There was a time, back in my younger days, when I could downhill ski with impunity. I’d ski from dawn until dusk, barely stopping, and feel not a thing in my legs or back. Sadly those days are long behind me, and although I still put in long hours on the slopes, I now pay for them with soreness in my knees, thighs, and lumbar spine.
That’s why I was happy to discover the joy of post-ski spa treatments. I may not be the kind of woman who routinely goes in for manicures or massages, but I’ve found in recent years that there’s not much nicer than a little TLC to my aching joints while I’m on a family ski vacation.
In Vermont, there are few ski towns that deliver on the promise of relaxing, luxurious body treatments better than Stowe does. With two spectacular spas just a few miles apart, you may find yourself making excuses to get off the lifts a little bit early on your next visit.
Stowe Mountain Lodge
The spa at Stowe Mountain Lodge has the advantage of being just steps from the slopes of Mount Mansfield – if you wanted to, you could ski right up to the door. Once you’re inside and checked in by the friendly staff, plan to spend some time relaxing on a chaise in the Sanctuary room, which offers views of Mount Mansfield, soft blankets, and a warm fire. Follow up with any number of treatments from massages to facials, all with an emphasis on natural elements. They even have a body scrub that uses maple syrup.
On my visit, I enjoyed a complimentary Soothe your Sole treatment during which my feet were encased in paraffin – a welcome change from ski boots. As an added bonus, I also was treated to a scalp massage.
In the Healing Lodge area of the spa, you can enjoy a long soak in a large Jacuzzi tub and a visit to the steam room and sauna. If you dare, follow up with a cool rain shower – I promise that it will get your skin tingling.
Stowe Mountain Lodge also serves younger guests, with an emphasis on spa treatments that even boys will enjoy. Both my 8- and 11-year-old sons loved their half-hour “Chillax” session, which included aromatherapy, hand and feet massages, a chocolate facial, and cool cucumbers on their eyes. Other kid-friendly treatments include massages, manicures, and facials just for children.
The spa at Topnotch Resort has both an indoor and heated year-round outdoor pool as well as a large choice of fitness classes. Their lounge area doesn’t offer a view, but instead has a fabulous selection of guilty-pleasure magazines. Access to the spa includes the chance to use a whirlpool, sauna, and steam room.
I didn’t need hot water to relax me after I was finished with my magnificent 80-minute Aroma Mountain Massage. Where to begin with how much I loved this treatment? The oils used are infused onsite (my masseuse actually did the infusing and was able to talk knowledgeably about what was in each one). I began by sniffing them and choosing my favorites, which were then used to reduce me to butter on the massage table. My skin was soft as a dream when I finished and the persistent pain in my back that followed a tumble I took earlier in the season was noticeably lessened.
Got a kid who wants to join you at the spa? Topnotch offers a full menu of services including Fizzy Bomb manicures and pedicures and the Lil’ Dudes treatment which includes a manicure, facial, and pedicure for boys.
Both Topnotch and Stowe Mountain Lodge permit guests to use their sauna, lounge, fitness, and locker room facilities for a daily use fee. Topnotch also offers daily, weekly and even monthly memberships for anyone who would like to pay to use the facilities. Children under 16 can be added to any membership at Topnotch for a reasonable fee; this will give them use of the indoor and outdoor pools. Both Topnotch and Stowe Mountain Lodge restrict the use of their fitness and lounge areas to adults.
And finally, here’s a special note for those of you who may not have ever considered trying a spa treatment while on a family vacation: Do you get tired, as I do in hotels, of sharing a bathroom with your offspring? An added benefit of booking a spa treatment is the use of a large and luxurious bathroom facilities. At both Stowe Mountain Lodge and Topnotch, the locker rooms had everything I needed to refresh, relax, and make myself look lovely from oodles of fluffy towels to massaging shower heads to luxurious bath products and lotions to hair dryers and razors. Book a treatment or simply pay the daily fee to use the facilities and then give yourself a little extra time to enjoy a long shower in absolute peace with no danger of anyone knocking on the door. You can thank me later.
Mara Gorman may live at sea level now, but she’s a native New Englander and mountain aficionado who grew up skiing in Vermont. She spends as many days each winter as she can chasing her two teen boys through glades and across mogul fields and regularly journeys far and wide to get on the slopes. Mara blogs about her family’s many travel adventures at The Mother of all Trips. She is also the author of The Family Traveler’s Handbook and an award-winning freelance writer whose work has appeared in various USA Today print publications as well as on websites such as BBC Travel. When there’s no snow, Mara and her family can be found hiking, biking and eating around the United States and Europe.