Jean-Francois Rupp grew up on a ski resort in the French Alps, and was taught by his grandfather to ski, around the same time he learned how to walk. Since moving to Australia, not much has changed. As the founder of Alpine Nature Experience, he offers his guests a truly unique experience in Victoria's snowy high country, the opportunity to spend the night in an igloo or hyperdome, nestled in a low-impact eco-village on the top of Mount Hotham. We were fascinated to hear more about Jean-Francois’s unique connection with nature:
1. What’s your favorite thing to do in nature?
Any nature-based activity feels like a real treat to me. Whether it is taking the kids on the stand-up paddle, hiking to a remote stream to go fly-fishing, or simply stretching a hammock between two trees for a nap I love it all. I am definitely not an inside person and love to explore. Good thing Australia has so much wilderness everywhere to do just that. At the moment I am obsessed with paragliding. To me it’s the ultimate adventure sport, with no direct environmental impact and a very low carbon footprint. Just hike up a hill with your wing in a backpack, take off and explore the mountains in all directions using only the force of columns of hot air rising. Let’s face it who has never dreamed to fly!
2. Describe your connection to nature: what positives does it bring to your life?
Having spent most of my childhood in the French Alps, I have a very deep connection with the mountains. There is something incredibly humbling and inspiring that comes with being surrounded by peaks and dramatic landscape. I am one of these people that prefer the ascent rather than the descent. There is something really spiritual about physically elevating your body to higher grounds. It’s like a void pulling you up! I have managed to translate some of this connection with the ocean when I was living in Perth, but deep down my heart belongs in the Mountain.
3. What are your fondest memories of spending time in nature?
So many! I feel like all my best memories are nature based, with the exception of the birth of my children, which happened very normally at a hospital. I am a big believer in enjoying both type 1 and type 2 fun. Type 1 fun is when it’s just nice and pleasant, things go well. Type 2 is when you are just getting on with something, but you look back and think ‘that was heaps of fun”. Running a marathon in the Alps or being caught in a blizzard is typically fun type 2; but let’s face it, how many good stories start by “that time I was sitting on the couch” …
4. Many of us are time-poor, and might not get out into nature as much as we’d like. Any suggestions for a quick nature-based pick-me up? Something sensory, experiential…?
I don't think I can properly describe what it feels like to sleep in an igloo, but the closest you'll get is if you were to fall asleep on the water. You're completely separated from the outside world. There's no noise, there's hardly any light. You're in your own bubble of snow.
I would also recommend to try an ice bath! Find a cold river in winter or pull some ice in a bucket in your backyard. Your brain will scream don’t do it, but it is the quickest and most efficient way to feel alive and reconnect with your natural self. It’s like you have opened all the gates and let nature in all at once.