Story by Lynn Burshtein (Twitter: @lynnb)
AINSWORTH SPRINGS, BRITISH COLUMBIA — I had the opportunity to spend a week at Mountain Trek last summer, a boutique boot camp and fitness retreat in Ainsworth Springs, approximately 40 minutes outside of the town of Nelson, British Columbia. Nelson is the pick-up and drop-off point to Mountain Trek and is a cool destination in itself; it also has some of the most charming coffee shops in the country.
Mountain Trek’s motto is “Hike Your But Off”. A play on words, of course; the word “but” suggests resistance to a suggested course of action. In the present context, an example of such usage may sound something like: “I would love to exercise more, BUT I just don’t have the time.” (I may or may not be guilty of said excuse on occasion.)
So Mountain Trek has come up with a jam-packed, no-options program designed to do away with the “buts,” all in the most spectacular of British Columbia’s natural settings. Leaving aside for a moment the retreat’s rigorous schedule that includes 6 am yoga classes, cardio and strength training, green goddess smoothies and a meagre 1,200-calories-a-day diet, Mountain Trek’s calling card has to be its exquisite hiking. Making the trek through the stunning Selkirk Mountain range and near the beautiful scenery of Kootenay Lake, visitors will realize they don’t need to go to Nepal or Machu Picchu for a world-class hiking experience.
One of the Best Hiking Experiences in Canada
Aside from the gorgeous views, people visit Mountain Trek for other reasons: most with the goal of losing weight or improving fitness levels; others arrive to reduce stress or learn how to achieve more balance in their lives. To this end, a number of experts — including meditation and yoga instructors, personal trainers and nutritionists — lead classes throughout the week. But the main spotlight goes to Kirkland Shave, Mountain Trek’s program director. A former park ranger and wilderness skills instructor who leads the advanced hiking group with aplomb — and sometimes without shoes — Shave is also a certified life coach. He is most compelling when giving his daily lectures, breaking down complex information on topics such as nutrition, sleeping habits or detoxification into relatable tidbits. He is the perfect combination of disciplinarian and nurturer. If Smokey the Bear and Tony Robbins had a love child, it would be much like Shave.
To be clear, though, Mountain Trek is not a place for pampering. There are steam rooms and infrared saunas on-site and Swedish massages are scheduled regularly throughout the week, but these all serve therapeutic purposes more than anything else. Those looking for a relaxing spa vacation should probably go somewhere else. You’re gonna hustle a lot at Mountain Trek. Your calorie intake is strictly limited and you are grateful for every morsel of food placed in front of you (luckily this included tasty dishes such as lemon ricotta pancakes with fruit compote for breakfast; a nutritious lentil soup eaten on the trail at lunch; and barbecued cedar-plank salmon with teriyaki glaze or crab cakes with steamed broccoli for dinner, all made from local ingredients). As a result, there is a real sense of humility among the guests, no matter how prestigious their lives may be at home. (Fun fact: Actor Jennifer Coolidge was once a guest at Mountain Trek.)
Mountain Trek hosts no more than 16 people per week. One effect of being with such a small group in closed quarters is the serious bonding that inevitably takes place. Each day, guests literally face an uphill battle together to complete the strenuous four-hour-plus hikes. They then return to the lodge and alternate between soaking their feet in ice and applying heat while attending one of Shave’s lectures. They will be awoken the next morning at 5:30 a.m. for their first exercise class of the day. They will be deprived of their lattes, mid-afternoon sugar fixes, post-work cocktails, and fancy dinners. And they will love it.
So, you want to improve your lifestyle, but have a million reasons why you can’t? Rest assured, Mountain Trek will be able to provide a direct rebuttal to any of your excuses.
What else is there to do in British Columbia this summer? Lots! Take a look at these other amazing activities on the west coast!
More About Mountain Trek
Address: Box 1352, Ainsworth Hot Springs, British Columbia
Contact: Telephone: 1-800-661-5161 (toll free); email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @mountaintrek
Price: A weekly stay at Mountain Trek is $4,000 per week, plus tax and gratuities
Note: Photos courtesy of Mountain Trek