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Winter wellness retreats: where to spa in the snow

The sub-zero spa resorts to visit in Europe this winter

While winter sun seekers escape to far-flung islands for tropical therapy and vitamin sea, Europe’s snowscape has healing powers all of its own. A holiday in the mountains can soothe the soul, refresh the senses and clear the mind thanks to the positive effects of alpine air on both mental and physical health. From Celtic yoga in the Dolomites to ice bathing in Swedish Lapland, these are the most stylish spa destinations to keep cool, calm, and connected to nature.

1. FORESTIS, Brixen – Italy

FORESTIS

Taking alpine wellness to new heights, FORESTIS is a summit-level sanctuary in the UNESCO Dolomites mountainscape. Forests and snow-dusted peaks stretch out in every direction from this perfectly poised spa hotel, every part of which is in tune with the elements. Originally built as a tuberculosis sanatorium by the Austrian monarchy for its sheltered yet sunny South Tyrolean location, wellness at FORESTIS taps into its spectacular surroundings – pure Plose spring water, fresh mountain air, and a mild climate where Adriatic currents meet air masses from the North, all come together to create the perfect environment for a health-focused holiday.

FORESTIS

Following the centuries-old example of the Celts and their natural doctrine, the FORESTIS Spa combines the elements of nature with four specially selected trees – mountain pine, spruce, larch and stone pine. From an indoor-outdoor rock pool to Silence Rooms and a Wyda Yoga Room overlooking frosted forests, the power of nature is ever present throughout the FORESTIS experience.

2. Arctic Bath, Harads – Sweden

Arctic Bath

As far as floating spa hotels go, they don’t come much cooler than Arctic Bath – a cluster of back-to-nature cabins in Northern Europe’s last remaining wilderness. Frozen into the Lule River during the winter months, the circular, Viking-style spa boasts an open-air cold bath for pre-and-post-sauna plunges beneath the Northern sky, an ancient cleansing ritual which strengthens the body’s immune system, eases sore muscles and reduces inflammation.

Arctic Bath

All-natural products by native Swede Kerstin Florian are incorporated into a range of holistic treatments, from Swedish Arctic Massages to Sauna Gus. Your complimentary Arctic Spa kit includes body peeling, facial mask, foot treatment, face cream and a dry brush for the ultimate introduction to Nordic wellness.

3. Lefay Resort & SPA Dolomiti, Pinzolo – Italy

Lefay Resort & SPA Dolomiti

Cradled in the Dolomites, Lefay Resort & SPA Dolomiti is a new level of mountain lodge. With sharp architecture – all triangles and zig-zag lines – and wooden accents reflecting the peaks and forests outside, it truly brings the outside in. There are breathtaking views from the temple-like Lefay SPA – 5,000 square metres of natural wellbeing and innovation, where Eastern and Western influences are expertly brought together.

Lefay Resort & SPA Dolomiti

The striking tonalite sports pool creates a beautiful earthy feel, while the indoor-outdoor pool blends into the snow-blanketed landscape so you will truly feel at one with the environment. Indulge in pure relaxation within the aquatic area, completed by a large whirlpool that is reminiscent of the ancient spas. Run in the gym with the forest floor at your feet, or keep things calm in the relaxation room with soul-stirring panoramas, leaf-green accents and a branch-like light sculpture reminding you that you’re up at treetop level.

4. Le Refuge de la Traye, Méribel – France

Le Refuge de la Traye

Away from the hustle and bustle of the après-ski, yet within enviable proximity to Les Trois Vallées ski region, Le Refuge de la Traye is a haven of tranquillity surrounded by nature. The options for relaxation and rejuvenation here are as varied as the landscape outside. Offering the latest in spa and massage treatments, it also has a Japanese iyachi dome, wellsystem, stendo, sauna, Jacuzzi, phototherapy room, milk bath and hay bed with shimmering snow-covered views. Yoga classes are available for those who want to salute the slopes – and the spa’s tea room is a restful space for sitting back with a refreshing herbal brew.

5. Goldene Rose Karthaus, Schnals – Italy

Goldene Rose Karthaus

Framed by soaring peaks and emerald forests, Goldene Rose Karthaus is tucked away on the Italian-Austrian border in the serene Senales Valley. Wellbeing takes centre-stage at this nature-centric retreat, with a spa that embraces the healing powers of the elements using products created from minerals and iced spring water found deep within the Hochjochferner Glacier. Pad in soft bathrobes along the wooden walkway through snow-sprinkled canopies to begin the cleansing ritual of perspiration in the Finnish Sauna, built at treetop height with a glass wall facing the forest.

Unwind in the steam of two outdoor pools, before warming up by the fire in the Gloriette glass pavilion. Or luxuriate in the peace of the private spa, a minimalist haven of South Tyrolean stone, with an ice grotto and Lasa-marble steam bath. Meanwhile, some of the Junior Suites even come with their own in-room saunas.

6. Bergwelt Grindelwald – Alpine Design Resort, Grindelwald – Switzerland

Bergwelt Grindelwald

With the Swiss Alps as its backdrop and a state-of-the-art spa taking wellness to another level, every element at Bergwelt Grindelwald – Alpine Design Resort stirs the senses. In keeping with its name, the Fire & Ice SPA draws on the raw power of nature. Think steam baths and frosted fountains, roaring fires and relaxing pools, including one outdoors that’s inspired by the Grindelwald glaciers.

Bergwelt Grindelwald

The treatment rooms are simply serene, and are each named after a butterfly – so you’ll walk in, and float out. The Atrium Garden is a must-visit to breathe in the crisp air and scent of mountain herbs, while the bleached wood Cocooning Room is as soothing on the eye as it is on the soul – the perfect place for ski-weary muscles to recover after a day on the slopes.

7. Miramonti Boutique Hotel, Merano – Italy

Miramonti Forest Sauna

With gables that resemble the peaks that surround it, Miramonti Boutique Hotel is well and truly in tune with its natural surroundings. The spa at Miramonti brings the outdoors in – and vice versa. Gaze at the mountains as you swim in the heated infinity pool, then step into the steam bath amid the snowy peaks. The Japanese-inspired onsen pool is set high above Merano and combines the ancient healing powers of Japanese bathing and alpine recreation, while the Forest Sauna is made from black hemlock wood and floats 20 metres above the snow-covered ground.

8. Wellnesshotel Golf Panorama, Lipperswil – Switzerland

Wellnesshotel Golf Panorama

Amid snowy peaks and deep blue lakes, Wellnesshotel Golf Panorama is a heavenly spa and golf resort in a grand setting. The serene wellness centre features plush double loungers, saunas and an inviting pool. Stretch out in the Finnish or Bio saunas, or try a steam bath. Then don your robe to step outside and into the Jacuzzi – set on the terrace, it promises picture perfect views of Lake Constance which you can explore with a Nordic walking tour.