It’s been six years since Philippa Forrester, 51, moved from the UK to the mountains of Wyoming with her husband, wildlife photographer Charlie Hamilton James, and their three sons.
Here, the former Tomorrow’s World and Robot Wars host talks about her love of the great outdoors, and why living in Jackson Hole has been so good for her wellbeing…
How did you find living in the mountains of Wyoming when you first moved there?
“First of all you’ve got to breathe, because we’re at altitude. We’re at about 6,500ft (1,981m) up here. You do get acclimatised to it, there’s less oxygen in the air.
“If we’ve been to England for a while and we come back, we feel it. You get puffed out much more easily and people who visit often get altitude headaches. Athletes often train at high altitude because your body has to work harder.”
You’ve encountered grizzly bears, charging moose and packs of wolves. Do you have any animal phobias?
“Yes, snakes! Across the mountain they have rattlesnakes, but this side of the mountain we only have garter snakes, which aren’t poisonous. But they are very present in the summer.
“One day I was walking by the river with my dog and my kids and a snake slithered out of the water with a fish in its mouth. I stood up on a log, gave the kids my phone and shouted, ‘Film it! Film it!’
They were laughing their heads off. It was long – well a couple of feet. Then we carried on along the river and it happened again, twice! To have it happen three times in a day is unknown. It was the most bizarre thing. It really put me off swimming in the river.
“The boys have found snakes in the kitchen and even a snake on our printer, and there has apparently been a family agreement not to tell me.”
“Years ago I had hypnotherapy with Paul McKenna to cure my fear. It really helped. If I know a snake’s going to be there, I can manage, but when they take me by surprise when they’re wriggling along the ground, that’s when I’m lost.”
Do you do much exercise?
“Yes. This whole area of Jackson is crazy for exercise. We have extreme athletes everywhere. They’re climbing, they’re skiing. I live by one of the ski slopes and at 6.30am in winter I can see people coming down the mountain with head torches on before the chairlifts open, so they have already hiked up a mountain carrying their skis. And that’s before breakfast!
Do you ski?
“I’m terrible. I’m the snowplough queen. I do love it though, particularly cross country, Nordic skiing. You can go into the middle of nowhere, it’s quiet and really good for you.”
Is all your exercise outdoors?
“Yes, mostly – and that’s why I love it here. There’s loads of hiking. I’ll walk at least an hour a day. I love to run listening to cheesy music, like Fame. I run 5km twice a week and do lots of yoga. I’m not great at it but apparently that’s not the point. I also do some Pilates. If I don’t do it, I get backache.”
What’s your favourite way to chill out after a long day?
“Snuggling up in front of the fire with my boys, watching something good. Family favourites include The Incredibles and Britain’s Got Talent.”
What’s your go-to way to cope with stress?
“I’ve learned much more about meditation and breathing. I’m not one of those people who gets up in the morning, lights a candle and meditates. I don’t have a routine for it. But often, before I’d do a big live event, I’d close my eyes and ask that I did my job. I’m just not quite sure who I’m asking.”
Your son Fred was diagnosed with a brain tumour at 15 (he is thankfully now recovered). How did you deal with anxiety when Fred was ill?
“Naturally, I went into myself a bit and there’s an element of prayer. I’m not religious and I don’t believe in God but there’s an element of asking, hoping and having faith – but I don’t believe in traditional religion.”
Are you careful about what you eat?
“I try to eat healthily and on the whole, I’m pretty good, but it’s harder with teenagers because you’re not so in control. If they order pizza, I’ll say, ‘I’m not having any… well just one slice’.”
Is the food in Jackson Hole different from the food you’d have in England?
“At home, we are so embracing of Indian food, over here the dominant influence is Mexican food. So we do miss an Indian takeaway. I’ve got very good at cooking curry.”
Any health or fitness aims before the end of the year?
“There’s a 10k run that happens in the summer that I’d like to do. And I’m still after the elusive yoga handstand.”
On The Trail Of Wolves by Philippa Forrester is published by Bloomsbury on May 14, priced £16.99. Available now.