Instead of Hot Tubs, Skiers Are Turning to Cryotherapy for Après-Ski Fun
It doesn’t matter if you’re a novice or a regular Bode Miller, your first ski day of the season is always marred by sore muscles. You have to pull over in the middle of a run because your quads are burning, or, worse, the pain somehow intensifies in your sleep, rendering you crippled the next morning. The truth is, even for the most seasoned and well-conditioned among us, skiing is a challenging act of stamina and endurance. If you don’t keep your muscle strength up in the off-season, you will certainly suffer the consequences come winter. It happens to the best of us.
That being said, the pain doesn’t stop avid skiers from coming back, and back, and back for more. In fact, some of the most dedicated skiers go to great lengths to keep their bodies in tip-top condition to maximize their time on the slopes. At the end of a long day of skiing, while some click out of their bindings and head straight for a beer or three at the bar and a fireplace to warm up, others might head for a different, chillier kind of après-ski indulgence: cryotherapy.
You’ve probably seen it on Instagram: someone stands inside of a large cylindrical tube, with only their head visible as liquid nitrogen fog rolls over the edge. Cryotherapy is the highly controlled use of cold temperatures on the body—like -166 degrees Fahrenheit—and its range of benefits, particularly as they apply to post-ski healing, is astounding. The science behind it is fairly well-settled. While some scientists disagree on the number of sessions it takes to reap the benefits, most agree that exposing yourself to a controlled, ultra low-temperature environment at least once contributes to: speedy muscle recovery; a reduction in pain in ligaments and tension in your muscles; a decrease in inflammatory agents that plague your body after intense exercise; and a boost to your immune system’s ability to fight oxidative stress on its own.
“When we ski, we’re activating muscle fibers and breaking muscle fibers, and there is an inflammatory reaction that causes pain,” says Jonathan Leary, founder of Remedy Place, Los Angeles’s hot new “social wellness club,” which includes cryotherapy on its long menu of à la carte wellness services. Leary is a lifelong skier, and has treated numerous Olympians and elite winter athletes over the years. “There’s so much impact on your legs, especially if you’re hitting moguls or rails," he says. "It’s a lot on the body. The goal with cryo is to drop your skin temperature to right below 50 degrees. It drastically decreases inflammation, spikes your serotonin levels, and gives you that extra pep after a long day of skiing. It’s good for the muscles, the joints, the fascia—anything that hurts."
There are multiple ways to experience cryotherapy. Consider the Cryo T-Shock machine: as opposed to a frozen chamber you step into, a therapist uses a hand-held applicator to localize the cold to individual muscles, like a high-tech ice-pack. The Spa at Spruce Peak at Readers’ Choice winner Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont is currently the only ski resort spa in North America to offer this machine, and it’s been a runaway success. The spa has a number of treatments with the machine, but the Après Ski T-Shock Pain Relief is a targeted rub-down with heat and cold that focuses on your quads, hamstrings, or calves (skier’s choice). The 25-minute treatment will cost you $110.
“We’ve been seeing tons and tons of people coming in looking to recover, whether they’re skiers, bikers, or runners,” says Jennifer Findley, spa therapist and esthetician at the Spa at Spruce Peak. Guests arrive sore, and depart half an hour later feeling good as new—but there’s another benefit to cryo, too.
“This particular machine also delivers a really amazing facial,” says Findley. The Cryo T-Shock can also be adapted with a smaller applicator head and used to administer a cryo-facial, combining the benefits of cryotherapy with lymphatic drainage for a facial that reduces puffiness and smoothes fine lines. In other words, it perfectly simulates that smooth, wind-blown skin you get from skiing in fresh, alpine air all day. A 50-minute facial goes for $200.
If you want to give it a go, Find Cryotherapy Near Me is a great resource. Here is a by-no-means-exhaustive list of cryotherapy providers located in some of North America’s most popular ski resort towns: Cryo Lodge in Park City; Vancouver Cryotherapy if you’re en route to Whistler; The Chiropractor in Whitefish, Montana; CryoMT in Bozeman, Montana; CryoPDX in Portland if you’re off to Mount Hood; The Fix Recovery Therapy in Aspen; and Rocky Mountain Cryotherapy in Denver for all other points in Colorado.
Article by Todd Plummer for Conde Nast Traveler