests travelling to the chalet. Or in the summer, the retreats are hiking and yoga with the first being the full moon hiking yoga retreat beginning on the 5th August.