Yoga and snow retreat in the French Alps

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2020: 8 Mar
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Responsible tourism

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Environment
Aiming to sustain the environment has always been a huge part of our philosophy. Long before it became popular we undertook to build our chalet with natural materials. We had to travel all round France to find sustainable building materials because they were scarce, and expensive! We dowsed for underground water sources to avoid water running under the chalet in line with feng shui. As soon as the mason laid the necessary concrete foundations with reinforce concrete, a geo-biologist earthed the metal element with copper wires to ensure the free flow of energy in the chalet. Our natural insulation is cork, hemp, wood fibre and lamb’s wool. Heating is mostly two log-burning stoves with complimentary efficient electric radiators in the bedrooms. The solar panels on our barn heat the water on the ground floor and under-floor heating, but we also have photovoltaic panels to create electricity. Our building site was a field, which is now a garden planted with numerous trees and shrubs adapted to the climate. We have tried to build our chalet with as little cost to the environment as possible, giving our guests the best experience, and offering them a chance to completely unwind and re-energise whilst taking in the stunning views. We ask them to respect our way of life, to be aware of the use of electricity and our precious mountain water, and to recycle.
Community

The Impacts of this Trip

We had the good fortune to buy the land through Pascal’s family connections and have lived in our village for 16 years. We really appreciate the way of life in the mountains, and try to give our guests the opportunity to do the same by sharing our knowledge of our surroundings and introducing them to local people.

Apart from the ski industry, the Abondance valley is primarily agricultural. Farmers make Abondance cheese from the milk of a breed of cows with the same name, as well as making goat and sheep’s cheese. We buy cheeses from nearby farms or outdoor markets in the area, and often take our guests to see the animals at the farms. We use local mountain guides, ski instructors and equipment hire shops and frequent the great restaurants nearby, many of which are owned by the original families in the valley. We have included our village restaurant in the events that we organise, both corporate and for our artists in residence, and also for private family get-togethers.

Years ago, before skiing as a sport came to the Abondance valley, the previous generations of these families endured extreme hardship living in the mountains, especially in the winter, cut off from the lower lying areas. We have heard stories from our grocer who told us that her grandfather had the only van in the valley and used to take frogs and snails to the market to sell for the poor folk who collected them. Times have changed now, but the older generation has not forgotten.

When cooking for our guests, our theory is that ‘we are what we eat’ and we recognise that the only responsible way forward is to eat more locally produced, preferably organic, food in season, therefore with minimal cost to the environment. In the summer we grow a variety of vegetables and fruit without the use of pesticides or fertilisers. Sadly nothing grows under a meter of snow so our growing season is limited! We stock up on delicious vegetables from Sunday market, which has an organic stall run by three young guys near Lake Geneva, which is just 20 kilometers from the chalet. When we have to use ingredients produced in developing countries, such as spices and coffee, we source organic and fair-trade products.

Climate

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