Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
It was New Year’s Day weekend and I was visiting Salt Lake City for a rare family reunion. The question at hand, my first morning in town, was whether or not to join the family for a day on the slopes–“to ski or not to ski.” Unfortunate images of eternal lift lines plagued any enthusiasm I felt, albeit a recent fluffy snowfall.
My family, namely a dozen cousins, aunts, and uncles in town from Madrid, were not tormented in the least by overcrowded mountain-slopes, and instead seemed contentedly abuzz about hitting the slopes.
Amid the hustle and bustle of pre-ski departure prep, skis, boots, snowboards, parkas, and the all imaginable downhill accoutrement made their way swiftly into the rented-for-the-holidays supersize Suburban. It was a hard call. The familia was headed to Snowbird, my favorite local ski resort, where I both learned to ski, and spent many a happy Sunday afternoon growing up.
The choice: quiet time at home (nothing to sneeze at when the family reunion includes a dozen friendly faces lodging together under one roof), vs. a day on the slopes with the masses. To be sure, visits to my hometown, and ski opportunities in general, are not regular occurrences. Moreover, spending a day at home-base had me feeling like an über-loaf. Still, that mile-long lift line made for a stark image…
And, suddenly, and not a moment too soon, a moment of clarity: Snowbird, for those in the know, is home to a heated swimming pool on the top of its Cliff Lodge, and having for once remembered to pack a bathing suit for winter travel, I saw a creative solution to the challenge at hand. With no time to lose, (the Suburban’s engine had been started) I quickly prepped my backpack: swimsuit, book, flip-flops, wallet, and jumped onboard with the motley Spanish crew for a ride up Little Cottonwood Canyon.
Door to door service: I was deposited right at the underground drop-off at the Cliff entry-way. Valet and self-parking for skiers (or spa-ers, as the case may be) is available here, but the familia was headed to another parking area, and with an animated adios, were on their way.
As for my adventure, I merrily entered the magnificent cement structure, made cozy by skier/guests waddling around in bibs and ski-boots, plus the seasonal Christmas decorations. I felt, needless to say, very smug with my last-minute epiphany. I located the elevators to the right of the entry-way, which zipped me up to floor 9, home of the Cliff Spa. For $20, explained the kind, imported receptionist from Melbourne, I was welcome to enjoy: the outdoor rooftop heated pool and jacuzzi, co-ed steam sauna, women’s dry sauna, locker-room amenities, solarium rest area, gym, and, should I be interested, a yoga class at 4.30.
Let’s review: the day spa fee costs less than half of a day ski pass, and, wait, not only do I not have to stand in line, I don’t have to stand, period. Moreover, should I choose to really indulge, or should my cousins have chosen to join me après-ski, we would be allowed to stay until 10 p.m. Oh, yes…and there’s ‘room-service.’
Can I live here?
Well, the Cliff Lodge is a resort-hotel, but that of course would slightly increase the $20 budget price offered. Meanwhile, my hostess from Melbourne had presented me with a lovely crème robe and locker-key, and escorted me to the women’s changing room.
On route to the locker-room, the guest is enveloped by the magnificent scent fragrancing the hallway. Whatever essential oils, incense or room-spray was responsible, it is simply divine. I was already relaxing into the ambience, and, note, I hadn’t even removed my coat as of yet.
On the way to the dressing/locker-room, I passed the boutique/salon on the left. If you’ve forgotten your bathing suit, workout gear, or wish to enjoy a facial, manicure, or an array of other treatments, hang a left here. Suits, for either sex, ranged from $34-$42, and a half price basket offered workout tops for women at excellent prices.
I made my way into the dressing room – decorated in subtle grays and pinks, accented by quietly playing wind-instrument music – the kind that brings up images of being on a solo-trek through the desert at sunset. Looking for my locker number, I glanced outside the enormous windows, overlooking the skiers swishing down the slopes, lightly falling snow, and gusts of wind kicking up snow off the majestic mountain. Being on the inside felt particularly delicious right about now.
The locker-key hangs on a neon pink wristband, a bonus for the very relaxed mind, or simply for those of us who are key-keeper challenged.
My first stop: the jacuzzi. A no-brainer, obviously. Both the pool and the jacuzzi are located outdoors, one floor above the dressing rooms, on the roof, and the 100-meter trek (in my case through a bit of snow and windy gusts), made sinking in simply glorious. As I positioned my lower-back to receive the work of one of the therapeutic jets, I was invited to join the conversation of two other soakers who had come up early for beat-the-tourists-to-the-slopes skiing.
For the motivated, the heated pool is but a hop-skip-and-a jump from the jacuzzi. The pool’s cooler temperature is invigorating, and after a couple laps, the jacuzzi feels twice as nice.
Jacuzzi-pool-jacuzzi. Had it been limited to that 45 minute experience, I would have called it an unbelievable, worth-every-cent, adventure. And, wait! The views…if you’ve never experienced the Wasatch mountains at nose-tip, you’re in for a treat. And even if you have, if you weren’t soaking in a hot-tub, I recommend experiencing what can only be described as bliss.
But wait…there’s more!
I grabbed my robe from one of the pegs conveniently located near the jacuzzi and made my way across the pool-deck, back inside. The dry sauna is located in the dressing rooms. Like most of the spa, the sauna also gives way to a view of the towering Wasatch mountains.
Unlike the slopes, the spa was nearly empty of guests, and, since I had the sauna to myself, I stretched out to enjoy maximum warmth and space. There’s something very purifying about dry-sauna. And the smell of the hot stones and wood is so rich. I stayed in for fifteen or so minutes, before a strong craving for water overcame me. Water fountains and dispensers are conveniently located throughout the spa. I thought I would relax in the solarium (views, once again, to the skiers and mountains), to re-hydrate and read my book. Gazing out the windows at the gray skies all around, I felt, once again, terribly lucky to be enjoying Snowbird a-la-indoors.
Next stop: the steam-sauna.
The steam sauna, a much more intense heat than the dry, was simply stunning. Whether it was the eucalyptus potently present in the steam, or the humidifying effect on dried out Salt Lake winter skin, I felt the finale to my day spa experience was truly magnificent.
Skiers Bargain: Buy your lift-tickets where the locals do: Smith’s Grocery Stores in Salt Lake offer lift tickets at discount prices. Stop by on your way up to the mountain, and $ave. Phone: 888-876-4847
Deb Miller can be reached via her websites traveljewish.com. and lingosite.com.