May/June 2006  





“I was told that at the end of the day, my prayer tie would be burnt with those of the other guests, in order to send my desires wafting up to heaven. But by that point in time, I felt my prayers had already been answered.”

ood Morning, this is your wake up call from Red Mountain Spa. Have a healthy and adventurous day.”

The preternaturally cheerful automated voice pauses, making way for my telephone receiver to burst into a rousing chorus of “We are the Champions.” In the milky predawn light, I squint at my bedside clock. It reads 6:15am. How adventurous a day do I want to have, I find myself wondering from beneath the down comforter?

But it’s only a matter of moments until the covers are thrown back and a gushing shower is steaming up my stone-paved bathroom. I’m in Southern Utah, after all, home to one of the world’s most photographed landscapes – a geological phenomenon that has me surrounded on all sides by multi-hued mountaintops scattered across the desert vista by pre-historic volcanoes and whittled and serrated by a few millennia of time breathing down its neck.

By 7:30am, I’ll be loaded into a van for the hour and a half drive out to Zion National Park, otherwise known as the middle step of the Grand Staircase, a three tier chain of National Parks comprised of the Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce Canyon in which two billion years of geological activity have pushed their way to the surface. I’ll fall asleep back in the van six hours later, after hiking three trails from sandstone plateaus to emerald pools to polychromatic arches eroded into cliff sides. This is how I’ll kick off my three-day stay at Red Mountain Spa.

As this is an active resort with a constantly rotating assortment of outdoor treks, non-stop exercise classes from Cardio Salsa to Gentle Yoga, and where the few times guests are urged to sit down it’s on a bicycle, Red Mountain is a place to earn your aromatherapy body wrap.

It’s also a place that seeks to tap into an alternative point of view. The majestic ruggedness of the American West has always provoked a certain reverence in our national consciousness, but some Native Americans have also long believed that the land here has a profoundly spiritual and healing character, because the volcanic energy from which it emerged encourages the release of deeply held ills. Tribes like the Southern Paiute and Navajo have long histories with Southern Utah, and Red Mountain acknowledges that with indigenously themed treatments, ceremonies and events.

A small group of us gathered one night at the gazebo after dinner to explore this facet of the resort. We had signed up for a Spiral Walk, prefaced with a mini-lecture on the symbol’s significance to local tribes. It might not amaze anyone to learn that, among other concepts, spirals signify life and water. It might have been tangential to bring in Chinese ideas about the cleansing power of shouting at the top of one’s lungs; but it was inspiring to be enveloped, or ‘smudged’ as it’s traditionally known, in fragrant sage smoke. We then entered the spiral, a wide labyrinth outlined on the ground with stones, and silently trace its concentric circles in a walking meditation on life’s winding road.

Later, I would revisit the Native American philosophy in the form of a massage package called Four Directions. It utilizes four plants sacred to Native Americans and is based on the four directions of the medicine wheel, which in turn are associated with the four stages of life—infancy, adolescence, adulthood and old age. This treatment begins with a smudging to burn off negative energy, and then requires a little audience participation. A carved wooden tray holding white and blue corn (to express gratitude), tobacco (to represent clarity), sage (for cleansing), cedar (to nourish), and sweet grass (to promote vitality), was laid out on my table, and, so that I could create my own prayer tie, a small cloth bundle filled with the herbs I felt best represented my aches and pains. My massage therapist then scrubbed me down with a cooling cornmeal and tobacco paste, offered me a cup of sage tea and a few moments’ peace to drink it before a cedar oil massage and a hot linen sweet grass wrap. I was told that at the end of the day, my prayer tie would be burnt with those of the other guests, in order to send my desires wafting up to heaven. But by that point in time, I felt my prayers had already been answered.

redmt-5“This sandstone is pretty great stuff,” Connie, our tour guide, tells us. We have to admit it is, as we’re currently back out for our second round of hiking, climbing petrified dunes at sharp angles on a rainy Tuesday morning, and the sand in the sandstone is grabbing onto the soles of our boots like sandpaper, saving us from what would otherwise be a certain death or terrible rug burn. Low-lying clouds might hover above us, licking the mountaintops like sage smoke. But we’ve come to find that it takes more than an intermittent drizzle to dampen the spirits of the spa’s dedicated tour guides. Actually that’s not even enough to slow them down. Thus here we are in Snow Canyon State Park, scampering non-stop along undulating trails from the top of one formation to the peak of another; this one shaped like a mound of pudding, that one in the likeness of a grand piano. The spa is located just next door, making this trip a quick post-breakfast jaunt down the road, and a worthy trek no matter the weather. Snow Canyon is six thousand acres of environmental eye candy, brilliantly illustrating the contrast of colors—the creamy jade of sagebrush against the rusty orange earth out of which juts chunks of black lava—and the contrast of textures—velvety moss growing on craggy outcroppings—that give Southern Utah its unearthly glory.

“Last time I came here I gained weight,” says the woman beside me in the buffet line. Evidently she has not been on the same hikes as I, because the hollows in my cheeks have made their first faint reappearances since the redmt-6three months I played entrée-roulette in China in 2003. It’s not hard to see, though, how the all-inclusive three meals a day, despite being pre-counted down to the last calorie and whenever possible comprised of whole grains, vegetables, and simple organic combinations, could easily tempt one into indulgence. The chefs here have somehow replaced the fat with piquant spices like ginger and jalapeño, and employ unexpected kicks—cocoa with your spearfish, anyone?—to create imaginative delights like Five Spice Rubbed Duck, Molasses Seared North American Elk and Portobello Wellington. There’s the option to eat healthy right up to the end, with a fruit plate to cap off the evening meal, but the dessert recipes use alternative natural sweeteners, making them decadent, but less decadent than one would assume.

“What sells us is our location,” Denise Perkins, the spa’s director of sales and marketing, tells me. Locals like to say that, in Southern Utah, sunshine is their major industry because the desert sky over Red Mountain remains blue and sunny 300 days out of the year. But arriving with the first sorties of spring meant I was treated to rainbows, rain showers and crisp nighttime breezes. So, I decided to warm up with a hot stone massage.

Because Red Mountain is such an active spa, this treatment begins with gentle stretches to loosen the kinks, and then continues for 85 luxurious minutes with volcanic basalt stones culled from the area. The composition of basalt enables the rocks to hold the heat longer, encouraging my muscles to release more, and allowing the warmth to seep in deeper.

As a finale to my stay, I went one step further with the Red Mountain Revitalizer. This treatment consisted of a languid shampoo combined with a vigorous scalp massage, followed by a hot towel wrap, a full body wash and brown sugar scrub, and a moisturizing blend of shea butter, milk and honey lightly massaged into my skin.

And then, I went back to bed.

redmt-4Red Mountain offers a number of specially priced packages and getaways. These include the four-night Mother’s Day Getaway (valid through May 31st), which starts at $1366 per person, double occupancy, includes: a 50-minute facial, a 50-minute body treatment, a 50-minute Sagestone Swedish Massage, a 75-minute Aromasoul Collection Treatment, a 50-minute Trekker Manicure, a 50-minuteTrekker Pedicure, a welcome gift from Sagestone, deluxe accommodations, healthy living classes and events, three healthy gourmet meals daily, daily guided morning hikes, unlimited fitness classes, including Yoga, Pilates, Chi Ball and Reebok Core, and full use of resort’s facilities (including indoor and seasonal outdoor pools, whirlpools, walking trails, and the strength-training and Cybex-equipped fitness center). Spa and salon services, golf, outdoor adventure trips and health and fitness services can be added to any package for an additional fee.

Red Mountain Spa
P.O. Box 2149
St. George, UT 84771-2149




© 2004-2006 Worldwide Spa Review Magazine