Miranda McMinn discovers mindful skiing at five-star Italian Dolomites hotel Rosa Alpina
I have long dreamed of a ski holiday without the skiing. I love the gloriously huge breakfasts, cosy winter hotels and sunny snowscapes – but the slushy boot rooms, uncomfortable boots and lugging about of skis so often leaves me cold.
Downhill skiing is mind-bogglingly expensive yet the accommodation is often fairly basic, so sitting it out is not a particularly attractive option on any count. What you’re really paying for is the lift passes and pistes, so it doesn’t make sense if you’re not using them.
But when I heard of a mountain wellness holiday combining spas and yoga with cross-country skiing – a much gentler alternative to downhill – I felt all my Christmases had come at once.
So I found myself at Rosa Alpina in the Italian Dolomites. The five-star luxury hotel caters for downhill skiers, but also offers plenty for those who like to keep it slow. Last year they started offering a ‘mindful skiing’ package, which combines the best of relaxation, gentle (ish) exercise and stylish luxury.
The hotel, which has been in the family of owner Hugo Pizzinini for three generations, is furnished with typical mountain decor and some very luxe touches. In the lobby you can recline on sheepskin throws, help yourself to the little bowls of chocolates, or browse the bijou shop and cases of elegant Italian jewellery.
The rooms and suites feature individual decor, from rustic to mid-century modern. Many have real fireplaces, which you can ask the staff to light. I have seldom been happier than when luxuriating on my designer sofa, with the warmth, crackle and aroma of a real wood fire surrounding me, looking out at the snow-sprinkled mountains and twinkling lights of the picturesque village of San Cassiano.
We rise for yoga at 8am in a dedicated yoga room with picture windows onto the mountain. It’s a pretty great way to start the day – rivalled only by the spectacular breakfast which follows.
Next is a cross-country skiing lesson. I’ve decided to give this a go on the basis that it is mostly on the flat and reputedly burns gazillions of calories, which – given the quality of the food at Rosa Alpina – seems like a good thing.
Cross-country methods, it turns out, are quite tricky to master if you are going to use the correct technique – although you could just take off and try tackling one of the many trails yourself.
One of the great joys is that the kit is much more friendly. Instead of rock-hard heavy boots, we are given normal shoes that clip easily into the longer, thinner skis. There are no expensive passes needed and no need for any lifts or the queuing that this involves. It all seems like a lot less commitment than downhill skiing and, as a result, I’m far more relaxed.
After one lesson we are ready to try the trails. It’s a real pleasure to slide through the quiet forest and the twinkling snowscapes with the rose-coloured mountains bathed in sun and dusted with snow.
If the above seems past your daily skiing quota, then there’s always the option of a hike. Trails are well marked and easy to follow, leading you through woods, across hillsides and pat frozen waterfalls. There’s plenty to see along the way. Highlights include rustic barns, tiny hillside churches and a dairy with a rather brilliant cheese and yoghurt vending machine.
Living up to it’s luxury status, there are a wealth of impressive on-site facilities at Rosa Alpina. They include a cinema, library, pool room and piano bar complete with charismatic Ronnie Corbett look-a-like pianist Mauro. From the look of things, many of the regular customers return year after year just to see him.
There’s also a luxurious adult-only spa and wellness area, where saunas and the pool all face out onto the mountains. After an excellent Clarins treatment, it’s time to try the two saunas and steam bath, complete with mountain-temperature plunge pool. I feel reborn.
Food and drink
The jewel in the Rosa Alpina crown (and indeed the whole region) is St. Hubertus, one of only 137 restaurants worldwide to hold three Michelin stars. Here they have embarked on an ambitious project overseen by chef Norbert Niederkofler, where the entire menu is local, zero waste and completely seasonal.
It’s a massive challenge that creates not only a menu full of delights such as freshwater prawns, beetroot gnocchi and wild mallard, but also has an important impact on the economy and ecology of the region.
At St. Hubertus, we were honoured to sit at the chef’s table – seating six, you need to book well in advance. From this ringside seat we watched the theatre of a night’s service, a fascinating experience. It’s extraordinary to witness the coordination required to produce food at this level.
Elsewhere, there’s also a friendly wine bar serving superb pizza (we’re in Italy, don’t forget) and a brilliant fondue restaurant.
A three-night Mindful Skiing package at Rosa Alpina costs from £2,048 [€2,240], based on two adults sharing a Deluxe room with breakfast. The rate includes two private lessons, equipment, entry to the training circuit and cross-country trails, and two yoga sessions. For more information visit rosalpina.it and st-hubertus.it.