Extreme Measures

When you want to play as hard as you work, these destinations offer some of the world’s best spots to hit the slopes, links, mountains and more—plus wellness treatments to help you recover from going tough.


Powder conditions on some of the highest slopes in Europe

Challenge: Comprising several connected villages, France’s Trois Vallées is one of the largest ski areas in the world, with access to 373 miles of pistes, 26,000 acres of skiable areas and 321 downhill tracks. Courchevel, the easternmost of the ski towns, is home to a number of treacherous black diamond runs, some as high as 9,000 feet. A network of lifts lets you ski through all three valleys in one day. Ski junkies, however, may prefer off-piste heli-skiing, which gives skiers access to otherwise unreachable slopes. Although illegal in France, heli-skiing is available from Val Heliski, among others, which picks you up from your hotel and flies you to the top of a mountain on the French-Italian border. Armed with an avalanche transceiver—which lets others know where you are in the case of an avalanche—shovel and probe, skiers tackle descents at verticals of up to 8,200 feet.

Recovery: At the spa at L’Apogée Courchevel, the Private Bania Treatment draws from Russian traditions. Start with a steam bath to hydrate dry skin and dilate the capillaries and pores. Next, a brushing with infused birch branches stimulates blood circulation—key after all that time at a high altitude—followed by a bracing cold bath and a body wrap using natural honey to heal any sun or wind damage. A relaxing deep tissue massage rounds out the experience.

Contact: Val Heliski, info@valheliski.com, 415.670.0143, valheliski.com; L’Apogée Courchevel, Duarte Bon de Sousa, general manager, direction@lapogeecourchevel.com, 33.4.7904.0104, lapogeecourchevel.com

© Mikkel M. Beisner

Ultramarathon in Peru

Reaching the limits of athletic capacity in tropical rainforests

Challenge: The distance alone makes ultramarathoning one of the most difficult disciplines in running. Add harsh jungle and rainforest environments and steep ascents to that 143-mile run—that’s the Jungle Ultra, held annually in Peru. It’s not just the terrain that makes this an arduous competition: Near-100 percent humidity and the presence of snakes, spiders, bullet ants—which have a sting so powerful that it causes waves of pain for up to 24 hours—monkeys and maybe even jaguars add extra challenges to the five-stage run. Participants carry their own food, gear and supplies as they make their way around Manu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve located about four hours from Cusco.

Recovery: In Cusco, the Hypnôze Spa at the Belmond Palacio Nazarenas hotel uses ingredients from the Andes and Amazon—some of which you may have run past—to target a variety of issues. To get rid of weather-worn dead skin and help heal insect bites, start with a body wrap made with coca leaf, eucalyptus and muña, a medicinal Peruvian herb known to help with itching, skin irritation and fungus. Follow up with massages to target those backpack-carrying muscles and rejuvenate the legs and feet. Even your hotel room at the Palacio Nazarenas can help you recover: It can be infused with oxygen to help combat reactions to the high altitude.

Contact: Jungle Ultra, Kris King, race director, kris@beyondtheultimate.co.uk, 44.79.6974.2712, beyondtheultimate.co.uk; Belmond Palacio Nazarenas, Floris Boyen, general manager, floris.boyen@belmond.com,, belmond.com/palacio-nazarenas-cusco


Golfers push the boundaries

Challenge: Among the top golf resorts in the U.S., Sea Island hosts dozens of pro tournaments every year. The demanding par-70 Seaside Course is the site of the PGA Tour’s RSM Classic, and the treacherous par-72 Plantation course, with its tidal creeks and limited wind protection, confounds even the best players. About a dozen PGA players, including 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson, call the island home, drawn by both the difficulty of its courses and the resort’s idyllic vibe. Davis Love III and U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover also train here at the state-of-the-art Golf Performance Center.

Recovery: Last spring, Sea Island became the first resort in the country to offer whole body cryotherapy (WBC) at its newly built Performance Therapy Center. WBC exposes the body to subzero temperatures, often as low as -220 degrees Fahrenheit. Controlled bursts of nitrogen vapor ranging from 90 seconds to three minutes in duration trigger the body’s natural release of anti-inflammatory molecules and endorphins. For golfers, this can result in “increased flexibility and range of motion for a more effective swing, faster muscle recovery, reduced pain and an immediate feeling of invigoration,” spa director Ella Stimpson says. WBC got some negative press late last year when an employee at a Las Vegas spa died after immersing herself in a cryotherapy tank without any supervision. Still, PGA Tour golfers including Jordan Spieth, Johnson and Love have incorporated the procedure into their fitness regimes; Love says he likes it before and after a round “to help the body loosen up, and prevent the soreness of a long day on the course.”

Contact: Golf Performance Center, Brannen Veal, director of golf, brannenveal@seaisland.com, 912.638.5118; Performance Therapy Center, Ella Stimpson, director of spa, ellastimpson@seaisland.com, 912.638.3611 ext. 5370

© Roberto Soncin Gerometta/Getty Images


Championship riding beyond the vines

Challenge: Napa’s reputation for having “the good life” is not due just to the food and wine—many are drawn here by the natural surroundings and the wealth of year-round outdoor activities. Cycling is particularly popular in the area, with hundreds of miles of dedicated routes that—thanks to light road-grading restrictions—will have you steadily alternating up and downhill, often at over 20 percent grades. Tour de France competitor Andrew Talansky and Olympic cyclist Levi Leipheimer laud cycling in wine country; the latter, who lives in the area, hosts the annual Levi’s GranFondo event, which offers a choice of 10 routes ranging from 30 to 117 miles. Some of Leipheimer’s favorite Napa/Sonoma rides include the 51.1-mile track to panoramic Pine Flat Road, which features an 11-mile climb and elevation gain of 4,286 feet; and the more punishing 51.8 mile loop from Santa Rosa around Glen Ellen and Annadel State Park, full of twisty, hilly tracks and steep climbs.

Recovery: Calistoga, located in Napa County, is known for its natural mineral waters, and the Solage Calistoga takes advantage of them to offer various treatments designed for cyclists; the hotel’s spa draws from a private on-site spring to feed its baths and heated pools. Riders can begin with the signature Mudslide service, which includes the application of sulfur-rich, volcanic-ash-infused mud and natural oils to decrease soreness and inflammation, followed by a restorative soak in water high in minerals like zinc, copper, potassium and chromium, to spur recovery. That can be combined with a cyclist’s sports massage, which incorporates passive stretching, anti-inflammatory arnica oil and deep work on the muscles most affected by cycling. Wellness and fitness expert Tim Carl, who leads several programs at the spa, has also developed a post-biking yoga session to stretch the spine, realign the posture and have you ready to hit the pedals again.

Contact: Levi’s GranFondo, levisgranfondo@bikemonkey.net, 707.560.1122, levisgranfondo.com; Solage Calistoga, Marcus Mueller, general manager, mmueller@solagehotels.com, 707.226.0800, solagehotels.com

© Werner Van Steen/Getty Images


A test of physical and mental endurance

Challenge: Deep in Iceland’s Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Silfra fissure forms a crack between the North American and Eurasian continents—making it the only place where you can dive where continental plates meet. (They are slowly drifting apart, at a rate of about 0.79 inches per year.)
Divers often place Silfra on their must-do lists for the thrill of the unique setting, as well as the incredibly clear (and drinkable) water, which comes from nearby glaciers and is filtered through porous underground lava for up to 100 years. The water is about 35 to 39 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, making this a challenging cold-water dive that only lasts about half an hour. You’ll need to wear a dry suit, which prevents the water from reaching your body (but does nothing to protect your face). You’ll also need more weight to descend because your dry suit is more buoyant than a regular wet suit, and you’ll consume more oxygen as your body tries to remain warm and your breathing rate increases. But there are payoffs: underwater visibility is over 320 feet, giving the algae, marine life—there’s not a lot in water this cold—and bright-green “troll hair” plants a Technicolor quality.

Recovery: Post-dive, head to another otherworldly setting: Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon. The wellness complex draws from geothermal waters formed thousands of feet underground, where freshwater and seawater meet. On its way to the surface, the water picks up minerals, algae and silica, the latter giving it its lunar, blue-green hue. At the complex, guests can soak in a series of pools to relax muscles and apply rich silica mud from buckets placed around the baths to help rehydrate the skin. Instead of having traditional spa rooms, Blue Lagoon performs all treatments in the thermal waters (in secluded areas of the pools). One of the best options for divers is the two-hour Nourishing and Glowing Algae Treatment, which includes a salt scrub to slough off dead skin, an algae wrap for nourishment, a face and scalp massage to balance the sinuses and inner-ear canal, and a full-body massage to relax leg muscles. You can stay nearby at the Blue Lagoon Clinic, which has 35 rooms overlooking the lava fields, or at the boutique 101 Hotel in Reykjavik.

Contact: Blue Lagoon, contact@bluelagoon.com, 354.420.8800, bluelagoon.com; 101 Hotel, 101hotel@101hotel.is, 354.580.0101, 101hotel.is


Drastic elevation changes and arduous trails

Challenge: Set on the eastern edge of the Himalayan Range, the Kingdom of Bhutan has long drawn hikers, who can climb as high as 17,500 feet above sea level. (The tallest peaks in the country rise to 25,000 feet, but Bhutan doesn’t allow any Everest-style summiting.) The Snowman Trek, typically a 25-day journey through remote parts of the northwestern Bhutanese Himalayas, has inclines of up to 3,200 feet and 11 passes to cross; depending on the season, the high-altitude campsites may be blanketed in snow. The nine-day Jomolhari Trek, with altitudes ranging from 8,200 to 16,400 feet, takes you through the homelands of blue sheep and snow leopards, and into the homes of nomadic people. Though less strenuous, the multiday King’s Challenge, led by Bhutan’s Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck and mountaineer Kenton Cool (who has climbed Mount Everest 11 times), includes cultural activities and helicopter drop-offs in remote areas.

Recovery: For centuries, Bhutanese farmers have soothed themselves during and after harvest in traditional baths called dho cho, or “hot stone.” These oversized pinewood tubs have two chambers: One holds the bather, the other large rocks that have been cracked and heated for more than three hours, then placed in the chamber with medicinal artemisia leaves; river water flows between the two, heated by the rocks and infused with the herbs. The result is a bath that calms sore muscles and, allegedly, helps to regulate the nervous system. A traditional guesthouse in the town of Paro is a good spot for this treatment. Afterwards, a neck/back/head massage and reflexology session, including extra work on the calves, at the new Le Méridien Paro, Riverfront spa will further ease the pain.

Contact: Le Méridien Paro, Riverfront, Mohammad Shoib, sales director, mohammad.shoib@lemeridien.com, 975.8.270.300, lemeridien.com/paroriverfront

© Oracle Team, John Von Seeburg


One of the oldest ocean races is also one of the toughest

Challenge: Bermuda’s 181 islets surrounded by coral reefs and shipwrecks make it a challenging place for sailing, but it attracts numerous races between March and November—including the 2017 America’s Cup. “Bermuda is great for sailing because the water is warm and the breeze is different every day, which makes it interesting,” says Rome Kirby, tactician/grinder for Oracle Team USA, the defending champions of the America’s Cup. “The wind could blow anywhere from 7 to 15 knots, so we have to be prepared for any condition.” While non-pros can only watch the sailors tackle that event, they can hit the water themselves in the Newport Bermuda Race, a 635-mile journey from Rhode Island to Bermuda on a route almost entirely out of sight of land. The 50th Bermuda Race—nicknamed “Thrash to the Onion Patch” because of the rough Gulf Stream that challenges boats along the way—will start on June 17, offering a variety of divisions for both amateurs and pros; typically 20 to 25 percent of the fleet are helmed by first-time skippers.

Recovery: With two gym sessions and four-plus hours of sailing a day, the members of the Oracle Team USA put their bodies through a rigorous regime. Post-race, most sailors find themselves with sunburns, calloused hands and sore muscles, all of which can benefit from the body wrap treatments at the Natura Spa at the Grotto Bay Resort. To heal sun damage and nourish dry skin, the Sedona Mud Body Masque uses vitamin E, grapeseed oil, Irish moss, sage essential oils and Sedona and French red clays rich in amino acids and Vitamin A. The Marine Algae Body Masque, featuring vitamin-rich algae infused with extracts of chamomile, lavender, marigold and cornflower, soothes sunburned and sensitive skin.

Contact: Newport Bermuda Race, Dick Holliday, participation committee chairman, participation@bermudarace.com, bermudarace.com; Grotto Bay Resort and Spa, J.P. Martens, general manager, jpmartens@grottobay.com, 441.293.8333, grottobay.com

Scroll to Top