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Beating work stress and coming back to life in Courchevel

21 Feb 2018
Courchevel ski slope, The Alps, France

IoD 99 member Yasemen Kaner-White reveals her method of combating entrepreneurial pressures, ramping up her stress-busting efforts with a trip to Courchevel.

Whether or not you work for yourself, work can override, making it hard to mentally switch off. Personally, with a mind too busy for traditional meditation, I break the cycle with a long walk surrounded by people and immersed in nature. Recently I decided to ramp up my outdoor exploits and learn a new activity to re-focus my energies in order to re-energise, to return to ‘work’ with a fresh revived outlook, and so I took to the snow…

IoD 99 member, Yasemen Kaner-White in Courchevel, France

Undoubtedly, previously pastureland, purpose-built Courchevel, boasting the best-groomed slopes in Europe, abounding activities, world leading ski-instructors, and a majority of hotels offering ski in-ski out, is the place to go for a newbie skier. North facing slopes further enhance snow conditions and the sheer openness as opposed to an oppressive valley makes skiing more pleasurable. Out of the 4 villages, I stayed in the plush ‘1850’. It’s the biggest resort village brimming with eye-wateringly ritzy chalets, grandiose hotels, fancy delis and beautiful boutique shops, against a backdrop of bewitching Alpine views. The ‘godfather’ of Courchevel AKA Neal Manuel of ‘Green to Black’ handled my trip, meaning I didn’t need to research a thing. With 25 years local experience and a bursting contacts book to boot, it would be silly to go to anyone else and he certainly came up trumps. After an authentic local luncheon at the dinky yet delicious Bistrot du Praz; Manual’s favourite, where the owner is also the chef, I checked in to uniquely located (on the easiest slope) Hotel Barriere Les Neiges.

The reception, both the hotel’s and the staff, set the scene for what was a flawless memorable stay, cozy yet chic, a perfect combination. A full body massage meant I dreamily floated downstairs to the in-house ‘BFire’ restaurant designed by 2 Michelin starred chef and the man who wrote the forward for my book Lemon Compendium (I do love a coincidence) - Mauro Colagreco. The fellow lemon lover entices guests with warm bread and lemon ginger oil followed by a menu to excite, I went for the spider crab spiked with tarragon starter, followed by a perfectly cooked Angus beef steak, entertainment in the form of sultry singing ladies walking amid the tables, was a surprise addition.

One of the best things about the hotel in my opinion was the fact that after a show-stopping breakfast I could walk straight into the ski room located on the same floor as my bedroom. Kitted out by Ski Chic, a fabulous company that made me look like a regular to the slopes, dressed to impress, with everything from goggles to gloves for hire, I met my ski instructor in the ski room and swapped my slippers for ski boots, ready to go. Two days, two ski instructors, the first one, an ex-national team member for the Poland Alpine Ski Team; Maciej Sznurkowski from ‘ESF 1550’, installed confidence in me. He didn’t leave my side for 4 hours, like a business mentor, I watched him and emulated his expert execution whilst maneuvering over the snow.

Feeling less fearless, I was ready when I met Herve Lemouzy from ‘First Tracks’ ski school the next day. It struck me, almost everything he said related to learning and improving my skiing, could easily be translated to life per se, whether it be business or personal. For instance, to progress in skiing, it involves going against your instinct from time to time. It’s normal for beginners to lean back trying to slow down when fearful but in fact this means they lose control and are more likely to fall, so whilst it is good to trust your instinct, sometimes the tried and tested way is best. 

“Look up and go in the direction you want to go, head up, have no fear, you learn skiing by skiing”, he said. I guess like anything, the best lessons come by just doing it.

Whilst skiing he pointed out the other learners, ranging from 3 to 73 years old, I saw them make similar mistakes, which not only encouraged me, but also I could learn from it, just like networking with start-up fellow directors, it is always nice to know we are not alone. He told me people learn differently, there are ‘thinkers’ and ‘feelers’, but you must remember you control your direction, and if something goes wrong, think - are my skies in the snow-plough position? Which could be ensuring you are still employing whatever makes you stable. “Look up and go in the direction you want to go, head up, have no fear, you learn skiing by skiing”, he said. I guess like anything, the best lessons come by just doing it.

No wonder Courchevel has such a loyal following, with returning customers eager to see what’s new, year after year. This year they will be delighted to find the first Greek restaurant on the slopes; Namos, straight from Mykonos. The truffle Wagyu burger is not to be missed, plus it’s rather novel to eat Taramasalata in the snow, a change from Raclette. The food offering not to be missed is to treat yourself to a strictly seasonal and local meal at 2 Michelin starred restaurant Le Kintessence at the renowned K2 Palace hotel, built into a mountain; don’t forget a signature cocktail or mocktail in the swish bar beforehand.

With the Ski pass being the cheapest per kilometre in the world, and a variety of accommodation, there is something for everyone, but I urge everyone to get out their comfort zone and into the fresh Alpine air of Courchevel, to either learn a new skill or progress, either way, your mind will be cleared making way for business enhancement. 

Related reads: Yasemen's previous IoD 99 blog on self-publishing your passion

Learn more about the amazing business support network for entrepreneurs and start-up founders, the IoD 99!

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