Today I got up at dawn. I flew from Heathrow to Edmonton in Canada, caught a coach to Jasper, a small town in the western province of Alberta, and around 21 hours later, as dusk fell, checked into my cosy, snow-covered hotel in the Rockies.
I told the group I was travelling with that I was heading off for a bath. No chance. I’d signed up to a ski boot camp and it began straightaway.
That’s why, having struggled through a series of sun salutations, I’m now doing my best to hold firm in a downward-facing dog, although I feel sure only a good night’s sleep will refresh me for the week ahead.
Our ashtanga yoga teacher, Terry Olsen, thinks otherwise, and she’s right. An hour or so later, we leave feeling stretched, supple and so reinvigorated that we head off for a night out.
We’re a mixed bunch on boot camp which I guess illustrates its appeal. There are two serious fitness enthusiasts, two girls who have no structured exercise regime and me, who fits somewhere in between.
On our first full day we’re supposed to be exercising outside. The plan was to jog to Jasper’s Old Fort Point – up a mountainous trail with several hundred steps. But the conditions are considered too icy.
We count our blessings until our trainer Stephanie Sopocleous opens the door of her Jasper studio. It’s littered with equipment: ViPRs, TRXs, dumbbells, stability balls and bars. Push-ups, pull-ups, crunches, squats and bicep curls all have a role in her demanding workout, designed to build stamina for the slopes.
“I can be a drill sergeant,” Stephanie says.
I can easily believe it. She calls herself Warrior Fitness and is definitely ready to fight. Every part of the body’s a target: quads, inner thighs, abs, biceps, the lot.
“You use everything when you’re skiing, right?”, she calls out.
It’s a challenging, two hour session and with aerobics, step and circuits “done”, there’s still half an hour to go.
Stephanie surveys her flagging troops. She suggests some Yin yoga. It’s slow, sustained stretches prove the perfect way to unwind.
The aim of boot camp is to gear us up for the slopes and Canada’s tree-lined Marmot Basin near Jasper, picturesque Lake Louise and Sunshine Village ski resort in Banff are where our hard work will be put to the test.
I’m new to skiing, so can’t vouch for how my thighs would have fared before, but the others are convinced of the benefits: their legs are less achy and their bodies feel strong. They’re sure they’re skiing better.
I continue to fall flat in the snow.
We pause for lunch at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge hotel and enjoy bison burgers and chocolate cheesecake overlooking a frozen lake - one part of boot camp I’d definitely recommend.
The hotel is rather swish. It’s surrounded by top of the range log cabins, one where the queen stayed when she visited Canada. We take a quick look round. It has a massive fireplace, check-patterned furniture and a view of the Rocky Mountains.
At Buffalo Lodge, Banff, boot camp produces the delightful Chris Pacheco, a guy whose smile should really be used in teeth whitening ads. My fellow warriors, as I’ve come to call them, are more impressed by his muscles.
Chris tells us that if we want to be proficient skiers we need bodies that are “up to par”, which means seeing an exercise through even if we don’t like it, and always giving 100%.
We have no idea what’s in store. Our tabata session never ends: 20 intense seconds of exercise, followed by 10 seconds off. Over and over again.
As we throw ourselves lunges, squats and sit-ups, Chris walks casually round the room. He encourages us to take deep breaths “or we’ll wear ourselves out.” The advice comes too late, but we die with a smile.
At Sunshine Village, Banff, Chie Fujimaru from Japan brings us back to life. She wears her hair in two side topknots and is dressed in grey. You can see she is at peace with herself: a peace she shares with the room.
She talks us through gentle yogic exercises to prepare us for the day ahead. We focus on our feet, our backs and our hips. She tells us that skiing tends to tighten all the muscles round the hips, which can sometimes lead to back pain. We go on to work on balance, to help us on the slopes.
That afternoon I’m hurtling down the mountain in a boot camp group ski. The others have suggested I lead so they can “follow and pick up the pieces.”
I’m soon in need of their service as I misjudge a turn and fall. But after a week’s hard graft at boot camp, this warrior’s ready for more.
Snow HowFly to Alberta with Aircanada (aircanada.com) to Edmonton or Calgary.
Stay at: Fairmont Springs hotel. (fairmont.com/BanffSprings); Fairmont Jasper Park lodge: fairmont.com/Jasper
A 7 night boot camp package staying at the Fairmont Springs Hotel, Banff, costs £1899 per person, including flights, transfers, lift passes and a massage. Add on 3 nights in Jasper, staying at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge for an additional £499 per person. This package includes a 2 day Marmot Basin lift pass, fitness classes and transfers. (crystalski.co.uk/ski-resorts/canada-ski-holidays/banff)
For more on visiting Alberta and Canada: (travelalberta.co.uk); (canada.travel)
For information on ski resorts: