Despite how industry marketing paints the picture, I’m here to tell you that skiing and snowboarding is not all smiles and leisure. (And in case you were wondering, it isn’t always bluebird and powder days, either.)
No, sometimes mornings are peppered with little challenges, like a missing left glove after schlepping 20 minutes from Lot E to the base area. Sometimes afternoons go sideways when you discover your RFID pass flew out of your pocket somewhere and now you’re causing a backup in the lift line. And the soreness you feel at the end of the day, after skiing all those bumps, really bogs you down the following morning when you can barely move without making agonizing noises.
On the bright side, you’re the lucky one compared to the guy returning from the emergency room on crutches and in an air cast.
Time to do it all over again. But don’t reach for the Motrin. Try a yoga mat instead.
Introducing a little more “yoke” into your skiing is a much better way to deal with the mental and physical demands of the outdoor sports we love so much, especially skiing.
Sup Yo Adventures, which operates 10 locations throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire, began offering “Snowga” retreats — yoga classes combined with downhill and cross-country skiing — in 2015. It also runs day hikes in the White Mountains, overnight wilderness retreats in New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont, and international adventure travel worldwide.
This winter, three Snowga retreats are scheduled with accommodations at the Bartlett Village House in Bartlett N.H., just a mile from Attitash/Bear Peak.
Jana Olenio-Grgurovic, Sup Yo’s founder and owner, said that in addition to skiing, Snowga retreats include options for snowshoeing, winter hiking and ice skating.
“We believe it’s important to inspire people to get outside in all four seasons and stay active and connect with other like-minded people,” Olenio-Grgurovic said. “Yoga creates balance on our retreats. After a long day outside skiing or hiking, yoga allows us to stretch and repair those muscles that were used, resulting in less soreness and muscle tension. People love restorative yoga after a day outside. It not only calms and soothes the physical body, but also the mind.”
Olenio-Grgurovic started Sup Yo Adventures in 2012 by offering paddleboard yoga classes in the Boston area. Her on-water offerings grew quickly and Sup Yo expanded in its second year to the New Hampshire seacoast. A registered yoga teacher with 500 hours of teacher training, Olenio-Grgurovic is certified as a stand-up paddleboard teacher and in Paddle Fit Core. She has completed vinyasa teacher training with acclaimed yoga teacher Seane Corn, is a Level 1-certified balance athlete, and is trained in wilderness first aid and CPR.
“I am extremely passionate about the outdoors and yoga, so much so that I made it my life’s work,” Olenio-Grgurovic said. “Sup Yo Adventures’ mission is to inspire others to get outside and connect with nature, through yoga. Yoga (to yoke) means union of the mind, body and spirit. Getting outside and connecting with nature is also very much a spiritual practice in and of itself. Both of these practices allow us to gain clarity, get grounded, and connect with source and ourselves.”
The combination of yoga and nature, along with an added fitness challenge like skiing, complement each other very well, Olenio-Grgurovic said. “Sup Yo Adventures offers an array of ways to get outside and do just this, along with meeting a community of likeminded people to share the experience with. We hope after you join us for an adventure, you will go home with a full cup, a happy heart and a new friend.”
This was particularly true during the COVID-19 pandemic, when Sup Yo’s retreat offerings expanded. “People were looking — more than ever — for ways to get outside and connect with others, safely,” Olenio-Grgurovic said. “We followed all the state guidelines and protocols during this time and people felt safe on our retreats. We are so grateful that we were able to conduct business during this time and continue to offer ways to inspire people to get outside.”
Alina Badretdinova, of Hampton N.H., has been attending Sup Yo classes on the water in Seabrook Harbor for years. As a skier (her favorite resort is Killington), she has participated in many of Olenio-Grgurovic’s retreats.
“I love everything she is doing,” Badretdinova said. “I’ve done it all and it’s always great. Sometimes it’s hard to find time to do outdoor activities. Going on Sup Yo retreats accomplishes multiple things at once: meeting like-minded people, perfect organization, outdoor activities that you like, but struggle to find time to do, and fun. A lot of fun.”
Olenio-Grgurovic said these outdoor adventures create an opportunity to challenge both mind and body, and to connect with a community that shares similar values and mindset. “That challenge starts with saying ‘yes’ to a new adventure,” she said. “When you do, you’ll leave class, a hike, or another experience feeling confident, empowered, accomplished, joyful and connected with new friends.”
Wild Wings Ski Touring and Yoga
Tracy Black, who runs Wild Wings Ski Touring Center in Peru, Vt., grew up in Bozeman, Mont., where she learned to ski at Bridger Bowl. She and her husband moved back to his childhood home in Peru in 1979 to take over and run the family’s Wild Wings Ski Touring Center. Her in-laws started the cross-country skiing center there in 1974 with a few trails, running the operation out of the horse barn.
Black started teaching yoga there in 2003 and today offers classes in a vinyasa (movement following breath) style of yoga known as “slow flow” from the Wild Wings Yoga Studio, a rebuilt studio/warming room. She has completed teacher training with instructors Kathy McNames, Seane Corn, Desiree Rambaugh and Tasha Judson, and her approach combines a focus on alignment with the freedom and creativity of vinyasa flow.
“Yoga is about learning to balance the body, the breath and the mind,” Black said. “If you are skiing a lot, then look for a slow, stretchy class, a restorative, or yin class. If you work all day and need to get in shape for skiing, a hard-flowing vinyasa or Ashtanga class will help you get in shape and practice the breath and quiet the mind.”
Skiers who have taken her class tell her they appreciate how the stretching and increased flexibility helps while they’re out sliding on the snow, not to mention combining movement and working with the breath.
“People feel better when they move,” Black said. “Add the breath and they feel even better. It is the calming of the nervous system.”
Maine Yoga Adventures
Holly Twining is the founder of Maine Yoga Adventures, which is offering a wide-ranging schedule of themed yoga day and weekend retreats during the fall and winter seasons. Themes include “Hiking Adventures” at Chick Hill/Peaked Mountain in Clifton, “Axe Throwing” in Bangor, “SUP” at Holbox Island, Mexico, “Snorkeling and Sunsets” in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, and “All the Things: Adirondacks” in Lake George, N.Y.
For skiers, Twining is planning an “Ice Castles, Skiing & Wicked Resort Vibing Adventure,” Feb. 4-6 at Riverwalk Resort in Lincoln, N.H., close to Loon Mountain. In addition to visiting the Ice Castles, participants can cross-country or downhill ski, snowshoe, practice MYA’s version of snowga (yoga while snowshoeing), ice skate, hot tub, swim, sled and more. This will be its third play-in-the-snow adventure in Lincoln.
“I’ve been offering outdoor experiences for six years and absolutely love the wintertime,” Twining said. “MYA attempts to get in as many ski adventures — downhill and cross-country — as possible.”
Twining became a certified yoga teacher in 2011 after completing the Namaste Institute training program. She teaches a variety of yoga classes at Om Land Yoga studios, including Mantis Yoga for Kids. She is a certified foundations instructor through Color Me Yoga and has trained in Unnata Aerial Yoga with Michelle Dortignac.
A skier since the age of 10, she’s always had a passion for the outdoors, having grown up with a birder/gardener/naturalist dad and a dog walker/fitness aficionado mom. When a knee injury brought her modern dance career in New York City to a screeching halt, she discovered yoga.
“It was a great way to calm my nerves and help me transition out of life’s difficult moments,” she said. “The two passions of the outdoors and yoga came together for me as a no-brainer. It makes perfect sense to combine the natural world and outdoor fitness with the healthy and sustaining movements of yoga. I can’t tell you how beautiful it is to share a post-ski yoga practice after a soak in the hot tub.”
Twining said yoga is the perfect match for anyone who is active outdoors regardless of the season. “Whether it’s a simple meditation, a physical flow or some deep breaths, the positive effects are undeniable. The practice is even more fun when you take it outside.”
For beginners, Twining said a few “sun breaths” can go a long way to relieve tension. Skiers can benefit from side-stretching and lunges and should practice stretching out the hips. This can set skiers up for more fluidity in their skiing and ready their core with strength and confidence. Good exercises for that include the figure four on your back, which also works standing up and crossing your ankle above your knee while bending the standing leg to sink it in.
She also recommends deep breaths while on the ski lift. “Close your eyes for a moment, then open them up and be grateful for the beauty that surrounds you,” she said.
“Yoga in the morning before hitting the slopes gets your body, mind and spirit ready to take on the mountain,” Twining said. “Deep breathing, paired with deep stretching. Yoga after a long day of skiing can not be underestimated. Stretching away tense hips and thighs is a wonderful thing.
“Yoga helps you prepare, helps you reset, helps you take on challenges with ease — or at least a little less anxiety. Yoga is the best medicine.”
Matt Boxler can be reached at [email protected].