Famed naturalist John Muir knew the healing power of a trip to the mountains, where “nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.” And while spending time in any natural setting has proven mental and physical wellness benefits, from reducing stress to lowering blood pressure, high-altitude vacations have the healthy edge. Here are five great reasons to plan an alpine adventure of your own before winter ends:
- Higher altitude, lower appetite. If, after a few days in the mountains, you find yourself feeling a little bit lighter and your clothes a bit looser, it’s not just wishful thinking: High altitude increases hormones that suppress hunger. That means you might drop a few pounds on your mountain vacation even if you spend more time relaxing in the lodge than on the slopes. With your appetite in check, you can savor the views as you graze on locally sourced fare at Manor Vail Lodge, home to Rocky Mountain foodie favorite The Fitz and the brand-new Ridge + River, opening this month.
- The air up there. In the mountains, improving your health can be as easy as breathing—literally. Not only is the air freer of pollution but mountain climates tend to have fewer airborne allergens, making a high-altitude vacay a great option for hay fever sufferers. And city dwellers needn’t travel far to find that cleaner mountain air—Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa in the San Bernardino Mountains, one of the most popular active getaway destinations in Southern California, is just a one-and-a-half hour drive from downtown Los Angeles.
- A place to play. We all know exercise is good for cardiovascular and mental health but making it fun and sharing it with friends and loved ones can boost the wellness benefits even more. Mountain resorts abound with opportunities for play in the open air—a plus at a time when outdoor socializing is safest. Utah’s YOTELPAD Park City puts your party in the heart of the biggest ski resort in the U.S. for world-class downhill skiing, snowboarding, tubing and cross-country skiing. On the East Coast, head for The Equinox Golf Resort & Spa near Vermont’s Bromley and Stratton mountains, where you can ski, sled and recapture the fun of childhood as you build a frozen friend in the Snowman Garden. Also in Vermont, The Essex Resort & Spa is within easy reach of five classic Vermont ski resorts, as well as the longest groomed ice-skating trail in the U.S.
- High adventure. Being open to new experiences and tackling new challenges can help sharpen mental acuity and heighten self-esteem. And while too much adrenaline has a negative effect on wellbeing, the short bursts that go with extreme sports play a positive role, giving your immune system a healthy boost. So test your mettle with a heliskiing adventure at Jackson Hole’s Snow King Resort or ice climbing in the Adirondack High Peaks at New York’s Saranac Waterfront Lodge and reap the wellness rewards.
- Inspirational views. Few vistas are more inspiring and empowering than those from the top of a mountain. From this peak position, far removed from the concerns of everyday living, take a few moments to meditate on the beauty and power of the natural world—it will do a world of good for your mood and your mind. The views are heavenly from Forest Suites Resort in South Lake Tahoe’s Heavenly Village, just a short drive from the aptly named Inspiration Point, which towers 600 feet above the lake. In the Colorado Rockies, Vail’s Gondola One, just a block from Tivoli Lodge, whisks passengers 2,300 feet skyward to mid-mountain in 7.5 minutes. For even more spectacular views, take the Eagle Bahn Gondola to the top of Vail Mountain, enjoying soaring views of the back bowls along the way.
There’s still time to take advantage of Benchmark’s Ski Getaways promotion, with healthy savings of up to 40% on peak winter escapes at some of the best four-season mountain resorts in the U.S. So go now for the snow, then return when the weather warms for another healthy dose of alpine air and adventure.