Discovering new trends in ski holidays

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In what seems like prehistory, skiers rode the first and last lifts, stopped for a speedy bowl of soup at midday and partied through the night, arriving home in a state of exhaustion. In the age of mindfulness, both grinding repetition and frivolous fun are out of fashion. Today's winter holidaymakers mix their activities to improve the body beautiful, de-stress the mind and enjoy the pleasures of ever-more-toned and supple flesh.


Top of the agenda is well-being super plus. Snoga, as its name suggests, is skiing with a twist of yoga and lashings of pampering. The holistic programme in France, devised by Elite Ski's forceful Aurelia Chretien Pames, includes pre-ski yoga, escorted on- and off-piste adventure and apres- ski osteopathy and massage in lieu of waist-expanding chalet-baked cake. After the pain, the gain: drinks and canapés followed by gastronomic dinners in Chalet Les Brames, a secluded forest hideaway outside Meribel with its own cinema, pool table and spa (five days Snoga, Dh4,092,

Arctic yoga

Too mellow? Go hardcore with Arctic yoga in Swedish Lapland. Expect no mercy from Aurelia's fellow Scandinavian taskmaster, Rebecca Bjork (pictured above), who specialises in nature tourism. Entry level includes three hours of Bikram yoga at the Active North Camp on the frozen Byske River (morning or afternoon, January 1-April 29, 2017, Dh720). Those who get addicted to the endorphin tsunami triggered by vigorous routines in intense cold can sign up for a four-day retreat in the Aurora Safari Camp on Degerselet Lake (February 23-26/March 23-26, full board Dh6,070). The agenda tunes into the silence of nature, with meditation, snowshoe walks, no speaking lunches and group unwinding in a wood-fired sauna. Guests stay in Lapp lavvu tents, eat local produce and learn ice sculpting. Lulea is the nearest airport (

Aqua massage

Seeking gain without pain could involve aqua massage at the Gstaad Palace, a celebrity hideaway on a hill above the Swiss village. Keeping the likes of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor happy has always involved providing anything and everything any guest could want, ideally before they've thought of it. This is still true a century on, especially in a resort where many guests never ski. After no-limit spending in designer boutiques, guests may return to the hotel in search of self improvement. (

Taking well-being a stage further could mean a medically supervised kur at the Parkhotel in Igls, a resort in the hills above Innsbruck, Austria. The clinic follows Franz Xaver Mayr's early-20th-century route to health through diet and exercise. The one-week basic package (Dh4,160) includes three doctor's assessments, a strict eating plan, treatments and group exercise sessions. In winter, it can be combined with downhill skiing and boarding on the village lifts or Nordic cross country expeditions. The clinic has luxurious suites, a panoramic gym, sauna and swimming pool. And the food is delicious, though portion sizes may disappoint (

Card-playing ski holiday

If you're thinking mind as well as matter, try a card-playing ski holiday in Champagny-en-Vanoise in the Tarentaise, France. Alpine Bridge, run by enthusiast Trevor King, celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2017. With fast-track gondola access into the huge La Plagne/Les Arcs ski area, there is no shortage of snow action. Cards take over at dusk, with instruction before dinner and duplicate competition afterwards. L'Ancolie is an archetypal small French hotel, friendly and unpretentious with regional food (; 7 nights from Dh3,392).

Alternatives: English international bridge player Andrew Robson offers ski-bridge holidays: January 7-14, Hotel Edelweiss & Gurgl, Obergurgl, Austria, from Dh8,466; March 11-18, Hotel Cristal Palace, Madonna di Campiglio, Italy, from Dh6,400 (; and Stocken Bridge, January 14-21, Hotel le Chalet Blanc, Mongenevre, France, from Dh5,475 (

Linked lifts

No ski area can have too many linked lifts, a concept the Austrians have adopted. Legions of Arlberg lovers will be heading to the area this season to try out the Flexenboden cableway that opens on December 2. Starting in the car park at Rauz above Stuben and ending in Zurs, the gondola joins the dots between Austria's most varied and challenging pistes and its top pit stops to create the country's largest ski area. For the first time, enthusiasts can clip in for an Arlberg extremities adventure between Nasserein and Warth by way of St Anton, St Christoph, Stuben, Zurs and Lech without taking road transport (

Gourmet skiing

Such an innovation invariably boosts local investment. With nine super suites, the Blumen Haus is an elite addition to Lech's five-star portfolio. Opening in early December, it is proudly haut design, its exteriors clad in reclaimed local timber, its interiors devised by Tirolean Reinhard Strasser to combine tradition and state-of-the-art technology. Barbara Mairhofer, who trained under Gordon Ramsay, heads up the kitchen team, but Blumen Haus is not all about self-indulgence: the hypoxic chamber allows guests to simulate training at 5,600 metres. No wannabe ironman triathelete should miss it ( St Anton's December addition is the four-star Andino, a fusion between Peruvian and Tirolean values with an Andean décor created by owners Andy and Alejandra (

If, like me, your ultimate goal is a three- Michelin Rosette meal with a bedroom on site, look no further than La Bouitte in St Marcel 4 kilometres from St Martin de Belleville in the Tarentaise. Rene Meilleur, born and schooled in the tiny hamlet, celebrates his restaurant’s 40th birthday on December 4. Where glitzy Michelin rivals learned derivatively from top chefs in Paris, London and New York, Rene Meilleur developed his own artisan style. When a kilo of roe from the ombre (char), the most prized of lake fish, arrived unsolicited, he spent the morning devising a starter in time for lunch. I tasted it along the way and it was indescribably delicious, but Rene Meilleurtweaked it still further to achieve perfection.

In 2015, he received his third Michelin star, an accolade that brought the foodie world to his French-speaking door. Heading the rush, two trophy-hunting couples from Hong Kong who took a helicopter from Geneva, ate, slept and went home. After a few weeks, the razzmatazz subsided, leaving Rene Meilleur and his son Maxime to evolve a cuisine a million miles removed from high-profile Michelin superstar glitz.