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Given all the shopping lists, social obligations and decorating demands that fill the holidays, a spa getaway is probably the last thing on your mind. You might want to make it first. A mid-season day of self-pampering, a post-holiday week of recharging or even a long weekend during the peak festivities—at a veg-friendly resort spa with friends/family along and the cooking and decorating done for you—could make this year unlike any other. Instead of feeling like a limp rag by the end of the holidays, you’ll be renevved and ready for 2006.
And the take-away benefits are tremendous. “Not only do spas allow for total immersion in feel-good activities, but they also reinforce a healthy lifestyle that can be transferred back to everyday life,” says Mary H. Tabacchi, PhD, RD, of Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. In fact, the effects extend long after the last massage stroke, according to a 2004 study done by Tabacchi and the Survey Institute of Cornell University. “We compared 500 spa goers with 500 conventional vacationers, and the statistics were clear as a bell: People who went on spa vacations came back more mentally and physically fit and had a more positive outlook than those who took conventional vacations,” she says. Energy, focus and creativity were also up. Tabacchi estimates that the benefits can last up to 6 weeks—a great way to start 2005.
Where to go? Vegetarian Times sent out staffers to test three different resort spas—one for every time budget and getaway need. They tried the newest massages, took fitness classes, sampled the menus. Tough duty, we know.
Sonnenalp Resort of Vail
VT’s design director, Bill McKenney, capped off a fun-but-busy vacation visiting friends with a day of R&R at the Sonnenalp Spa (the name means “sun on the mountains”). To get maximumrelaxation in minimum time, he signed up for the Full Day Wellness package ($450), a four-treatment indulgence that includes a muscle-soothing hot stone massage, a body-firming seaweed wrap, a vitamin C facial and a manicure or pedicure. Between treatments, he lazed around in front of a fire and swam in the heated indoor/outdoor pool—an approach that Tabacchi particularly recommends. “That relaxation time is probably worth as much as the treatments,” she says.
AMBIANCE Charming getaway in the heart of Vail, just minutes from both the ski slopes and shopping district.
SPA STYLE Traditional European treatments, from Swedish massages to herbal wraps. Don’t miss: The hot stone massage, 80 blissful minutes that melt the stress right off.
FITNESS A full workout center where you can swim, stretch, cycle or clock some time on the treadmill. Don’t miss: A soak in the hot tub while you gaze up at the mountains and watch the snow drift gently down.
FOOD Colorado cuisine with a French, yet healthful, flair—last year, Chef Jean-Luc Voegele took a 13-week nutrition course. Vegans who plan an extended stay should call in advance so the kitchen can create alternatives. Don’t miss: Pumpkin chowder drizzled with truffle oil, portobello napoleons stuffed with fresh ratatouille and goat cheese, and the holiday stollen.
THE TAB Massages, $120 and up; facials, $75 and up; manicures/pedicures, $70 and up; spa packages—say, a facial, massage, manicure/pedicure and lunch—$300 and up. Rooms (if you can stay longer than a day): double occupancy, with breakfast, $605 and up.
There’s just one thing former VT staffer Anne Nielsen didn’t return home with after her trip to Canyon Ranch: extra pounds. “Even though the food is luscious, and I ate everything I wanted, I didn’t gain an ounce,” she marvels.
Chalk that up to nutrition guidelines and portion control, plus the focus on fitness and all-around well-being that’s the Canyon Ranch mission. Everything about the resort—from the serenecactus-lined walking paths to the brigade of health professionals (a 3-to-1 staff-to-guest ratio)—is designed to renew body and spirit. It’s the kind of place where you can’t help but get healthier.
AMBIANCE Tranquil, renewing and re-energizing.
SPA STYLE From holistic healing (Ayurveda treatments, Eastern balancing therapies) to traditional (massages, wraps, body scrubs and facials). Don’t miss: Euphoria, a four-part candlelit experience that starts with a tension-relieving massage, includes a cleansing body mask and a revitalizing bath and ends with a second, restorative massage.
FITNESS Exercise and learning are an integral part of “the Ranch”—there are 50 fitness activities and at least eight lecture classes daily. Wake up with an early morning walk, stretch your mind and body with Tai Chi, hike, bike, have a water massage . . . try it all. Don’t miss: Aerobic Jam, a get-in-shape dance workout that feels more like getting down than a fitness class.
FOOD A plant-based diet is encouraged at Canyon Ranch, so vegetarians have ample selections, and the kitchen staff will whip up pretty much any request. Plus every dish is calorie-controlled, so you can have a full breakfast, a three-course lunch and a three-course dinner and stay within 1,600–1,800 calories a day. Don’t miss: The marinated tofu, stuffed artichokes and decadent-tasting pecan pie.
THE TAB A 4-night stay including spa fees, services, three meals per day, accommodations and gratuities: $2,400 and up.