Skaná Spa, The Lodge at Turning Stone
Native American influence and modern comfort unite at the Skaná spa, a quiet haven designed to mirror the traditions of the Oneida people (some of whom still live in Upstate New York). Remotely situated about 30 miles east of Syracuse in Verona, New York, the spa is housed on the first floor of The Lodge at Turning Stone.
Ideal for an individual or a couple, this spa getaway also offers additional attractions: nearby hiking trails, wineries and greenery appeal to nature-lovers; a casino playground (with over 80 table games) attracts gamblers; and the enormous mall, Destiny USA, draws shoppers. For a truly restful vacation though, there’s really no need to leave the premises (or your bathrobe, for that matter).
Featuring 95 suites, The Lodge overlooks a golf course (one of five on the 3,400-acre resort) and also has an indoor pool, fitness facility, business center and Wildflowers, an organic restaurant. Dine outside amid purple rose bushes facing the herb garden, where ingredients like basil, mint, cilantro and thyme are grown and added to dishes. Try the signature salad with Beets, Arugula, Horseradish Crème Fraiche and Jalapeno Vinaigrette, followed by the Spring Lasagna.
Native American-themed suites are spacious and equipped with flat screen TVs, complimentary Wi-Fi and piles of magazines. Décor isn’t terribly exciting, but the atmosphere is sure to soothe. Cozy goose down comforters and super soft linens make it difficult to get out of bed, even if only to admit room service. Marble bathrooms have over-sized tubs filled with L’Occitaine en Provence products. Housekeeping comes twice a day, and nightly turndown service includes treats like white chocolate caramels and dream catchers left on your pillow.
The spa is set up to reflect the Oneida culture’s natural lifestyle, with floor to ceiling windows lining walls in an effort to bring the outside in. Sunlight and views of streams and flowers are pleasing to the eye and help make up for the lack of actual outdoor space. Given the setting and fresh country air, the spa and Lodge could benefit greatly from an outdoor lounge area.
Overnight guests can take advantage of the 12 treatment rooms, full-service salon, saunas, steam rooms and pools (including one with 21 minerals). For those who prefer spa amenities but not actual treatments, day passes are available ($25 for Lodge guests; $30 for hotel dwellers).
Come an hour before your treatment for Balancing Water Rituals, a series of hot and cold treatments (saunas, hot tubs, pools, showers) designed to soothe the nervous system, promote circulation and enhance wellbeing. Follow instructions on cards in the locker room for best results. Hydrate often, especially with the quenching infused water. The recipe rotates daily with flavors like tomato mint, orange cinnamon, blueberry white pine, lemon thyme and strawberry (recipe below!).
Treatments are tailored to women, men and couples (who can choose the private VIP suite for ultimate relaxation). Massages, wraps, scrubs and facials incorporate herbs, leaves and flowers. The spa also offers specialties based on the month. For example, since March is when Native tribes celebrate maple trees, maple syrup, an anti-oxidant, is added to creams and serums. June is when the first berry ripens, so strawberry rhubarb facials are added to the menu, as well as strawberry and chocolate mani/pedis. The harvest is celebrated in September, so corn, green beans and squash are mixed into Kerstin Florian and Naturopathic product lines.
After your treatment, you may want to have lunch at the spa café (food comes from Wildflowers) but don’t expect any frills. The room is pleasant and bright but feels more like an upscale waiting room then a place of pampering. Still, food is tasty and location easy.
I was lucky enough to experience two treatments: the Standing Stone Herbal Remedy with Roxanne followed by the Oneida Harmony Facial with Lorene. Each service is $160, 80 minutes long and well worth the price.
My herbal remedy started with a 20-minute bath soak in sage oil, a natural anti-depressant, white pine oil to stimulate circulation and clear lungs; juniper oil to removes excess fluid and cypress to clarify the lymphatic system. The soak was very calming but felt somewhat long. The bathroom (attached to the treatment room) was dark and comfortable. Aside from the tub, there was a shower but no toilet, which would have been helpful since the treatment lasted over an hour.
After the bath, I lay on the table and Roxanne scrubbed my body with Lemon Verbena Body Polish, which contained Jojoba beads. This was my first experience getting a scrub and I was surprised at how good it felt (and smelled). It only lasted about ten minutes but it deeply exfoliated my skin.
After a shower, my body was spoiled even more with a 50-minute full body massage. Roxanne used a moisturizer with Shea butter, aloe Vera and oat protein to soften skin (by now my skin was feeling baby soft) and willow butter extract to enhance cell turnover. She also used a hydrating cream with rosehip seed oil to support cell membranes and balance out fluids in the skin.
The massage was dreamy (actually, I think I drifted off at one point) and Roxanne checked in every so often to make sure the pressure was just right. I left feeling refreshed inside and out. I couldn’t believe this soft skin was actually mine, and couldn’t stop touching its smooth yet non-greasy surface.
After a short lunch with spa director and wellness expert Loretta (who is amazing!), I went in for my facial with Lorene. Before I lay down, she told me to take note of the hot stones on the table intended to provide support and comfort to my mid-back section. At first the stones eased tension but about half way through the treatment they started to dig into my back. If you have are prone to back problems or get hot easily, I’d recommend skipping the table stones altogether.
Using Naturopathica products, Lorene started massaging my face with a soothing aloe cleansing gel, followed by an exfoliation with sweet cherry enzymes. The sweet scent of cherries and the extra attention spent on massaging my head, neck and shoulders was a sure indication I was in for a treat.
Next came the dreaded extractions, which were surprisingly pain-free. Lorene was so gentle that I didn’t even feel the needle she used in one area. The tea-scented eye pillow blocked light completely. After a mask was applied, Lorene rubbed my arms, hands, legs and feet. She used hot stones, hot towels and scrubs. This was much more than I expected from a facial treatment.
My skin treatment ended with a rose geranium serum followed by a rosemary oil-free moisturizer, vitamin K eye cream and honey vanilla lip care. Lorene also re-visited my head and neck using long strokes and attending to tension areas.
I almost didn’t recognize myself in the mirror afterwards. My skin looked clear, bright and dewy, and there was zero irritation to be seen from the extractions. This was easily one of the best, if not the best facial I have ever had.
Skaná, which means peace, really delivered on its promise of providing for a renewing mind-body experience. I look forward to my return and recommend it to anyone looking for a true retreat from every day life.
Strawberry Water Recipe
1 lb strawberries
8 oz maple syrup
10 cups water
Turning Stone Resort Casino, 5218 Patrick Road, Verona, NY 13478, 800.771.7711. For hotel reservations/information 315.361.7711.
1. Wash, hull and cut the strawberries into chunks, place in a 2-quart pitcher
2. Mash the strawberries with a potato masher to a chunky consistency
3. Add water and maple syrup, and stir
4. Refrigerate and stir before serving