As I breathe in the cold, sharp, crisp air, a shiver shoots up my nose and back down my spine.
And as the sub-zero air gets my throat tingling, the views across the Canadian Rockies are giving me goosebumps.
Driving along Highway 93 from the Banff and Jasper National Parks, soaring peaks emerge from pure white glaciers into a pristine blue sky.
The early-morning sun paints great streaks of pink over the mountain giants.
The road, dubbed the “Icefields Parkway” by locals, is said to be one of the most scenic roads in the world. I reckon the locals are right.
Joining the national parks, the 144-mile road links two of the best skiing areas in the Canadian state of Alberta.
To the north, Marmot Basin ski resort sits outside of the beautifully quaint town of Jasper, nestled deep in the national park.
Outside the town is the superb Fairmount Jasper Park Lodge where rooms — or rather individual cabins — overlook a frozen lake.
The main building of the resort has a traditional North American mountain lodge feel but it comes with all the mod cons.
No matter what the temperature outside (it was -25C for me) it’s worth taking a dip in the outdoor hot tub.
There you sit, steaming hot amid the freezing cold, gazing out on to the mountain vistas — unbeatable.
At the end of the Icefields Parkway, further south in the state, three world-class ski resorts sit inside Banff National Park.
And there was hardly anybody there.
Although not a regular skier, I’ve been to my fair share of European resorts, which during the high season, are packed to the rafters.
Huge queues at the lifts, jammed slopes, and even longer queues at the bar — none of these existed in the Alberta Rockies.
The place is so vast, that the visitors are spread out across the valleys, giving you plenty of space to ski or snowboard at your own pace.
And in typically Canadian fashion, in the odd moment that I did have to wait more than 30 seconds for a lift I would hear. “I’m sorry,” in a soft Canadian accent, followed by, “and I’m sorry it’s so cold today.”
The skiing itself is wonderful. Vast open runs, with soft powdery snow, and jaw-dropping views. Appearing at the top of one lift, I was lucky enough to see a “Sun Dog” as the locals call it.
Frozen ice crystals in the air wander past the sun’s rays creating the most beautiful halo in the air.
It was spectacular, and apparently incredibly common according to locals.
Unlike European resorts, ski in, ski out hotels are uncommon, but Sunshine Mountain Lodge at Sunshine Village is the only place in the Rockies where you can jump out of bed, have breakfast in a cosy lodge-style setting and then hit the slopes.
But most opt to stay in either Banff or Jasper — which I found refreshing as it separated the skiing from other parts of the trip.
Banff, a tourist town for the best part of 130 years, is great to explore, with boutique shops, restaurants and the beautiful Bow river running through it.
Staying at the new Moose Hotel complete with spa, luxurious new rooms and rooftop hot tubs, it was the perfect place to unwind after a day either on the slopes or exploring the town.
And this separation from the resorts gives you an opportunity to explore that you perhaps wouldn’t get if you woke up every morning looking out on to a ski lift.
There are various companies that will take you dog-sledding, as well as local guides who will guide you on snow-shoeing treks through the vast forests, telling you about the wildlife and history.
On foot, you get a different perspective of the landscape, walking through thigh-deep snow and then out on to secluded frozen lakes. Back in the bus to the hotel, the trip becomes an impromptu safari.
Along the road we spot bighorn sheep, elk and moose. Other luckier passengers have even spotted packs of wolves and a late-hibernating bear.
There’s even an opportunity to walk alongside bison at Elk Island National park — another must-see in the state.
It’s easy to forget that outside of the beauty of the natural landscape, Alberta has two cultural hotspots in the cities of Edmonton and Calgary.
Edmonton boasts some superb eateries, such as Meat, where local smoked meats are served with craft beers and bourbon, and Café Linnea, a Nordic-styled brunch bar whose food is all produced locally.
If you get a chance, it’s also worth heading to the brand new Rogers Place, home to the National Hockey League’s Edmonton Oilers.
The arena hosts matches throughout the winter season, and provides probably the most Canadian of experiences.
Calgary, where Eddie the Eagle rose to fame in the 1988 Winter Olympics, is equally compelling.
And the Calgary Tower provides superb views of the city and the mountains in the distance — although by this stage I’m thoroughly spoiled.
From now on, when I have a spine-tingling view of mountains stretching out in front of me, I want to be seeing it from a steaming hot tub.