Chuck Baraw got it right. The CEO and owner of Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa toured far and wide before blending a spa into the landscape of the iconic Vermont resort. The result is an unexpectedly world-class spa experience in the sleepy mountain village of Stowe.
When Baraw and his team added the spa to the family-owned resort in 2003 (Baraw’s parents, Beatrice and Stuart Baraw, laid the foundation for today’s resort when they opened a modest motel on the property back in 1963), they integrated design elements Baraw had witnessed during pre-construction research. One of the simplest yet perhaps most important decisions involved separating the spa from the fitness center; they are located in entirely different wings of the main building. The philosophy? A spa is for relaxation. A fitness center is for exercise. The two are not necessarily complementary, especially when it comes to tone and ambiance.
I arrived at the spa reception desk on a warm but overcast summer day, ready to indulge in a much-touted Ayurvedic treatment. The lobby area and spa shop were about what I expected in a rural spa, but I entered an entirely different world when I rounded the corner into the inner sanctum. A half-dozen spa guests wrapped in plush robes reclined on lounge chairs in a state of pre- and post-treatment bliss. A few flipped through magazines or sipped herbal tea, but the overall atmosphere was hushed and relaxed. I headed for the locker room, where I shed my street clothes and donned a robe before slipping into my own lounge chair to await a call from my therapist.
While the Spa at Stoweflake offers plenty of traditional spa treatments and even a few quirky options based on local products — Vermont Maple Sugar Body Polish and Green Mountain Coffee Body Treatment — it’s the selection of Ayurvedic treatments, first introduced in 2005, that make it stand out from the crowd.
Ayurvedic treatments are based on a 5,000-year-old healing system native to India. The holistic philosophy holds that every living being possesses a unique pattern of energy made up of three elements, or doshas — vata, pitta and kapha — which must be balanced to achieve wellness. Stress, an unhealthy diet, even the weather can skew that balance, leading to discomfort or illness.
I had selected Abhyanga-Garshana. Garshana involves a dry lymphatic massage done with silk gloves. Abhyanaga is a warm herbal oil treatment. The silk glove massage is said to awaken lymphatic flow, optimizing the skin’s ability to absorb the therapeutic effects of the Ayurvedic oils.
Whatever the philosophy, I can honestly say I felt relaxed and balanced following the 80-minute treatment.
Balance is a theme that carries throughout the Spa at Stoweflake. While there may be others, it is the only New England spa I have visited that has an actual labyrinth on site. To be honest, I have a difficult time with labyrinths. I can clear my mind while practicing yoga or meditating, but I have never been able to “let go” while walking a labyrinth. Still, I believe it’s a worthwhile tool for finding inner peace, and I encourage others to give it a try.
For the uninitiated, a labyrinth is a meditative pathway. The labyrinth at Stoweflake is a classic, seven-circuit path, a winding walkway formed by hedgerows, herbs and other plants. Unlike a maze, a labyrinth has no dead ends; it’s meant to promote relaxation and clarity, not confusion, as visitors stroll the winding circuits to the center and out again. Dr. Patrick MacManaway, an author, holistic therapist, dowser and practitioner of geomancy (divination by means of lines and figures or by geographic features), designed and maintains the Stoweflake labyrinth, visiting periodically to tune its energy. In other words: Stoweflake takes its labyrinth seriously.
The same holds true for its spa treatments and its general focus on wellness. The Spa at Stoweflake isn’t an afterthought built into the year-round resort to capitalize on the spa market. It’s a destination unto itself created for all the right reasons.
Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa
1746 Mountain Road
Stowe, VT 05672
tel 802 253 7355
I had just taken off my sandals, stepping onto the white-sand beach for a late-morning walk to a secluded spot I heard about from a front desk clerk, when I glanced down and saw the time on my phone. It had just turned 11 a.m., which meant it was only 7 am back home, the perfect time to call and say good morning to by husband before he left for work. Not quite ready to head back to my room, I decided I’d test the WiFi signal and made the call as I continued walking toward the shoreline.
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