Slope Ready - Winter Fitness
By Dee Raffo
We all want to indulge in winter’s fun side, heading out early to catch the powder and aprèsing until the alpenglow descends; however, this can take its toll. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to keep your mind and body at optimum capacity for the action ahead.
MINDFUL BODY CARE
Winter can be tough on your body, so make sure you prepare it for the activity to come. Yoga and pilates are great for flexibility and building the core strength you need to maneuver with confidence on the hill. Doing daily squats and lunges will give your thighs a heads-up for when you want to shred that pow stash or tackle a daunting mogul field.
“Before I leave the house, I like to do a mobility check, focusing on some stretching of the muscle groups I know I’m going to be using,” says Michael Conway, co-owner of Back in Action Physiotherapy. “When I get to the top of the hill, after getting a bit chilled on a chairlift, I like to do a quick, dynamic movement program to warm up and prepare my muscles.”
Asked for his suggestions regularly, Conway developed an app called SKIRAD (free to download from your app provider, with an optional paid premium level). It helps users get “fit for the snow” with snow-specific fitness screenings, conditioning programs, pre-snow dynamic mobility warm-ups, and post-snow recovery strategies.
“Remember to do some muscle deactivation work after a day out on the mountains,” advises Conway. “Stretching, rolling, and a light, aerobic warm down can help with tissue recovery and muscle preparedness for the next activity session.”
Sports that push our ability boundaries and charge us with adrenaline may also cause some mental exhaustion and occasional thigh burn. One place that can help you recover from both is the Scandinave Spa. Set in the forest on the edge of Lost Lake, this outdoor haven encourages its guests to do cycles of hydrotherapy, where you heat the body up and then quickly cool it down.
Work up a sweat in a Finnish sauna, hot bath or eucalyptus steam bath and then duck under a cold Nordic waterfall or sink into a cold plunge bath. The process provides the benefits of increased blood flow, the flushing of toxins and an uplifting endorphin release. And for the ultimate reality escape, it’s also a no-talking and no-phones zone, which means you get to relax in blissful silence and let your mind drift.
“Since opening more than 10 years ago, Scandinave Spa has earned its place as one of the best ways to après-ski in Whistler, even though the experience is pretty much the opposite of the usual bar après scene that is so celebrated in ski towns,” says Michelle Leroux, sales and marketing manager at Scandinave Spa. “We offer a silent experience, completely immersed in nature that sets the body and mind up for the next day of adventure in the mountains.” scandinave.com/whistler/en
BRING IN THE PROS
Daily life can give us a few aches and pains, never mind the twisting, turning, and sometimes falling motions on the slopes. So why not put your body in the hands of the professionals at The Spa at Nita Lake Lodge with a deep tissue massage. If it’s your feet feeling fatigued after a day in your ski boots, then consider their Heaven & Earth treatment, which includes a grounding foot scrub and mask, a neck, shoulder and head massage, and a warm oil foot massage.
“Massage therapy is incredibly important for both physical and psychological wellbeing,” explains Spa Manager Rebecca Mullan. “It can do wonders for the nervous, immune, and circulatory systems, and our mindset. The power of touch, which is particularly rare during this pandemic, is incredibly important for mental and physical health, as is the chance to relax in beautiful, peaceful surroundings.”
Cold weather is incredibly drying for the skin, and the face is one of the most exposed parts, so their Hydrafacial treatments are just the thing to revive it. “Our signature Hydrafacial treatments are amazing for rejuvenating the skin during the cold, dry, winter months,” says Mullan. “Although the focus is on dry skin rehydration, it will also help to improve skin tone and texture, eliminate lines and wrinkles, and reduce the appearance of brown spots and discoloration.” nitalakelodge.com/spa
Another way to tackle staying healthy during the winter months is to be mindful of what we put in our bodies. Make sure those fruits and vegetables are on the menu and stay hydrated. In Whistler, you can also add a boost with an intravenous (IV) infusion, which puts those much-needed nutrients directly into your bloodstream. “IV Therapy delivers the most efficient way for your body to absorb nutrients,” explains Dr. Dominique Vallee, Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Registered Acupuncturist and The Whistler Clinic founder. “We offer a variety of vitamin and mineral cocktails that our Naturopaths can tailor-make for your specific needs. Our most popular blend is the Immune Boost IV, filled with vitamin C, zinc, magnesium, selenium and lots of B vitamins. This combination is most suited to help you fight a cold or flu, and to boost your immune system, so you feel healthy and strong all season long.”
We all know that spending time in nature is beneficial to both the body and the soul. You can feel it as you breathe in the fresh mountain air, hear the crunch of fresh snow beneath your feet, and as you look out over the vastness of Whistler’s rolling Coast Mountain peaks.
Slow the pace and take a day off the slopes to explore the Whistler Valley peacefully and mindfully, with these mellow suggestions.
The Whistler Valley Trail is a 40-kilometre pedestrianized pathway that leads you to parks, lakes, lookouts, and neighbourhoods. The majority of the Valley Trail is cleared of snow in the winter months so that you can enjoy a calming winter walk, but consider taking some extra traction, such as a set of ice and snow grips. A five km loop around the Whistler Golf Course is accessible from Whistler Village and provides spectacular mountain views, especially when you look back towards Whistler and Blackcomb mountains from the far side.
Another relaxing way to explore is to take a self-guided art tour. Whistler has 55 pieces of public art peppered through the valley, some of which are a legacy from the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, like Susan Point’s “A Timeless Circle” sculpture, which sits outside the Maury Young Arts Centre in Whistler Village. You can find information on the art pieces and suggested routes on both whistler.ca and artswhistler.com.
Snowshoes are the best way to explore off the beaten path in the winter. They distribute your weight, so you don’t sink into the snow and give you extra grip when it gets icy. For a short excursion, follow the trails at Lost Lake Park or, for a day trip travel south to the Callaghan Valley to Whistler Olympic Park. One of the most popular routes is the adventure down to the base of Alexander Falls, which becomes a 141-foot (43-metre) frozen, natural sculpture in the winter.
But if you’re not ready to head out on your own, or you’d like to know a bit more about Whistler’s natural history, then consider a guided tour with Canadian Wilderness Adventures (CWA). The Medicine Trail is laid out along an old trapper’s path with giant cedar, fir and hemlock providing protection from the elements.
“There is something about snowshoeing amongst the old-growth forest, with the trees towering above you, that feels serene,” comments Kristal Taylor, CWA sales manager. “It gives you the time to look around, appreciate the beauty of your surroundings and feel connected to nature.” canadianwilderness.com
The mountains are a place in which we revel in the beauty and test ourselves, but they’re also a place to relax and rejuvenate. Take the time to experience both the Yin and Yang of Whistler when you visit this winter and stay healthy.