Natalie Fox is a Roxy Fitness ambassador, surf coach, SUP coach and yoga instructor based in Cornwall in the summer and Morzine in the winter. She helps run Drift surf and yoga retreats, in Jersey and Indonesia throughout the year. As a brand ambassador she flies the Roxy fitness/Roxy wetsuits flag on all her retreats and hopes to be a trailblazer in teaching her unique style of ski/board specific yoga in the French Alps this winter. Here’s what she had to say about swopping the ocean for the snowy Alps.
If you’re a surfer who lives in the northern hemisphere, winter is generally a time to think about these three options….
1. Head to warmer waters, either on a surf trip, sabbatical or seasonal job.
2. Brave the drop in temperature, don the rubber and embrace the icy, uncrowded waves like a true, intrepid, cold water surfer.
3. Migrate to the snow covered peaks; swapping waves for mountains to slide on frozen water as it makes its way the ocean.
Three years ago I went with number three and I’ve been hooked ever since. Think of it like this: in the mountains it’s constantly spewing soft, delicate snowflakes that collect to form a cushioned blanket which when ridden vertically, at speed, generate the very same sensation of gliding on water. And you don’t even have to paddle!
Have I convinced you yet that it’s not so bad?
But being ocean lovers, how on earth do surf girls cope without the sea for six months? As someone who lives and breathes the ocean, here’s how I learnt to adapt to the snow;
Like most endeavours, a positive mindset is required in order for you to thrive in your environment. Focus on all the new skills, friends and experiences that you’re gaining rather than what you’re missing out on. Radically accepting the fact that you will not be surfing will help put it to the back of your mind, and whatever you do, do not watch the surf cam at Fistral on those days you know it’s firing.
Training and conditioning is needed to get used to exerting at altitude; even just getting on and off tricky chairlifts, so be prepared for a steep physical learning curve. Yoga is all about balance and focus, which is what we need to cultivate in snowboarding. Yin yoga helps relax, restore and reduce injuries. Yang is perfect to strengthen legs and core and create flexibility, tone, awareness and control. I practice and teach both, so with the power of balance – actively resting as well as simulating dynamic movement for the slopes – snow specific yoga helps increase riding capacity and improves technical prowess.
Once your mind and body click that you’re snow surfing and you have the to tools to help you progress; it’s an amazing, enjoyable journey!
What about what to take and where to go?
Thankfully most of our favourite, trusted surfing brands also cover us for the slopes: Roxy (my fave of course), Volcom, Rip Curl, Protest and Patagonia. You’re going to to need more than just a surfboard and a wetsuit to get started on the mountain, however. Snowboarding involves a board, bindings, boots, snow socks, snow trousers, layers, snow jacket, gloves, googles and helmet. But plenty of this stuff comes around as second hand bargains (check PreLoved and Ebay), and most resorts have their own second hand Facebook page. If you’re going more extreme and heading off piste, safety kit is mandatory – transceiver, shovel, probe even an avi pack (as well as a qualified, experienced, local guide).
Then there’s ski pass and insurance (medical and piste rescue) to add on. Luckily most resorts have free public transport to the slopes so there’s one less thing to think about.
In a nutshell, The European Alps are the creme de la creme – a plethora of resorts, a range of cultures, languages and terrain, from gigantic peaks like Mont Blanc to easy beginner slopes, plus the best cheese in the world. The Swiss side is for the more affluent amongst us, the French side is slightly more budget. The Pyrenees (in Andorra) are a cheaper, quieter, smaller and lower version. The Italian Dolomites have the style. And Austria has the Apres (post slope party). You can also find ski resorts in other European destinations such as Spain, Portugal, Poland, Norway, Sweden, Slovenia, Slovakia and Bulgaria. Japan is renowned for fresh powder. The US boasts the San Juan Mountains in Colorado. And Canada could be described as a winter wonderland; star of the show being Whistler-Blackcombe. Scotland and Wales are also great options closer to home!
Protect Our Winters is an international non profit founded by professional free rider Jeremy Jones in a response to climate change. They’ve teamed up with Mossy Earth so you can offset your travel through rewilding and tree planting programmes in Europe. Protecting what you love goes for natural habitats on land as well as the ocean.
If leaving an aquatic lifestyle for one based on freezing land, fear not, as this break will surely help your surfing in the long run by exposing you to (and getting you comfortable with) colder temps, higher heights and will only make you appreciate the ocean more once you’re reunited.
Don’t hesitate to check out my website: ecoyogasurf.com/snow for more info 🙂 Or join me on my snow camp at Drift Retreats which is suitable for seasoned skiers, boarders to complete beginners and all levels of yogi.
Drift Retreats journey to the mountains to embrace the winter season.Unlike the ocean which is always moving, with shifting tides and changing swells; the mountains are a stable force, and a great place for practicing equanimity.
The snowy peaks are a pristine playground for anyone looking to feel the freedom of gliding in union with gravity and if you’re lucky, experience the most sacred of all conditions – fresh powder. 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. This is why Drift have designed the ultimate snow retreat, utilising body awareness through daily yoga practice as well as helping 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 guests home feeling fuelled and enlivened.
Based in Morzine, there are plenty of areas to explore depending on conditions and ability; there’s 7 parks in Avoriaz… gentle, beginner friendly areas in Les Gets… St Jean valley when there’s fresh powder.
The Portes Du Soleil ski area is the largest in the world.
3 – 10th MARCH 2019 MORZINE, FRENCH ALPS driftreat.co.uk/drift-snow
If you keep practising you could get good like Roxy pro freerider Lena Stoffel.