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Not Your Mother's Spa

12. It's easy to become a massage slut. Now I can't get enough of these things. The heated rock massage is almost as nice as the fango one. Warmth penetrates my bones as the masseuse -- it's Keith this time -- places dozens of smooth, hot rocks on my back, stomach, forehead and -- a nice touch -- between my toes. On the other hand . . .

13. If you're claustrophobic, don't get an adobe body wrap. An unsuspecting friend who was encased in plastic and left to stew for 17 minutes (she was counting) compared the experience to being mummified alive.

Other Adventure Spas in North America

"Twenty years ago spas were all about pampering; now they're really focusing more on wellness, stress relief and fitness," says Betsy Isroelit, spokeswoman for Spafinder.com, an online directory. The site is searchable by category; to find spas that combine traditional luxury services with rigorous outdoor activities and fitness programs, search under "Hiking."

Here are several North American spas Isroelit recommends for their strong hiking and outdoor progams. Unless otherwise specified, rates include meals, classes, lectures and use of fitness facilities, but not spa services.

El Monte Sagrado Living Resort and Spa, Taos, N.M., 800-828-8267, www.elmontesagrado.com. "A true eco spa, with hiking and skiing," says Isroelit. Rates start at $255 per room per night, based on double occupancy, in the off season (April and November), $325 all other months. Meals not included. A one-night "Get to Know Us" package, available through Feb. 10, is $295 double and includes an hour's massage or custom facial, use of the fitness center and pool, yoga and other fitness programs.

Green Valley Spa, St. George, Utah, 800-237-1068, www.greenvalleyspa.com. "The ultimate hiking resort in a luxury setting." Rates start at $540 per person double per night and drop to $500 for a seven-night stay. The Complete Luxury Package includes one spa treatment per day, plus a $100 sports/medical credit.

Lodge & Spa at Cordillera, Edwards, Colo., 800-877-3529, www.cordilleralodge.com. "The setting and the skiing is the big thing." Rates start at $395 per person double per night and include hiking and fitness classes, but not meals. Shuttle service to the Beaver Creek ski area and use of the ski-in/ski-out facilities there are complimentary (lift tickets not included).

Miraval, Tucson, 800-232-3969, www.miravalresort.com. "A wonderful desert mountain setting. They're known for their equine program." Apparently you bond with your horse as well as find your inner self. Rates in fall and winter start at $550 per person double per night and include round-trip transfers from the Tucson airport and one spa service per night, up to $115. Summer rates start at $415.

Mountain Trek Fitness Retreat & Health Spa, Ainsworth Hot Springs, B.C., 800-661-5161, www.hiking.com. A small spa (14 guests max). "It's like being in Switerland, with big lakes and big mountains." The Fit Plan Weight Loss program requires a one-week minimum stay, includes meals, three massages a week, and all prescribed consultations and assessments . Cost: $2,700 (all prices in U.S. dollars). In the summer, the Mountain Hiking program has three- and four-night options for $1,300 and $1,750, respectively.

New Life Hiking Spa, Killington, Vt., 866-298-5433, www.newlifehikingspa.com. "It's not very expensive and it's really nice; their big thing is hiking." Operates May through October out of the Inn of the Six Mountains, a ski hotel in Vermont's Green Mountains. "We don't have loofah rubs," says founder Jimmy LeSage, "but we have excellent massages and facials." Rates start at $225 per person per night double for the two- to four-day program; $215 for five to 10 days; and $205 for 11 days or longer.

Rancho La Puerta, Tecate, Baja California, Mexico, 800-443-7565, www.rancholapuerta.com. "A huge range of fitness options, and the weather and the setting are fabulous." Weekly rates start at $2,080 per person double in summer and $2,460 in fall. Rooms with kitchenettes and villas also available.

-- K.C. Summers

14. St. George, Utah, is the best place to live in the United States if you're an amateur astronomer or geologist. So says John P. Kolb Jr., who is both. Kolb hosts a popular weekly "Star Party" for Red Mountain guests at his house on the outskirts of town. Because of the elevation (3,264 feet) and the thermals coming off the desert and mountains, most nights tend to be clear -- heaven for star nuts. Despite the freezing temperature, enthusiasm is high as spa guests line up to look through Kolb's computerized 10-inch telescope for glimpses of Betelgeuse, Andromeda and -- the celestial pièce de résistance -- Saturn, complete with cartoon-looking rings. Nobody notices the 30-degree cold.

15. Sometimes the little parks are just as spectacular as the big-deal ones. Everyone raves about Utah's Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks, and Red Mountain offers field trips to both. But Snow Canyon State Park, right outside the spa's back door, is equally impressive. The exquisite little park is home to red and white Navajo sandstone rock formations, lava caves, 1,400-year-old Anasazi petroglyphs and an astounding display of desert plant and animal life. And nobody back East seems to have heard of it.

16. A VO 2 test can change your life. Twenty-four hours ago I didn't even know this text existed; now I'm thrilled to find out the spa offers it. The Metabolic Cardiovascular Assessment is a specialized treadmill test that tells you how much oxygen you use when you exercise (more is better), and the threshold at which your body begins to burn muscle (not good). This information is critical to designing a workout routine, says Red Mountain personal trainer Eric Gorecki, because standardized heart-rate charts are notoriously inaccurate. And the test is relatively cheap here -- $100 vs. $250 and up elsewhere, Gorecki says. He hooks me up to a treadmill and I run at increasingly higher levels for seven minutes. I leave with a customized workout program that tells me exactly how hard and how long I need to exercise, based on my oxygen levels -- probably the most useful piece of information I'll come away with during my entire stay.

17. The eyes are the windows to the soul, but probably not the kidneys. Every spa needs a wacky offering or two, if only so the guests can have something to make fun of. At Red Mountain that would be Iridology, an "art" based on the belief that the markings and colors of the iris correspond to other organs of the body and can reveal weakness or toxicity in the corresponding parts. Hey, I'm so loose now I'll try anything. On my last morning, I book an appointment with Ian, a dreamy Brit who gazes into my eyes, then whips out a flashlight and scrutinizes my irises with the intensity of a neurosurgeon. He consults some Victorian-looking charts, asks about my lifestyle and diet, and speaks ominously about my "sodium ring" and the danger of high blood pressure. He doesn't know that, thanks to my Actual Age Assessment, I've got it in writing that I have unusually low blood pressure. Hmmm.

18. In the 1980s, under different management, Red Mountain Spa was known as the National Institute of Fitness. It was run like a boot camp, with no spa component. People would check in, have their bags searched for contraband food, and then spend their waking hours exercising, eating Spartan meals and focusing exclusively on weight loss.

19. This is better.

K.C. Summers will be online to discuss this story Monday at 2 p.m. during the Travel section's regular weekly chat on www.washingtonpost.com.

Details: Red Mountain Spa

GETTING THERE: Red Mountain Spa is in St. George, Utah, about a two-hour drive northeast of Las Vegas. Flights from D.C. to Vegas start at about $200 round trip on such low-fare carriers as Southwest (from BWI), America West (Reagan National, BWI) and Ted (Dulles).

Shuttle service from the Las Vegas airport to the spa is available from St. George Shuttle (800-933-8320) and the Limo Bus (866-546-6350) for $35 each way. Private limo service also is available through the spa.

It's also possible -- though much more expensive -- to fly directly to St. George from Washington. Delta has a flight for $898 round trip, connecting in Salt Lake City, and United has one for $1,020 via Los Angeles, both through Expedia.com. The spa offers complimentary shuttle service from the St. George airport.

WHEN TO GO: The spa operates year-round except for Christmas week. Winters are generally mild, ranging from 45 to 60 degrees during the day and in the 40s at night. Spring and fall daytime temps are generally in the mid-70s. In summer, daytime temps range from the mid-90s to over 100.

PACKAGES: Nightly rates start at $219 per person double (winter and summer) and $239 (spring and fall). Included: three meals a day, daily guided morning hikes, unlimited fitness classes and use of the pools and fitness center. Not included: spa services, health and fitness assessments, personal training and adventure field trips. A current winter promotional package includes a $100 resort credit toward any of these extras.

INFORMATION: Red Mountain Spa, 800-407-3002, www.redmountainspa.com.

-- K.C. Summers


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