Vail, Colo., Vail Cascade Resort, Aria Spa & Club

Apr 1, 2008
2008 / April 2008

If, by the time I leave a spa, I feel boneless — so relaxed and mellow that I have to concentrate to stand up, let alone walk — I count it as time well spent. If I can manage to feel virtuous at the same time, that’s the icing on the cake. In that light, my visit to the Aria Spa in Vail was a resounding success.

Aria Spa & Club is a free-standing appendix to the Vail Cascade Resort where I was a guest, so I didn’t even have to don a coat to traverse the glass-enclosed skywalk that connects the buildings. I entered the fitness center lobby where I met my Pilates trainer. I’d never before taken an actual Pilates class, so having a personal trainer guide me through a routine one-on-one was the perfect introduction — and I felt all nice and “stretchy” by the time I was done. The workout, though, was just the appetizer — the upfront dues payment that allowed me to guiltlessly enjoy the shameless pampering next on the agenda.

Not all of the athletic bodies playing basketball or spinning or working out with weights in the hotel fitness center gain access to the spa: The elevator is unlocked only for those of us booked to join the pampered elite (or at least, they make you feel that way).

I checked in at the spa desk — subtly lit and decorated with glistening rows of products — and was shown into a room with lockers (to call it a “locker room” would give entirely the wrong impression). I wrapped myself in a cozy, sage-colored, terrylined robe and moved into the large relaxation room. If heaven is in the mountains, then this is what its waiting room looks like — a large central fireplace with multiple openings warm sitting clusters furnished with overstuffed chairs and hassocks, or chaises, all done in calming tones of sage and taupe, green and brown.

Already starting to unwind, I watched the fire flicker and sipped herbal tea until my therapist, Tillie, called my name in a dulcet tone. My first treatment was the “hydrate and heal” Neem Body Wrap. Tillie covered me with a coating of mineralrich mud, then wrapped me snugly in sheets of plastic and rubber. I was momentarily surprised when the tabletop on which I lay descended a few inches — taking me along with it — to partially submerge my wrapped body in warm water. I was left to relax — and sweat a bit — for 20 minutes.

Tillie returned to help me out of the “tub,” then made a discreet exit so I could step into the private shower to rinse away traces of treatment mud. The shower had multiple jets that I could aim at my body without getting my hair wet — which would indeed have stayed dry had I not been carried away playing with the various knobs and nozzles. My skin felt so soft, I didn’t care. (I needed the hydration, too; high-altitude air is quite dehydrating, especially for those of us who normally live at sea level.)

Almost all of Aria’s spa treatments are available individually or in themed packages; my package segued directly into a Swedish massage. I toweled off, donned my robe and ducked quickly across the hall to the massage room where I dropped my robe and slipped onto the table under the decorous covering of strategically placed towels.

I selected from an assortment of exotically named massage oils and lotions, almost all of which sounded good enough to eat. Aiming to maintain my languid state of relaxation, I opted against stimulating rubs that included caffeine or smelled of “wake-up” orange in favor of something minimally herbal (florals can make me itchy) that, I believe, was enriched with Omega-3. Lately, I’ve been into Asian and New-Agey massages, so it was a treat to savor a classic massage for a change. Tillie skillfully worked knots out of my muscles without beating me up, which I appreciated.

After almost an hour, my massage was done. With a Mona Lisa smile of post-massage bl iss, I eased back into my comfy robe and retired to the relaxation room, where I put my feet up and let the fire lull me into a state of oblivion. It suddenly seemed very unfair that I was scheduled to dress for business and meet a colleague for lunch. I mentioned my distress to a spa attendant who came by to offer a beverage. She suggested I move my meeting to the spa.

Hmmm … food for thought. I was meeting with a representative of the resort, so logistically it could work. But I did have my heart set on one of the lunch salads I’d seen on the menu at Chaps, Vail Cascade’s wellregarded restaurant. No problem. The attendant informed me that the food served in the spa comes from the resort’s room service which, in turn, is serviced by Chaps. Sold!

So, still in my robe — I must emphasize it was an elegant robe — I called my lunch date, who happily agreed to the change of venue. We enjoyed chicken Caesar salads highlighted by polenta croutons and white anchovies while dining at a table in a nook near the relaxation room entrance.

Eventually my meeting concluded, my associate departed, and I returned to the changing room to shower off the massage oil, wash and dry my hair, and re-enter the land of everyday. That evening I did sense a tiny bit of complaint from a few muscles that, before Pilates, may never have seen use — but the rest of my newly hydrated and nourished and pampered body told them to hush so as not to spoil the buzz.

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