Not Your Mother's Spa
Sunday, January 9, 2005
Who wouldn't want to go to a spa?
Perhaps you, too, cringe at all the girlie-girl stuff. Maybe New Age music makes your skin crawl, and you're skeptical about the alleged health benefits of anti-aging rebalancing aromatherapy seaweed wraps, and you find the whole concept of someone fluttering over you, patting and kneading and rubbing, a bit creepy, yes?
One of the new breed of adventure spas might change your mind. The best combine traditional spa treatments with challenging outdoor activities such as rock climbing, mountain biking and kayaking, so you feel as if you've earned that lavender adobe massage.
Case in point: Red Mountain Spa in St. George, Utah. About two hours north of Las Vegas in the spectacular red-rock country of the American Southwest, it has all the usual luxury spa trappings -- state-of-the-art facilities, manicured grounds, a solicitous staff and a full complement of massages and body treatments. But the core of its curriculum is a series of rigorous early-morning hikes, led by expert guides over more than 30 trails. In addition, there are dozens of up-to-the-moment fitness classes -- Chi Ball Stretch, anyone? -- and a roster of serious medical evaluations, such as bone density screenings. Plus, the food is billed as "cuisine," and they serve wine with dinner. A good sign.
Still, when a gourmetish, outdoorsy pair of friends invited me to come along on what they promised would be a magical getaway of physical activity and spiritual renewal, I went with some trepidation -- knowing I was promised something hard-minded and hearty, but afraid I'd wind up immersed in a giant vat of essential lavender oil. Even scarier, maybe I would succumb to the herbal goo and not sign up for any of the hikes. Maybe, deep down, I really am a bathrobe-wearing, Yanni-humming sybarite.
Here's what I learned during three intense days at Red Mountain Spa.
Although the gender mix is appealing, it must be said that my most memorable hike at Red Mountain was a rugged, eight-mile trek through nearby Snow Canyon State Park with eight women in their thirties and forties, most of them doctors from Seattle. Topics of conversation: men, health clubs, running injuries, men, blended families, cute hiking clothes, which male massage therapists at Red Mountain are the hottest, Brazilian vs. bikini waxes, lip stain vs. lipstick, men, alternative medicine, trophy wives, male vs. female cardiologists (apparently it's still a boys' club), relationship strategies and penile anomalies. Probably a good thing there were no guys along.