Passion Points: Spa/Wellness
To say that John and Ginny Lopis did their homework before opening the Lodge at Woodloch, a new destination spa that debuted in northeastern Pennsylvania in late 2006, would be an understatement. As two of eight founders of the International Spa Association (ISPA), former directors at Canyon Ranch and spa consultants for such acclaimed retreats as Vermont’s Topnotch and the Cloisters at Sea Island, the couple have lived and breathed spa, health and wellness for more than two decades. The Lodge is a compilation of everything they learned along the way. “For years, when John and I were consulting all over the world, we would collect the special details that really worked” says Ginny. “At this place, they all came together.”
Occupying seventy-five acres of serene woodland, the Lodge is located in the lake region of Northeastern Pennsylvania (it’s a two-and-a-half hour drive from New York), an area not readily associated with high-end pampering until now. The multi-level building was cleverly constructed to blend into the surrounding landscape, a lush setting of oak forest and a small lake, where guests can kayak and fish. It is divided into two wings, one of which holds fifty-eight, nicely appointed guest rooms, the other a 20,000 square-foot-spa and fitness complex. The Lodge makes liberal use of space: the long hallways are cavernous, the imposing staircases extra-wide and the ceilings soaring, but thanks to lots of cozy sitting areas, it doesn’t feel impersonal. Interiors have a comfortable, lived-in feel with overstuffed couches, leather arm chairs and fireplaces (if a wellness experience means sleek, all-white spaces to you, this is not the place). The overall aesthetic, using lots of natural materials like maple and stone, reminds of a cozy American West ski lodge; and indeed the huge floor-to-ceiling windows in the dining room were inspired by the ones found at the Western Lodge in Colorado.
The star of the Lodge is, of course, the multi-level spa, complete with twenty-seven treatment rooms, fireplace-studded lounges and a magnificent indoor-outdoor pool area. Unlike some large spas where getting lost can raise your stress level, the layout at Woodloch is logical and intuitive. The spacious male and female relaxation areas, with whirl pool, steam bath and sauna, are mirror images of one another, save for the view from the screened-in serenity porches (sorry, gents: the ladies’ view, overlooking the lake, is better). Most treatment rooms are on the lower lever, which sees—and hears—no guest traffic besides post-treatment people shuffleing into the supremely soothing whisper lounge. The large work-out facility encompasses three mind-body studios, where classes like Pilates and kickboxing are held, and a 3,500 square-foot cardio studio. It’s located on the top floor, so fitness fiends and spa goers only cross paths in the locker room (nothing worse for the easily guilt-ridden than seeing a room full of sweaty people sprinting on treadmills after a blissful massage). The lengthy treatment menu assures that even during a multi-day stay, it’s impossible to sample everything.
The Lodge at Woodloch is not the kind of place that counts calories or puts a huge emphasis on weigh loss (reportedly, there’s one scale on property, but I never found it). Rather, the owners and chef Mark Timms are firm believers that one should indulge in tasty, organic food made with healthy ingredients, as long as the sampling is modest. Portions are spa-sized—think miniature bison burger and a custard-crème dessert that comes in a shot glass—but unlike at boot camp–like Ashram, you’re not being deprived of anything (a nice wine list is available). Rather, the small is beautiful philosophy makes you realize just how super-sized meals in normal restaurants are—and how little you actually need to feel satisfied, strong and healthy. For snacks, there are stations with fresh fruit and nuts throughout the fitness and spa facilities.
Days are as active or relaxed as guests choose: there’s a long list of classes ranging from Pilates, yoga and Tai Chi to watercolor and cooking demonstrations, but many fellow guests when I visited seemed to prefer the enclave of the spa, particularly the airy pool facility, which also includes an al fresco infinity whirlpool. John and Ginny are hands-on owners who make the rounds throughout the day to meet and chat with their guests, and at dusk you will find them on the porch adjacent to the dining room that seems to float in a sea of green. “We come here every evening to check in and reflect on what a long journey it’s been” says John, who is well-versed Eastern philosophy. “We call it our ‘thank you porch.’ ” Room packages from $475 during the week in high season (July through October).
WHO SHOULD GO: Experienced spa goers who like the variety of classes and programs offered at a Canyon Ranch or a Miraval (but prefer a more boutique setting) and who like the communal feel of a destination spa. It’s also a great retreat for a girlfriend or mom-daughter getaway.
WHO SHOULD NOT GO: Independent travelers who dislike group or organized activities and who cannot picture lunching in a dining room where some fellow guests may be sporting robes; design aficionados who prefer a sleek aesthetic. Children until age eighteen are not permitted anytime during the year.
ROOMS TO BOOK: The uneven-numbered rooms face the lake and feel a touch more serene than the even-numbered ones that overlook the garden and entrance area in front of the property. As at most destination spa, visitors choose from two all-inclusive plans: go for the Complete Plan, which includes all meals, all classes and a daily spa treatment.
WHAT TO KNOW: All spa treatments and some of the classes have to be booked ahead of your visit. Call before your trip and ask that someone from the spa explains the menu and advises on an itinerary.
Read an interview with the spa insiders behind the Lodge at Woodloch
Read a member postcard on the Ashram
Read a review of Miraval in Sedona
For advice or information on spa programs or to book a spa trip, contact our bookings department by calling 212-988-2611 or by sending an inquiry.
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