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DIGITAL DETOX - Katie Bamber, Pontresina
Monday February 27, 2017 - Email this article to a friend

Switch off your phone, tune in to the mountains, do some snow yoga and relax! PlanetSKI leaves the technology behind and finds peace in a heavenly corner of the Swiss Alps.

Since Victorian times the Swiss mountains have been a destination of choice for British people to go for a rest: a sanctuary to retire to and recuperate, or to recover from TB or mental illness.

As skiing gets more and more high-tech with apps to track friends, create ski movies as well as maps being interactive and so on, I feel I am in the place where I need a forced detox.

So in the Graubünden canton of Switzerland, the digital detox at the Grand Hotel Kronenhof in Pontresina is a welcome step back into a more simple way of being in the mountains, allowing guests to fully take in the atmosphere  and, of course, relax.

So, we all disconnected, handed over our devices and spent the next few days living without the aid and distraction of phones and computers - and, I should add, in absolute luxury.

PontresinaGrand Hotel Kronenhof















KronenhofRelaxing at the 5* superior Kronenhof
















Pontresina sits 8km away from the glitzy resort of St Moritz, where the rich and glamorous hang out and ski.

Pontresina is a calmer, more private and perhaps authentic Swiss village; in my opinion, a more attractive place to be and rest for a holiday.

Further up the Engadin valley in St Moritz busier and "scene-y" cultural and sporting events take place, such as ice polo and horse racing on the frozen lake.

The Kulm, Kronenhof's sister hotel and the original hotel in St Moritz, has been host to many stars  from the 60s onwards, with Bridget Bardot and Charlie Chaplin among its visitors.

Engadin Valley, Kronenhof ice rink and lunch restaurantEngadin Valley, Kronenhof ice rink and lunch restaurant
















Those in the group who forgot an alarm clock or watch lived even more organically than some of us.

The first night saw us all arrive at the hotel bar before dinner in the Neo-Baroque style dining room over the course of an hour.  Our innate timing was way off

Soon, however, it was these guys without the watches who had their natural body clocks kick back in more quickly and the next day it seemed sorted.

Looking out to the Roseg Glacier and the start of the Bernina Massif.

PontresinaThe Engadin Valley is the highest inhabited valley at 1,800m
















The Kronenhof spa and poolThe Kronenhof spa and pool
















What was on the agenda aside from a break from technology?

Dawn hiking, snow yoga, spa-ing, treatments, pilates, relaxing, eating wonderful three and five course detox meals (if we chose to) in the gorgeous two restaurants.

The old Kronenhof ballroomThe old Kronenhof ballroom
















Yoga on the snow

What a way to learn to ski.

The thing to concentrate on, its mantra, as you can imagine, is breathing. And how it helped.

I initially thought the yoga would include using skis as an extension of the body for a deeper stretch.

And it included some: Warrior II, Tree Pose, Uttanasana and, of course, the Savasana - the angel in the snow, lying on the snow with the mountain taking care of us.

It is good to be reminded about the mountain, how it rules and is a bigger power than us -  the skiers, walkers and hikers.

The main benefit of the ski yoga was learning, especially for those new to the sport without old fashioned or bad habits, through sensations.

An organic method of learning.

Snow yogaSnow yoga

















There were three beginner skiers in the group: one completely new to the sport and two who'd skied once, years before.

There was very little technical instruction given: feel through the feet and keep them flat, sensing the snow and feeling through the whole sole.

Within an hour all were turning confidently and feeling happy about going higher up. Result!

Snow yogaSnow yoga: A trick by our instructor



















And for the more advanced skier, exercises such as skiing while blocking your ears or lifting toes helped to re-engage with the mountain and feel the snow better by taking away or manipulating some senses.

Angel in the snowSavasana












Next morning was a dawn hike.

Waking up to meet at 7 o'clock for an early start so we could reach a look-out spot for sunrise.

A mountain sunrise is different to one by the sea. It is very slow as the light slowly travels up over the peaks and dips of the mountains, and is well worth getting up for.

PontresinaDawn hike, Pontresina
















A mountain sun rise A mountain sunrise and 10-degree rise in temperature
















PontresinaDown to the village and the Kronenhof breakfast
















I find that so little of my time in the mountains is spent looking, not through a lens, thinking, appreciating and feeling the very special atmosphere.

Skiing did, after all, come about as a way to see the mountains.

We spend so much time looking down to the valley, racing down and concentrating on technique.

I'm often overwhelmed by the options in resorts of what else there is to do as well as skiing.

Mountain spaceMountain space
















Between Pontresina and St MoritzMuottas Muragl funicular
















Muottas Muragl at 2,456mA different hike on day 3 to Muottas Muragl at 2,456m
















On top of the hiking, yoga, pilates, ice skating, bowling and relaxing in the 5* superior Hotel Kronenhof, there was the spa and treatments included in our detox long weekend.

Ice rink, KronenhofThe Pavillion
















There was a number of saunas and steam rooms, a leg wading pool, jacuzzis, water beds in relaxation rooms, flotation rooms with under-water music and massages.

You are utterly spoilt during the weekend and there really is no place for phones there, to take pictures with or speak to people.

PontresinaPontresina haven
















The Kronenhof has endless rooms, every one to each corner is beautifully and carefully decorated and furnished; You need more time even to explore and admire.

So whether it was for recovery, mental respite or for artists, the Swiss mountains and Pontresina is a perfectly peaceful place.

Once it was just a summer destination, but then this area is also said to be where winter tourism in the Alps originated.

It all came from a challlenge set by the owner of the Kulm Hotel in 1864.

British summer visitors were dared to stay on after the summer was over to experience the mountains in the winter; they didn't believe it would be an attractive place to be - cold, dark, a snowy prison.

The hotel owner made them a bet and said if they tried it and didn't like it, they wouldn't have to pay.

The guests stayed from Christmas to Easter, when they returned home to England tanned, healthy and re-energised.

People saw, word went round... you know how it goes.

And after the visitors came the railways, the beautiful Swiss railways.

Swiss railSwiss rail - UNESCO heritage
















The journey to the edge of Switzerland to where St Moritz sits is part of the pleasure of the visit.

Hours of UNESCO heritage landscape unwinds, looking out from a Swiss train.

As we left the hotel, one of our group forgot to go and collect her phone from reception. The detox had worked and, if you need convincing, we repeat:

"It's so good to actually look at the views and just be here, without doing it through a phone, and with no distractions."

It is the ultimate break in the most perfect of places.

And all with no skiing - the most magical of winter holidays.


Grand Hotel Kronenhof

Prices start at CHF 1,455pp based on a shared double room for three nights, half board.

Includes a detox bath, a 50-minute massage, a pilates class, a hike, an energy-inducing massage

The spa includes a 20m pool, a flotation pool with underwater music, a range of saunas and steam rooms, a relaxation room with waterbeds and a fire and, from most rooms, amazing views out to the snowy mountains.

For snow yoga in St Moritz visit the Suvretta Sports website. It's certainly worth it if you are up for trying a bit of light relaxing skiing during a Swiss detox break.

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the world of snowsports.

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