Top spa resort celebrates nearly a century and a half of environmental pioneering
Ninety miles north of Manhattan, near the town of New Paltz, a most attractive, sprawling complex of wings on a Victorian castle emerges: Mohonk Mountain House named the #1 spa resort in the United States by Conde Nast Traveler.
Owned by generations of the Smiley family, Mohonk is unusual in many ways. The twin Quakers who originally bought 280 acres and a 10-room inn in 1869 created a success story that resulted in 7,500 acres 100 years later–5,000 of which were set aside as a preserve administered by a trust. And founder Albert Smiley was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his annual conference on international arbitration, which paved the way for the Hague Conferences and the United Nations from 1895 to 1916. Environmentally, the family took an equally unusual tack: a geothermal system provides heating and cooling, tapping the cavelike temperatures beneath the surface with 48, 480-foot wells.
For guests, Mohonk fulfills its mission as a place of healing, and the 30,000 square-foot spa blends cutting edge techniques with traditional stretching practices from the late 1800s in Timeless Traditions treatments. Mohonk Muscle Rescue is intensive massage, and Warm stone, aromatherapy combined with Swedish, Reflexology, Swedish, head and shoulders, massage aimed at stress, maternity massage, cranial sacral, Reiki, Shiatsu, Breathe Deep and Be Well, Attainable Sleep, relief from the effects of high heels, men on the go for calves and feet, special massages incorporated into mani-pedi.
Creative packages include couples and maternity massage with 50-minute maternity massage and 50 minute Deep Tissue, $320 per couple. They combine micro-current technology, ultrasound and infusions for anti-aging, and use local herbs and stones for their treatments. A 60-minute massage runs in the neighborhood of $170; 80 minutes around $220; facials usually $155 for an hour.
Most of the staff is part-time, but the intensely collaborative ethic that permeates Mohonk generates team–inspired treatments and programs, like the Muscle Rescue treatment that was instituted years ago when the property began offering triathalons and the spa staff met to discuss complimentary treatments. Although the original offering addressed muscles related to running, biking and swimming, they found the treatment was embraced by many – weekend warriors, and became one of their most popular. Later they bundled several such treatments in the “Solutions for Modern Living” that address everything from time spent working with today’s pervasive communications electronics to a breathe deep massage for sinus relief, developed in conjunction with Hope Gillerman, their aromatherapy partner.
Many of these treatments are developed by listening to the guests, Spa Director Barbara Stirewalt said, hearing their problems and addressing them with treatments. “We talk about what the customers are saying, what’s bothering them, and that begets treatments, “ she added.
Another example was their brainstorm discussion on the physical perils of the digital world. The Tension Tamer, designed for texting and the posture often associated with the eyes on a smaller, lap or handheld device, addresses issues for both for shoulders and forearms. “As a matter of fact, our entire Solutions for Modern Living offering was developed in the very same collaborative manner, with our team focusing together on issues we have identified and are hearing from our guests,” Stirewalt said.
She is delighted to be able to use the resort’s enormous resources. “I’m the luckiest Spa Director ever,” she said. “From product line selections to the teas we serve in the spa, I have been able to have highly educated biologists guide choices that are truly relevant to our surroundings – an indigenous connection for our guests.” For instance, the Indigo Poultice treatment is named for the plant that grows wild on the Mohonk Preserve.
The spa’s 16 treatment rooms are paired with a solarium with a stone fireplace, glass wrapped verandas for men and women, and signature treatments like the Mohonk Red Massage that combines Swedish, Lomi Lomi and Thai stretches named in honor of Mohonk Red witch hazel that grows on the property. At the end, the senses are revived one by one, ending with taste: grapes and an elixir to enjoy on the Women’s veranda, then swim or enjoy a mineral bath. There’s a lift for any guests who might need pool entry assistance and lifts for stairs in some areas, elevators in most.
Body treatments include a hydrating body mask using anti-inflammatory extracts from moss found on the grounds. There are also customized water cures: private hydrotherapy tub treatments with different herbal mixes for rest, renewal and more.
There’s also a whole list of treatments for men, which run from Gentlemen’s Facials to Indigo Herbal Poultice Massage and Deep Tissue to Huguenot hand and foot rescue.
Guests can combine treatments into samplers like the Gotta Getaway Combo where they can choose a 50-minute massage from the menu and a 50-minute facial for $310, and there are special services for older teens.
Overnight guests have complimentary use of pool fitness room, classes from yoga and Pilates to Qi Gong, meditation and stretches. Workouts can make use of the Adaptive Motion Trainer, exercise bikes, free weights, elliptical machines and treadmills, but also the 1,200 acres of hiking, biking, horseback riding and boating facilities.
Judging from the dreamlike state of guests relaxing after their treatments, and their resolution to take the spa’s philosophy home, the spa director is by no means the only lucky one.