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If You're Looking For Wellness..Head For The Hills

Treat Your Body Right with a Healthy Getaway

by Jane Cassie
Photos by Don Weixl and Katherine Surridge

Pumped with pampering perks, fitness classes galore and spa sensational cuisine, a visit to The Hills Health Ranch in British Columbia's Caribou promises a lot more than just a great escape. It offers guests opportunities for wellness and as my sister and I find out during our recent visit, what better offering could there be?

The Hills Health Ranch
The Hills Health Ranch Offers Many Activities & Amazing Views

"Swivel those hips, ladies" she demonstrates, "and shimmy to the left." Although this action-packed combo appears to be a piece of cake for our belly dancing instructor, it is soon obvious that we will need more that a weekend visit at The Hills to master this move. Gyrating is just one of the many activities that takes us down the road to wellness, and over the next two days our plates overflow with other offerings. In addition to squeezing our muscles in Aquafit, we stretch them in Pilates, rejuvenate them in step class and build them with weights.

For the outdoor enthusiast, there's horseback riding, mountain biking and canoeing just to name a few. Self-wellness is what it's all about, and although my under-exercised body undoubtedly questions my motives, the resulting euphoria affirms my actions.

Situated amongst twenty thousand heavenly acres, this holistic haven in BC's Caribou is the result of Pat and Juanita Corbett's dream come true. Since 1985 they have altered many lifestyles and have welcomed numerous returning guests, with their offering of specialized programs to meet individual needs. This pampering break from the mundane and ordinary may also be used as a kick-start towards achieving a healthier living regime.

From our idyllically poised log-hewn accommodation we feel totally connected with Mother Nature while gazing out over grassy meadows that lead to rolling hills of poplar and pine. When snow-coated, the surrounding terrain is a wonderland for cross country skiers and snowmobilers. For us, the barren trails permit invigorating hikes over hills and valleys. Led by Dwaine, our skilled and knowledgeable guide, the pace is kept at a swift clip in order to boost our heart rate and burn unwanted calories. While dodging babbling brooks and occasional cow patties, we sight a few bovine beauties and soaring bald eagles. My sister's love affair with nature begins, and ironically 'the hills' literally provide her with the ultimate pampering she is looking for. My pampering, on the other hand, is waiting after the trek, an hour and a half later!

A fragrance trail wafts from sixteen pleasure-pleasing rooms and I am lured to these blissful havens like mice are to the Pied Piper. The total body massage has never been more in need and under the penetrating fingers of talented Flo, my wobbly muscles melt like butter. She starts with each toe and works upwards, loosening every tight knot, releasing pent-up tensions and sends me off to la la land in the process.

"Our Hills philosophy is to provide the utmost in nurturing and caring," she shares, and after this fifty-minute work out session, I know she is following this principle to code!

Getting A Facial
De-stress with a Facial

You'd think that I would have had my fill of tactile pleasure after this heady sensation but I am now on a roll. And a visit to The Hills would just not be complete without experiencing one of their famous facials. Created from wild rosehips right off the ranch this de-stressing experience creates a soothing and calming effect. After being exfoliated, cleansed, essentially oiled and moisturized with a camomile mask, do I feel like a new woman? You bet! In my transcendental state I meander down to mealtime, promising to book a hydrotherapy soak on my next visit.

In addition to a la carte options, guests may choose to pre-select their choice of spa or healthy ranch cuisine during the length of their stay. Although I opt for the higher fat fare, after taste testing my sister's spa creations, I wouldn't have felt deprived with the caloric restrictions. After all chicken in phyllo complemented with orzo pilaf is hardly diet food — unless you consider its content of a mere 320 calories! The well-trained chefs take pride in creating appetizing low fat choices and a true test to the Hills weight loss formula comes at the end of your stay when you have the option of comparing your pre-weight to your post Hills' one.

On the last night, we dine out at the adjacent 1871 Lodge, and although the menu choices are lower in fat than traditional fine dining, you'd never know it by the flavor. Five star Swiss-trained chef, Stephan Wittmer deserves credit. His fabulous creations include 'all you can eat fondue', a hot-rock 14 ounce T-bone and our choice, the Chef's special. Delightfully pan-seared, the halibut doused in a flavorful yellow beet and peppercorn sauce certainly didn't taste like a Weight Watchers meal. Nor did the decadent chocolate mousse dessert that followed.

Our weekend winds down with an authentic hayride to Willy's wigwam where we sip mulled wine and sing favourite melodies around the blazing campfire. "Sit back and relax during the ride," Joe, our wrangler, calls out while steering his husky equine pair under the starlit skies. We follow his command, knowing that we are doing our minds and bodies a whole lot of good. After all, that's what a visit to The Hills Health Ranch is all about.

The Hills Health Ranch is easily reached from Vancouver by rail, road, or air. More info: