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Spending months-on-end in a ski resort, either working or on a training course is an amazing opportunity to some of us, and a dream to many. You get to spend time in incredible natural environments; you get to ski or ride all the time; you meet like-minded people; you get fit and learn new things all the time; and you spend your time doing more of the things you love, and less of the things you don’t.

For these reasons, most people consider doing a ski season to be ‘living the dream’. But it’s important to consider that there are some gnarly sides to the whole show.

Living in the mountains VS living far from friends and family

Living in a ski resort, or mountain town is super unique. You get a sense of ‘awe’ just walking down the street. People often report that being in the mountains brings back a sense of perspective, priorities and calm – we’re just tiny dots on this planet after all! The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness week is nature, because of the mysterious ways that nature benefits our mental wellbeing.

However, mountains and ski resorts are hard to access and remote by nature, so you’re likely to be living far from family and friends at home. For some people, this separation can be a challenge to their mental health. Getting your head round a new environment can be an anxious time.

Getting fitter VS getting injured

On a ski season, whether you’re working in resort and skiing in your spare time or you’re skiing everyday doing an instructor course, you’ll be doing a lot of exercise! Your body will be functioning at an elevated altitude too and, as it adapts, your fitness will really improve. This has great impact on mental health – the two are inextricably linked. Your sleep is likely to improve, as will your mood, self-esteem and motivation. Exercise, like skiing or riding, lowers the levels of stress-hormones in our body (like adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol), while the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators (endorphins) are boosted.

That said, you can hit it too hard. Pushing yourself to learn new tricks, go harder and stay out for longer days can put stress on your body that leads to injury. One of the most challenging times on a ski season is if you get injured. You can end up feeling very low and de-motivated if you’re stuck inside, not able to go out skiing or riding with friends. The most important thing to do is (cliché alert!) listen to your body… if you feel a niggle here or ache there, have a day off or go easy at least.

Doing it all VS burnout

One of the best things about doing seasons is that the work, skiing and socialising is all fun. For example, you might be up at 7am to cook and clean in your chalet, out by 11am to go skiing, back in the chalet for 6:30pm to cook dinner, and meeting friends at a bar at 10pm. Bed by 1am… repeat. On your day off, do you get up for a sunrise skin up the mountain and huge backcountry day, or do you party in town, finally getting to enjoy après like a punter? All in, it’s FUN but it can be EXHAUSTING. Most of us want to say yes to everything and social anxiety leaves us with FOMO if we don’t.

Ski resorts generally have it all – but it doesn’t mean you constantly have to do it all! Over-cooking it will lead to burnout which is a horrible sense of being overwhelmed to the point of inaction. It’s terrible for your motivation, stress levels and can exacerbate any underlying mental health issues.

Escape from the real world VS separation from the real world

Remote ski resorts and mountain towns are, more often than not, a tad cut off from the ‘real world’ (and this is exactly why we love them!). It brings small-town vibes, but also leaves wider-world problems at sea level. We’re not saying you should ignore global issues but petty dramas, the world of celebrity, reality TV, fad fashions don’t all make it up the mountain. It can be amazing for our mental health and wellbeing to shut off from these things and other worries. Ski resorts are often referred to as being in a ‘bubble’ and a bit of relief from the rest of the world can be a great thing.

However, separation from your life off the mountain can also cause worry. It can be stressful to see the world continuing on without you – especially if significant things happen like births, deaths, moves and marriages. Homesickness could also exacerbate mental health conditions. The best way to combat this is to keep in touch with life back at home, maybe calling, postcards or emails; but don’t let this consume you. Keep contact light to help you get out and enjoy your current surroundings, and make sure you confide in someone in resort you trust, about how you’re feeling.

Ski seasons and mental health

Overall, ski seasons help make you a happier, more confident, fitter and accomplished person. Spending time in nature, doing a sport you love, with like-minded people brings endless mental health benefits. Of course, everyone’s experience is different. Some people feel that living in the mountains is an escape that soothes their soul, others find that the constant ski/work/party flow of a season is what the need to energise them. For some, the ski season experience is life-changing, for other people it may just be a temporary, light-relief. If you’re worried about the impact of a ski season on your mental health, speak to someone who has previously done a season. Beyond that, consider reaching out to a counsellor, therapist or doctor for further advice.

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