I discovered the power of peaks and snow last year, on my first season in the French Alps. I learnt to snowboard and also, how to use yoga to put my body back together again.
I fell in love with the mountain energy and it's ability to make me feel more grounded, as well as the huge perspective shifts it offers. As someone who shivers at just the thought of cold water, it just makes so much sense to split my year in this way and bring yoga to a community of snow lovers, who physically challenge themselves every day. Plus, the issues affecting our alpine environments are something I would like to learn about first hand.
This winter I'm stationed in the picturesque town of Morzine to get my fix of powder. I'll be running snow specific yoga with a variation of yin and yang classes and workshops, for holidaymakers and locals alike.
YIN helps relax, restore, reduce injuries, wind down and explore mindfulness. YANG is perfect to strengthen legs and core and create flexibility, tone, awareness and control. With the power of balance - actively resting as well as simulating dynamic movement for the slopes - watch how your riding capacity increases and technical prowess improves!
Standard snow holidays tend to centre around adrenalin fuelled slope action, with plenty of heavy, rich food, boozy “apres ski” and late nights that can leave us wired, broken and fuzzy. Which is why we have designed the ultimate Snow Drift retreat, utilising body awareness through our yoga practice to strengthen, stretch and minimise injuries, healthy food to nourish and meditation for a clear mind. We believe in harnessing the mountain prana, the energy of this region, allowing it invigorate our body, mind and spirit and sending us home feeling fuelled and enlivened.
At DRIFT we see yoga as a pathway to more awareness, acceptance and a deeper experience of "what is". It is essentially tapping into the power of the heart, to reach the energy of creation that connects us all. Drift Snow is about cultivating balance and equanimity by combining both Yin and Yang yoga. Check out more on this special retreat and contact me to reserve a (limited) spot.
If, you work for a chalet company and would like to source a yoga instructor for your guests, then look no further! I am set up in the French system, fully ensured and fully qualified, with 8 years teaching experience. I offer private & group classes, with prices starting at €30. My days and times are flexible. I have equipment and can come direct to your chalet providing it is in the Moraine area. Feel free to drop me a line to discuss your requirements.
Have a group of people keen for some yoga and a space to use? Then I can come to you and provide an intro to "yoga for the slopes" as well as mediation or pranayama. We want to look after our bodies during the winter months; the stress and strain of working, riding and most likely partying will take its toll, so self care is most definitely needed. As a seasonaire myself, I also know that money is tight, so am happy to offer discounted rates. Get in touch and we can talk more.
I'm excited to working with Treeline Chalets this year! More news on this to come...
snow yoga gurus
Last year I was surprised to discover the lack of yoga available in the French Alps. In my search, however, I did find three awesome and inspiring teachers who were kind enough to answer a few questions for Surf Girl Magazine. Here are the full length versions of what appear in Issue 61.
A yoga teacher, snowboarder and explorer - in 2008 she ditched the high heels, breathed in the enormity of opportunities and possibilities, breathed out and got involved.
Now, a yoga teacher in Bourg St Maurice, for the last 10 years, she is still breathing with the corners of her mouth upturned and a spring in her step.
Riding the waves of life, she is passionate to share what she's learned along the way.
Charlotte st jean
Val D'sere based Charlotte teaches ShivaShakti, the yoga method she devised which is all about harnessing power and refining light; balancing the harmony between female & male, lunar and solar energy, tuning in and using your yoga practice and meditation to enhance your life.
With more than 20 years of yoga practice she has truly discovered how this ancient art can be the best tool and friend you can have to tackle the demons, life’s challenges and enable all to live better.
Soulshine Retreats was founded by Soulla Demetriou in 2013. Soulla holds a deep desire to share the skills that she has learnt on her journey in an utterly digestible way to hopefully help others in their pursuit of peace, fulfilment, joy and happiness.
She hopes to provide the skills through her work and that of her dedicated and passionate Soulshine Team to bring positive transformation into the world so that each and every one of us can embrace our full potential and find the happiness and freedom that exists within us all.
SNOW queen renelle mortimer
Hi Renelle, how’s your winter been so far?
Very rewarding but a bit different to normal. I decided to take 2 days off per week this season to ride for myself. Having commenced the season early this year (13th November), I've already completed 14 weeks on snow; examining Instructors in Zermatt, Meribel & Val d'isere, running full Camps in Tignes, and teaching till now. I felt I needed to balance work & play a little more. Now, with 11 weeks to go, those extra days off have completely changed my life, I’m loving it!
You’ve completed 21 winter seasons! What's kept you coming back for more?
I’m passionate about passing on the pleasure of snowboarding, the majestic beauty of our mountains, discovering new innovative coaching methods, and their combined ability to transform people.
You’re based in Tignes, in the French Alps, what do you love about it?
Tignes provides all you’d expect from a world-class resort, right on your doorstep. Being a high altitude resort, Tignes is snow sure, providing consistent quality snow. We have a huge choice of terrain, quick and easy to access often by taking only 1 lift, from easy blues to gnarly off piste. For teaching it’s essential to have accessible variety to cater for all rider levels; beginner, intermediate & advanced, without wasting too much time on lifts. It’s rare to find all of the above in one resort.
You’re the only female BASI trainer of instructors... What’s been the highs and lows of your career progression?
THE HIGHS: The biggest HIGH for me is in the teaching itself. I adore witnessing people shine, not only in their riding but also in themselves, their confidence builds as they progress. I love using my knowledge & experience to be able to rapidly transform their riding during my one week courses, whether that be clients with special needs, instructors, beginners, or mentoring high end athletes. A huge high in my career was the honor of being selected as a Trainer. It’s a rigorous 3 week selection process. After spending 6 years to achieve level 4 (a feat in itself) and teaching with that qualification for several years. I attended a BASI Trainer Selection course, which tested each individual to their absolute limit in technical riding ability, teaching/presentation/people skills, psychological competence and their ability to perform under pressure. It was definitely one of the most difficult weeks of my life. After successful selection, I was allocated a mentor to shadow to learn the required skills for the position. After this I rookied my first course with my mentor; et voila, I became a BASI trainer. That was 11 years ago now.
THE LOWS: Learning to adapt to peers who didn’t want me to succeed. Unfortunately, the very nature of our sport attracts some characters with strong egos, which can be a bit of a challenge at times.
I found snowboarding such a difficult sport to grasp despite having a surf and yoga background, what advice would you give to anyone just starting out?
Take lessons from an experienced professional under the BASI system. If you want to fast track learning, arrive at a safe level to be able to negotiate the entire mountain at speed, and snowboard efficiently with style. Then lessons are a must. Be selective with your choice of instructor though!
Having completed approximately 12,000 hours teaching experience, and having trained/examined Snowboard Instructors for 12 years, I’ve gained a unique insight into the Snowboard Instructor scene.
You may think that a European instructor would be best choice on their home territory. Amazingly, that statement couldn't be further from the truth. Most European instructors teaching snowboarding are Ski instructors who teach snowboarding on the side as their second discipline.
Brits really are best... In terms of qualification credibility within the industry, BASI (British Association of Snowsports Instructors) Snowboard Specific qualifications hold the highest credibility & recogintion worldwide. BASI have great depth with 4 levels to their Snowboard qualification, Level 1 being the lowest and Level 4 the highest.
I’ve learned that the level of Instructor qualification isn’t always the best indication or guarantee of the best Instructor. Experience never gets old! There are instructors and there are master teachers. Look for an instructor with many hours of teaching experience. Most explain their time & experience by using the term ‘seasons’, ask how many ‘hours’ teaching experience your Instructor has! A respectable, sought after instructor will complete between 600-800 hours per season. An average Instructor will complete between 100-250 hours per season. A level 2 Instructor with 4000 hours teaching experience would improve a students riding much faster than a level 4 Instructor with 400 hours teaching experience. Therefore, you’d get more value for your dollar with the level 2 Instructor in that case.
Aside from finding a great teacher, I’d recommend attuning to the mountain in a calm resourceful state, which is something I teach in my mind.body.board program.
Would you like to see more women taking up snowboarding?
Absolutely! Its so empowering for anyone to learn new skills, over come fear, judgment, and expectations of others whilst having fun. Snowboarding is a powerful gift for any human. Male or female!
I love snowboarding, and I'm happy to ride with men or women. But snowboarding has predominantly been a male dominated sport, up till now some women have felt a little outnumbered. Women are wired differently to men, they are naturally more graceful, have a different psychological approach, are biomechanically different and are often more interested in riding technically correct. So, its naturally easy for me to teach other women because I understand this.
Tell us more about your mind.body.board approach..
I use innovative and very intuitive coaching techniques to help individuals excel at technical snowboarding, by looking at, and enhancing a person’s performance as a whole. My holistic BODY.MIND.BOARD approach is unique with unrivalled courses, and pre-holiday off snow preparation guides to support on snow sessions in resort.
I believe all coaching should encourage and guide individuals to eventually self teach. My goal is to educate, empower and transform riders by creating long term, lasting changes, not just quick fixes.
Students experience a profound and rapid transformation, increased knowledge, and accelerated learning. By addressing psychological, physical and equipment components of snowboarding with precise consistent feedback and detailed solutions, a rider’s technical performance on snow undergoes a dramatic overhaul. I call it conscious coaching. Every single person who has completed one of these courses has re-booked.
What would you say to someone considering doing a season in the mountains?
You have two choices - Party or Ride. You can’t be good at both consistently. You can party for a few years… but your riding will suffer and you’ll most likely have a few injuries. You can dedicate your season to improving your riding, searching for new lines, riding steeper, more technical slopes, going to bed early, eating well, and training… but your partying will suffer.
I hear you head to the beach breaks of Hossegor for the summer, how does that work for you?
I go back to my roots to re-connect with a different kind of nature. My father lives in a beachside property in Queensland,Australia where I spent my childhood. I feel at home next to the sound of the waves, the smell of salt air and the sand between my toes. Winter is pretty hectic for me with 27 weeks per year snowboarding. In summer I keep myself to myself, immersed in the pine forest by night. Chilling on the beach, and surfing by day.
In surfing, we’re aware of environmental issues such as marine litter and coastal development thanks to groups like Surfers Against Sewage, have you noticed the impact of climate change on snow conditions over the time you’ve spent in the mountains?
Yes, and it’s devastating to think that this environment may not be available for future generations. In my last 12 years in Tignes I’ve watched the glacier clearly recede. I’ve noticed a change in the timing of seasons, more so in the autumn whilst surfing. Classic September weather/waves now come in October and likewise in the winter. Fortunately, the snow always comes, but I feel it’s coming later than it did previously. Temperatures seem to be less consistent and more unpredictable than before. Heavy pollution in the Alps this autumn forced local drivers residing in the lower valleys to use their cars on alternative days, swapping with owners of certain registration numbers within that area. In December & January this year, there were drought problems in our region due to lack of precipitation, and quantity of snow cannon use. One of my pet hates is cigarette buts, thousands of fish die every year by ingesting cigarette buts washed down by snow melt.
What’s next for you?
Well, big question! Perfecting my teaching skills never stops and is always ongoing. But after the success of my BODY.MIND.BOARD approach, I’ve realized my next step is to broaden my horizons! I’ll be providing more camp dates, options & programs throughout next winter in France with prospective internationaladventures in the pipeline for Argentina this summer and Japan next winter. Also coming up next season is my new package BODY.MIND.BOARD.MOUNTAIN camps covering off piste riding technique, mountain awareness, avalanche safety & transceiver training.
Check out Renelle's professional and tailored coaching at Fresh Snowboarding.
Interviewed exclusively for Surf Girl Magazine.