The Lift You Need? | How to Cure a Hangover on a Ski Holiday. We Test the Myths...
They say you can cure any hangover with fresh mountain air. But is it really true?
“Excusez-moi, allez-vous, monsieur?", I wake up and see the five other folk in the gondola looking my way. The woman directly adjacent is waiting for an answer to her question, which roughly translates as: “you alright mate?"
Fair enough, I think, given that I had just fallen asleep in a cable car. “Yes, sorry," I reply. “I mean 'oui, pardon'. It’s been a long day."
In truth it had been a long weekend. I’m in Crans-Montana, Switzerland combining three days of skiing with four days of partying at Caprices Festival, where the biggest names in techno play from 12 noon everyday to 6am the next morning.
This is day three, and I’m the only one in the gondola with salopettes on my legs and goggles on my head. I get talking to the other inhabitants, whose line of questioning goes something along the lines of: “Are you the only one skiing and doing the festival? Is there even enough snow?"
Up the top of the resort, yes, there is enough snow. As long as you get to it early. There’s a glacier in Crans-Montana see, but it’s one of the sunniest resorts in Europe, which means that by 2pm every day the majority of the mountain has turned to slush. Before then, though, it makes for good skiing.
They’re also right that incredibly few people seem to be adding slope time to their festival pass. Every morning after maxing out the snooze button I find myself getting turns on 140km of pistes occupied by a handful of kids learning their way and a smaller handful yet of dedicated riders.
My aims for the weekend are quite different to most, though. I’m here to try and work out if it is actually possible to cure a hangover by skiing in the mountains. I plan to try one day of skiing relying on nothing but the fresh air to cure me, another where I add a heap of bacon to the mix, and finally to fall back on nutrition and health in a bid to save myself from total disintegration.
After an arrival day which included gin, beer and a first look at ‘The Moon’ stage – a huge marquee set up 10 minutes from the town centre with a sound system out of this world, it was time to call upon hangover cure one.
Hangover Cure One: Fresh Mountain Air
It’s one of the sacred mantras of snow sports that you can cure almost any hangover by getting up, clipping or strapping in and sending yourself down a mountain. But is it actually true?
When my alarm clock goes off roughly four hours after I’ve hit the hay, I’m not optimistic. The process of heading to the rental shop and having to communicate with other human beings seems about as appetising as the diet of pesto pasta and resilience I survived on in my student days.
I soon meet my mountain guide for the day though, François Moser, and his enthusiasm rubs off. I’m excited to get out on the slopes, even if the process of putting on ski boots does feel like self-inflicted torture.
Conversing with François in the cable car switches a few sparks back on in my brain. He’s lived in Crans-Montana for 12 years and stays for the views. On our arrival it’s easy to see why. The top of the mountains offers a 360 panorama view over endless peaks. It’s so beautiful I could vomit. But thankfully, I don’t.
We start our skiing on the east side of the mountain. François explains that to get to the snow before the sun gets there first, we’re best to follow the compass and go from east to south then on to the west of the region to finish the day after lunch.
Lunch could be interesting.
I urge the fresh mountain air to work for me, and I can feel it taking effect. Every breath is wonderfully refreshing, though every moment between every breath is exactly the opposite, so it's really a balancing act at this point.
The one time the hang does disappear is when I put the skis to use. François takes us on some great off-piste spins where we find much fresher snow than on main runs. Flying through steeps with wind smashing your face may not be a serious hangover cure, but it’s certainly enough to make you forget about your headache for a while.
The adrenaline of the run keeps the hangover at bay even after finishing the run. Even chairlifts are fine. It’s just in the confined spaces of the gondolas that the hang returns with a vengeance. I’m struggling to tell whether my helmet and goggles are holding my brain together or causing the headache entirely. It’s sweaty work.
The steeper the run the better, as the faster you're going, the harder it is to remember the tequila. Seriously, who the bought tequila? Who worked nine-five for a month only to take their money and trade it for tequila and then drink that tequila. Who bought tequila? Who decided tequila was a good use of their money? Who bought tequila? Anyway.
François and I stick to the off-piste slopes and black runs for the majority of the day; burning the thighs and freeing the mind.
The scenery is sensational. It’s impossible not to appreciate no matter what your state. Mountains in the foreground frame those behind them. Rock faces rise up like miniature Dolomites.
Eventually though, all that work gets tiring. I take a breather on the snow. Or more specifically, in the snow, face down in a slush and my own self-pity at the side of the slope. This is my life now.
François laughs on from the sidelines. Skiing and mountain air have helped me, but the hangover has won today. We retire for lunch and I take solace in water and the melted cheese of my rösti. We get in one final run, though the slush has begun to set in and it’s far from enjoyable.
That’s all for the day. Back for a much-needed nap, and then back to Caprices.
I catch Jamie Jones on the MDRNTY stage; a giant transparent tent halfway up the mountain. I head back down, meet the gang, buy cheap, horrible beer and catch Appolonia on the Moon stage. We dance. We drink too much. We stay out too late. We walk into lampposts on the way home. I set my alarm clock for 8am. I wake up hungover.
Verdict: 2/5 cure. Better than staying in bed, watching 'Titanic' and crying profusely, but still leaves a lot to be desired.
Hangover Cure Two: Fresh Mountain Air + Shitload of Bacon
That alarm clock is going off again. But it's one of those mornings where if there was a fire alarm in the hotel, I would seriously consider just lying there and waiting for Hephaestus, the Greek God of Fire, to take me in his presumably clammy grasp.
I’m skiing by myself today – François has better things to do than spend time with a crying Mpora writer – so I’m on my own time, but with the skiing effectively ending at 1pm for those accustomed to riding anything other than slush, time is of the essence.
Eventually this sentiment gets the better of me and I pick my phone off the floor, where it had been thrown for not taking the hint after I had smashed the ‘snooze’ button seven times.
Today’s hangover cure, in addition to mountain air and skiing, is greasy, filthy bacon. The hangover choice of many a Brit. The breakfast filling that toppled Ed Miliband. The focal point of so many shit jokes in so many US sitcoms. So for breakfast, we’re having bacon with bacon and more bacon.
The smell of the good stuff crisping up knocks the sleet off my eyelids and the grease dripping down my dry throat feels exactly as erotic as it sounds. Ski boots on, gloves in hand and helmet and goggles swapped for a hat and a pair of Tens sunglasses and we’re back on the go. One chairlift in, I’m feeling good.
I’ve also got a secret weapon.
After two full days of techno, I’ve downloaded The Offspring’s Greatest Hits on Spotify to remind myself that it’s alright for songs to have words sometimes and that the world is not in fact run by those scary metal squid things from The Matrix 3. With questionable pop-punk in my ears and bacon in my stomach, things are looking up.
I knock down a few runs and bingo, the horrible hang in my stomach has been filled with the slightly more comforting warmth of junk food. As lunch approaches though, the effects of the bacon start to wear off and I’m getting back to where I was on day one.
Time for a top up. A croute with bacon and cheese – oh so much cheese – at a mountain refuge called Le Pépinet becomes my entire world. Nothing exists in the universe expect the love I feel for this food. Halfway through the meal and I’m grunting like Serena Williams on match point every time I take a bite. By full time all feels right with the world.
I pause for 10 minutes and then take back to the slopes. But there’s an unexpected consequence. I’ve got the meat sweats, and it all begins to unravel.
With only an hour of skiing left before the slopes turn river, I’m over-heating in the sun. I’m sweating from the skiing. I’m sweating from the clothing. And now I’m sweating because of the bacon. I’ve got more fluids dripping down me than Donald Trump after a night with the Russians.
The Offspring reach the end of the album and the music goes quiet in my ears. I don’t have the energy to take off a glove – an entire glove – and restart the record and all my worst fears begin to come true. The beers from the night before and the wind of the mountain bring tears to my eyes as I steer my way back to base camp.
Dehydrated and exhausted, but quietly content with the day of skiing, I head back to the apartment. No nap needed today. Straight back up to après for Seth Troxler and Ricardo Villalobas. Then over to the après of the après at Cry d’er to catch Mathew Jonson and Sonja Moonear. Then back down to the Moon for Talabotman, Marcel Dettman and Ben Klock.
Then waking up again for the final day of skiing feeling significantly worse for wear.
Verdict: 3/5 cure. If it hadn’t been for the meat sweats, this might’ve been a 4/5.
Hangover Cure Three: Fresh Mountain Air + Hydration Tablets + Healthy Munch
When they invented techno in Detroit in the 1980s, why did they decide to let it run so late? Did no one ever consider that yeah it’s great, but what’d be the harm in wrapping it up at midnight so we can get a good nights sleep?
While I’ve been getting up at 8am every morning, the rest of the crew – only here for the techno, have been getting up at 3pm or later. The idea of coming to the mountains and not riding the snow is completely foreign to us, but I can understand why they need the rest. I saw one random Swiss guy on enough drink or drugs that I'm fairly sure he was convinced he was painting a fence.
Myself, I’ve reached my threshold for techno. I can’t even handle the upbeat nature of The Offspring at this point. I need something slow. Ideally sad. I make a playlist of 150 Leonard Cohen songs and head off to the lifts.
First though, I crack a couple of Phizz tablets into a glass of water. This is my healthy day. Time to fix my life.
Phizz tablets were brought to my attention after appearing on my Facebook timeline in advert form every day for the past 12 months, with a giant bottle of the tablets appearing next to a skier on a mountain and claiming to be perfect for après recovery as well as flying and general rehydration. I also eat an apple or two.
And I do notice an immediate uplift from what can only be described as a natural disaster of a morning hangover. I follow the same route François showed me on day one and it’s going brilliantly.
I ride past views of the Matterhorn on one side and see Mont Blanc in the distance on the other. I watch the layers of mist rise up over the mountains in the morning and the sun beat down on the Rhöne valley in the afternoon.
When it’s time for lunch I order a salad – a fucking salad – and wolf it down. I’m certainly not feeling 100% and the salad isn’t nearly as comforting as the bacon, but I feel the benefits of the healthy eating (and my second batch of Phizz tablets) for the rest of the day.
I felt about as stable as the future of Great Britain at the start of the day. Now I’m smashing down the slopes, appreciating the views and smiling. It comes time to retire for the weekend and get back to the techno, but I think not.
While Sven Väth closes out the festival in the MDRNTY tent, I ride on through the snow-turned-slush, breathing in the mountain air, getting my last views of the surroundings and shredding my way out of a hangover. These are my last turns of the winter and the health-kick has done me well.
Verdict: 4/5 cure. Unfortunately, hydration and healthy eating are best. Throw a piece of bacon or two into the mix and you might even have yourself the perfect cure.
The footage I’m shown of ‘Papa Sven Väth’ from closing looked brilliant, but a trip to the mountains is a trip to the slopes for us, and there’s no other way to close that out than riding lines until the lifts shut and then heading back for some brews.
With a train to catch the next morning, we call it early and I wake up feeling fresh as a daisy. Is this what it feels like to be human again? I sure would like to go skiing like this one day. The best hangover cure of all is probably, predictably, prevention.