“A pastime that clears the mind”: ice bathing with Stephanie Lehnort
Stephanie Lehnort is a passionate host, mother, homemaker and animal lover. In winter 2021 she became co-director of the 5-star Carlton Hotel in St. Moritz, taking over responsibility for the hotel’s management alongside her husband Michael. It was the fulfilment of a long-held dream – and a natural next step for the Lehnort family, who had been in the Grisons for seven years. While Stephanie is deeply passionate about her work, she acknowledges that it comes with its fair share of challenges. To unwind, she looks to nature to find peace – and in doing so, to lose herself. Her adventures are driven by curiosity; by the search for experiences that enrich and give strength. This search led her to the art of ice bathing.
While the young Stephanie Lehnort had always been fascinated by hotels, it was a particular moment in her childhood that truly ignited the insatiable spark. One day on a family holiday in Gran Canaria – where she had broken her arm – she found herself in conversation with the hotel’s event manager. At that moment, little Stephanie was certain that she, too, wanted to help people make their most treasured days of the year even more special. Above all, she felt called to create memories.
Moving Mountains is a project that’s close to her heart. “Managing the balancing act between work and family is a real challenge,” she says. “It makes every moment I get to myself all the more precious. The Moving Mountains philosophy helps me acknowledge that every moment is important, that it matters, and that I can and must savour it to the full. It means slowing down, taking a step back, taking time to breathe – even when things get really hectic. More than anything else, I’m learning to listen to my body and read the signs it gives,” she continues.
It is precisely this ability to listen to oneself that lies at the core of the practice of ice bathing. “It was a dear colleague who gave me the idea,” she recalls. “I tried it out for the first time in Arosa.” For Stephanie, the moment of immersion is more a question of bodily awareness and self-discipline than of overcoming the physical shock. “At that moment, the focus is really on you. You forget everything around you. You concentrate only on your breathing, on your movements, on the sensation on your skin. It’s a pastime that clears the mind.”
The beneficial effects of ice bathing on the body are relatively simple to explain. The sudden exposure to cold releases adrenaline, endorphins and anti-inflammatory corticoids, causing the blood vessels constrict abruptly and then dilate again as soon as the body warms up. This exposure to cold and warm stimuli in quick succession stimulates all parts of the circulatory system. Circulatory functioning is improved, the immune system is boosted and connective tissue is firmed. When taken directly after exercise, an ice bath supports the regenerative ability of the body’s tissues.
The effects of ice bathing on the psyche are equally as desirable. The release of endorphins – also known as ‘happiness hormones’ – has been scientifically proven to reduce stress. Regular ice baths can help alleviate anxiety and prevent panic attacks as well as improving sleep over time. “You feel strong after an ice bath, like the energy is coursing through your veins,” explains Stephanie. “You feel proud of what you’ve just had the courage to do. It’s an indescribable feeling!”
And as for preparation? “Ice bathing can be dangerous – it’s important not to forget that,” cautions Stephanie. “I still make sure to treat it with the respect it deserves. Unfortunately, we recommend that guests with cardiovascular disorders do not take part. However, those who can and do wish to participate in this empowering experience can begin preparing their body at home – with hot-and-cold showers, for example. And once you get here, you have to make time to really engage with it. It’s a lot to ask of the body! You have to take time to endure the cold, to feel it consciously. In line with the Moving Mountains philosophy, it’s also a meditative act; a moment that’s all about slowing down, returning to the present.”
To ensure the safety of all participants, ice bathing on Lake St. Moritz is supervised and accompanied by trained staff. “It really is an experience,” says Stephanie. “I like to do it as often as I can: it grounds me and recharges my batteries.”