Even in “normal” times, folks gravitate to wellness resorts to jumpstart a healthier lifestyle, destress and be nurtured. In this COVID-19-era state of elevated anxiety, people seek even more natural beauty and caring hospitality, healthy food, fitness activities and beauty and body treatments. Canyon Ranch Lenox also provides an extensive staff of experts offering a multitude of health, wellness and spiritual well-being modalities that alleviate personal issues.
After eight months in an at-home bubble, this risk-averse spa aficionado debated “venturing out.” Yet I was curious to learn how a premier, integrative health and wellness destination handles COVID-19 safety protocols. It follows state regulations and guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and its own team of experts led by Richard Carmona, MD, MPH, FACS, and the 17th Surgeon General of the United States.
Two factors influenced my decision: trust that these most celebrated life-enhancement properties — which I previously admired in Las Vegas, Lenox and Tucson — merit their 40 years of “Best of ” accolades, and confidence that guests choosing holistic retreats prioritize their personal well-being and diligently accept COVID-19 protocols. (They do.)
I drove from my Long Island home to pristine and perfect Lenox, Massachusetts, via the sparsely populated Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Ferry. Lenox lies a scenic, two-hour drive from Bridgeport (or Boston) and three hours from Manhattan. With my Girl Scout motto “Be prepared” in mind, I packed water, masks, gloves, clear plastic shields, sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and snacks.
Wealthy Bostonians and New Yorkers built 19th-century Gilded Age cottages in these extraordinarily beautiful Berkshire foothills, including one called Bellefontaine, which Canyon Ranch established as its East Coast base in 1989. The 1897 mansion — with its wood-paneled library — replicates the Petit Trianon in Versailles and serves as the centerpiece of the three-structure holistic retreat. The mansion’s upper level houses the Health and Healing Center. The ground floor offers a library; lounges; the casual CR Rebel café; and the gracious, window-walled Canyon Ranch Grill, where many of the dining tables have been removed from each of three airy rooms to provide a sense of space and safety.
A six-foot-wide, well-ventilated, temperature-controlled, glass-walled corridor connects the mansion to the 126-room inn and to the 100,000-square- foot Spa and Sports Facility, where signup sheets are posted for activities including popular, physically distant outdoor sports (snowshoeing and cross-country and downhill skiing among them). The vaulted space — with its upper-level running track — houses an extraordinary array of fitness and sports facilities, a boutique, a nail salon, a spa and indoor and outdoor swimming pools.
As for its COVID-19 protocols, Canyon Ranch engages guests in pre-arrival correspondence and chats with program advisors. Upon arriving, guests will find temperature checks at the gate; self-parking (the bellman takes luggage and provides transportation to/from the parking lot); and paperwork and a sealed, wrapped pen awaiting at the front desk, where a Plexiglass shield provides protection (other barriers are at the Host Station and Program Advising desk). A sealed entry door indicates room readiness; privacy signs assure no one enters. On site, masks are required for all guests and staff members; activities have fewer participants, usually with advance reservations; and signage illustrates physical distancing.
I arrived in time for lunch and decided to see if I’d be comfortable in the dining room; I felt relaxed because there were a few well-spaced tables, few guests and a waitstaff that takes every precaution, including disinfecting the table and chairs after guests leave (dinner requires timed reservations).
After nine months without a facial, mani-pedi or haircut, I booked treatments for the first afternoon. Katie provided the much-appreciated and excellent massage, and a different Katie offered a wonderful, hydrating facial. That night, a knock on the door announced room service, and I discovered a large paper bag perched on a plastic table. The boxed food, if not the presentation, was wonderful.
Executive Chef Dan Hardy’s delightful menu elevates familiar dishes and adds a wide variety of Mediterranean and Asian items. I particularly appreciated his healthful preparation of some favored comfort foods: crab cakes, pan- cakes, turkey pot pie, an eggplant tower with mozzarella cheese, and cookies. I also enjoyed grilled vegetable panini; filet of beef; an apricot-mustard salmon; multicolor beet and orange sitting on a swoosh of yogurt; and an array of quinoa, pearl couscous and bean salads. Having not eaten in a restaurant since Feb. 28, 2020, “dining out” was a particular pleasure.
So was the feeling of space, everywhere, because the resort books at 40- percent occupancy and I was there mid-week, with even fewer guests. In fact, I was the sole attendee at Kelly Clady’s Chinese Medicine lecture and in a yoga class; one of three at the after-dinner cabaret performance, where a plastic screen separated us from Berkshire native and Broadway pianist/singer Ron Ramsay; we were four participants at Demonstration Chef Maggie O’Mara’s knife skills class; and at Cynthia Geyer, MD’s sessions, one had three attendees and one had five.
What I appreciate most about Canyon Ranch were the dozens of options to learn about personal wellness. Plus, it felt safe, everywhere.
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