You may come to Vermont for its natural wonders – the famed Green Mountains true to their name during spring and summer, aflame with orange and gold in the fall, then pristine white, like magic, every winter.
You may come for the adventure, to bike, hike or ski. Perhaps it’s the cuisine, hearty and inventive, crafted from ingredients grown right here.
Now you can visit for all of it – and more. Killington Mountain Lodge is proud to welcome local yoga and wellness enthusiast Liz Patnode, host of the world-class True North total wellness adventure and Bikram Yoga Retreats.
Liz wasn’t always into yoga. While working on her master’s degree in natural medicine, she swiftly changed direction, jetting off to Europe to model, then landing on the floor of a friend’s apartment in New York.
Her life was fast, fun and free. When she was invited to a yoga class, she thought, “I don’t have time for yoga … I need to work out.” But she went, and along with fun, she felt she got it all – not only exercise, but a new sense of calm that can elude you in the city.
After 9/11, Manhattan was turned upside down. Liz escaped to Los Angeles, taking a yoga teacher training course as a vacation, although she never planned to teach. “I embraced it. There was a lot of healing going on,” she says. “It was all about creating a space of possibility … healing yourself and taking charge of your own health.”
She never went back to Manhattan. Fast forward, and Liz was running a catering company and detox program, working with five-star chefs, soaking up the hands-on education.
Maybe it was the moment to get back to wellness. Maybe it was time to go for it.
After visiting Vermont to help with her cousin’s wedding, she returned to life in California. When the same cousin asked her to move back and start an event company, Liz agreed to work on a contract basis for six months.
Ten years later, they have built something extraordinary. But in the beginning, it was just about survival. The small town of 400 people was in need of total rehabilitation, quite a shock for world-traveler Liz. Slowly, the cousins began revitalizing the dilapidated buildings – at the same time, building their young families.
“I realized I couldn’t live without my yoga and my lifestyle, so I picked the closest building to my house and made a yoga studio, nursing my babies in the middle of class,” Liz remembers. “I was this crazy pregnant lady from California, like ‘If anyone wants to come, I’m cranking this place up to 100 degrees, and I’m going to sweat.”
She basically taught for free for two years. Slowly but surely, a following was created, and Liz found herself putting on massive celebrations through the event company – until she realized that wasn’t her dream.
“In Vermont, if you want something, you better make it, because it’s not here,” Liz says. “You just create your life … but once you do, it’s so sweet.
She started hosting retreats out of the simple desire to build community. She wanted to bring yoga to the Green Mountains … to populate the old buildings they had brought back to life. “As fast as you can do that with two little babies, that’s what I was doing,” Liz says. “Just throwing it against the wall and seeing what would stick.”
Then, as fast as the town had been rebuilt, it was knocked back down again. Hurricane Irene wiped it out – including Liz’s studio. In that low point, she thought she’d never take a leap like that again – building something from nothing, just to see it fall apart. But six months later, a retreat on the horizon, her big dream resurfaced. She rebuilt her studio 10 miles away, closer to the mountain.
Liz says her renewed purpose came from realizing how special Vermont is, and how great people feel just being here. Back then, she figured she was going to do the yoga anyway, so if someone joined her, it was a bonus.
Today, she enjoys an eager community at her studio, with a full staff and three to four classes a day. The retreat family has grown, too, to the point it can now partner with other places and properties, like Killington Mountain Lodge.
It’s all about well-rounded wellness in a setting designed for it.
“Having a bigger platform and adding activities, I can really offer people an escape, where they feel great when they leave vacation, unlike when you come home needing a vacation from your vacation.”
Liz’s traveling community extends from Vermont to Hawaii and beyond. They keep coming back. They check in with each other. The retreat becomes their place to download and recharge, where someone makes their juice and chops their salads. (Because, let’s be honest, who has time to chop salads in real life?)
“We get you back on track, and we keep it really light,” Liz says. “Look, I still like to eat chocolate. I just focus on making good, whole foods. Our guests are really surprised at how elemental it is – simply a reintroduction to where your food comes from, and how to shop in a grocery store.”
True North was built upon creating an experience. You may not be sure what you need or what you’ll get out of it, but somewhere in the middle of the retreat – on a hike or in a class or in a moment of laughter with someone you’ve just met – you’ll realize that was the thing you needed. That was why you were here.
And you don’t have to be a superstar yogi to get awesome benefits, Liz says.
“Just do your best, have a great time, meet awesome people … and come back.”
Book your True North experience here.
– Ashley Kahn Salley
Lead Storyteller, Innisfree Hotels