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The ethos behind our wellness and mindfulness retreats

AliKats seasonal mountain retreats in collaboration with Great Heights Pathways offer immersion in nature, inspiring deep reconnection with self, and with others. The combination of AliKats’ experienced hosting with the intuitive coaching offered by Caitlin Cockerton elevates these far beyond the usual context of a wellness retreat. Guests return uplifted, well looked after in mind, body and soul.

Authenticity and attention

Creating and holding space is vital for this kind of work. Retreats can be vulnerable places, and it is key that the environment in which they happen is a safe place for self-exploration. As Brené Brown reminds us, vulnerability is the key to growth: “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, accountability and authenticity.”

In his Polyvagal Theory, neuroscience pioneer Stephen Porges describes how “when our body and mind experience safety, our social engagement system enables us to collaborate, listen, empathize, and connect, as well as be creative, innovative, and bold in our thinking and ideas”. At AliKats, our objective is to create a safe and nurturing space – a nest, if you will – that can then optimise opportunities for self-enquiry and personal growth. From the first warm welcome, AliKats offers all the support needed for the retreat journey, from delicious, nutritious food to subtle care and attention throughout the stay.

The AliKats chalet is the perfect space for strangers to come together. We aim to create a real home from home, the ideal place to return to after a long hike in the mountains. It is luxurious and comfortable, a far cry from an impersonal hotel. Rooms are private while communal areas invite connection: large living spaces, a hot tub and sauna, balconies to take in the spectacular mountain views in all directions. And the shared experience of the retreat builds friendships and commonality whatever the background and intentions of the guests.

Our wellness retreats are rooted in authenticity, curated thoughtfully to echo and elevate the coaching offering. We aim for a consistent experience throughout: the outside is brought in with bunches of wildflowers or autumn leaves; food comes from and reflects the mountains around us. A nutritious breakfast sets guests up for their daily journey, with a packed lunch to send them on their way and a delicious, nourishing dinner to return to. Everything they might need has been thought of, with lifts to and from walks, and towels delivered to a swim spot. Any logistics have been swept away, and with nothing else to think about, guests are able to go within and embrace self-enquiry as fully as possible.

 

Embodied wisdom

This is the perfect backdrop to work with retreat guide and coach Caitlin. She weaves her coaching wisdom throughout the experience: using the beautiful environment around us to connect with self, others, and, of course, with nature. From the AliKats base, she leads magical hikes through the stunning Alpine landscape, conquering summits and journeying through forests. As well as offering gentle yet effective guidance throughout the retreat, there are introduction and debrief sessions to integrate the coaching. There is more on her coaching ethos here.

 

Movement practices with Ursula Tereba of Yoga Snow further integrate the coaching work. These are guided, inclusive, and speak to the seasons: chillier evenings are for restorative yin yoga by the fire; the heat of summer calls for a more active, lakeside practice. Gentle introductions to forest bathing, qi gong, cacao and ecstatic dance further ensure that all are embodied and open, with a balance of relaxation and invigoration.

Celebratory nourishment

Nourishment is fundamental to the experience. Food is both celebratory and comforting, with vegetarian meals that showcase the best seasonal ingredients, sourced from the local terroir. This is key to the ethos of the AliKats kitchen, and menus are shaped around it. There is more about our take on eating from the land here.

The very best of taste goes hand in hand with nutrition. Packed lunches, for example, are no standard sandwich fare. Instead, healthy and delicious salads, fruit and trail snacks keep energy levels high and encourage pausing to enjoy the views. There are always beautiful cakes and treats on return, to go with a varied selection of locally harvested teas.

The evening meal offers guests further opportunity for connection, finding common ground over food. These four-course dinners are rooted in the season and have moments of spectacle and whimsy – a wild garlic velouté hides an egg yolk; a white chocolate dome cracks to rhubarb delight. Alikats head chef Rachelle Baker introduces each course and the reasoning behind it. Her enthusiasm for foraging shines on every plate.

Guests have a chance to forage for their supper, too, followed by a cooking demonstration with the foraged food. Nettle bhajis with a wild garlic aioli make wonderful hors d’oeuvre; a wild herb salsa verde is the perfect topping for a fresh ricotta tartine. The goodness of these ingredients is showcased on a menu; they are woven through the food and drink. There is no alcohol served on the retreat – it would distract from the experience. But delicious tisanes, non-alcoholic cocktails and juices more than make up for it, and there’s always a celebratory glass on offer on the last night.

Intentionality and commitment

There is an intentionality to these wellness retreats. All has been thought of and, we hope, seems effortless. Our aim is to give our guests the optimum experience possible. We believe this comes from offering comfort, care, kindness and compassion, with a great deal of enthusiasm, and no airs or graces.

The team is well looked after, too. We see the happiness of the team as vital in the running of a successful business. They are well taken care of, rested and not overworked, and can therefore help create a calm environment for our guests. Our hosts are trained to contribute positively to the experience – they are sensitive to guests’ needs, knowing when to come forward or step back as required. They are also passionate about the mountains, and have hiked, swum, foraged or skied many of the places visited on the retreat.

This beautiful mountain environment is key to our offering: we must respect and preserve the mountains as much as they look after us. We are founding members of Montagne Verte, a non-profit association developing sustainable solutions for the Morzine region to reduce its environmental impact. Alikats is run as a low-impact business, and we are working constantly to reduce our carbon impact. This includes initiatives such as carbon offsetting; using renewable energy sources rather than finite fossil fuels whenever possible; reducing waste (we have zero food waste from our kitchen thanks to extensive composting and permaculture practices); and using eco-friendly products throughout our chalets. We see this as the future of responsible travel and citizenship – we must all work hard to look after this world we live in.

Letting the mountains work their magic

After days spent appreciating all the mountains have to offer, guests return to the AliKats chalet to anchor the nurture. Rest and restoration are as important a part of the retreat as the more outward-facing, adventurous times. These quiet moments leave room for the big things to emerge. As guests gather round the hearth with a library of nature writing to dip in to, the sun sets over far-reaching mountain views. As humans we can be wild and free in nature, but we need a base. AliKats allows access to the nature while providing the base: a backdrop and a framework to allow the mountains to work their magic.

 

Elevated Outlook Retreats are held four times a year in Morzine; discover more, find out what’s included and how to book your place here.