The Scandi concept of Hygge—or coziness—has taken the world by storm. But it’s not just about open fires, hot chocolates and sheepskin rugs. There’s an outward-bound, active element to it too.
Hygge. Aside from questions of pronunciation (try “hew-geh”), it’s the zeitgeist that has proven surprisingly tricky to pin down. There are a few misconceptions surrounding the concept—one of them is its oft-cited Danishness. In fact, the word originates from Norway and hygge is important right across Scandinavia. Granted, the Danes are Europe’s biggest consumer of candles, burning through around 13 pounds of scented wax per person every year. Candles —as even those with a passing knowledge of hygge will understand—are an integral part of the elusive experience.

So what is the hygge experience? Well, some commentators have described it as “cosiness of the soul”. It is the comfort of a flickering candle, a cup of cocoa, or a family snuggled under a cashmere blanket. But it’s also more than any of those things, as Signe Johansen, author of How to Hygge explains. “In my book, I made the culture of hygge my focus and discussed wider themes of the Nordic love of nature, our outdoorsiness, and how we’ve developed a spirit of self-reliance and how our food and design cultures evolved. All these things matter; they shape our identity and tell us something about who we are.

“Our love of nature and the outdoors is a key reason why obesity levels are so low across the Nordic region. We feel our most alive when active and spending time outside. That means we can fully savor and appreciate our food in a sensible way. It’s this balanced approach to living that we Nordics believe is so important to get right.”

84-87-2The Rink at Brookfield Place, New York
Wherever you choose to visit this winter, take a leaf out of the Scandi’s book and get outside. hike a mountain and drink in a view.
One way to get active outdoors this winter is by strapping on a pair of skates and taking to the ice rink. Conrad New York has partnered with The Rink at Brookfield Place to offer private lessons from US Olympic skaters Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov. Gregory, who is also director at The Rink, invites guests to “enjoy the magnificent views of the Hudson River from our boutique rink in the heart of Downtown Manhattan. Come skate with us this winter!”

Aside from being a vigorous workout (the average person can burn up to 450 calories during an hour of recreational skating), the combination of being outdoors, socializing in a novel environment and the level of concentration required makes it a uniquely beneficial experience. Of course, a post-skate hot chocolate at the hotel’s ATRIO restaurant is a must. 

84-87-1Gala Yuzawa Ski Resort.
If skiing is more your thing, then a trip to Conrad Tokyo might help you find your Hygge. It’s often said that there are remarkable similarities between the Japanese and Scandinavian cultures, and this is never more apparent than in the quiet appreciation both have for minimalism and savoring the moment (known as ichi-go ichi-e in Japan).

Tokyo is the hub of the country’s railways, and given the speed of the Shinkansen (bullet trains), it is relatively easy for day-trippers to hit the slopes. As the only ski resort in Japan with its own dedicated Shinkansen station, Gala Yuzawa Ski Resort is as convenient as they come. Boasting some of the best snow in the region, Gala Yuzawa is an 80-minute journey from Tokyo Station on the
Jetsu Shinkansen line. From skis to snowboards and sleds, you will find everything you need available to hire at the resort, which makes it perfect for a spontaneous trip.

In short, wherever you choose to visit this winter, take a leaf out of the Scandi’s book and get outside. This isn’t about punishing your body with a fitness regime or denying yourself the pleasures of comfort food—it is about delight. Hike a mountain and drink in the view. Skate until you’re red in the face and you fall over laughing. Hygge is mittens and bobble hats, yes, but it’s not fluff. After all, as Johansen tells her readers: “Remember, we are descendants of the Vikings, so there’s a toughness to the Nordic people. You have to earn your hygge.”


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