Sunday, November 9, 2008

Vegas spas then and now

We think that the “spa” concept originated during the Roman Empire when battle-weary legionnaires healed their aching bodies in hot, mineral wells. Not much has changed today. We, too, seek refuge from our daily crusades. Leaving our weapons of cell phones and PDAs in private lockers, we escape to our own hot wells that are tiled with African jade or other exotic stones and surrounded by delicate rose petals and flickering candles.

Spas have evolved since the ancient times, and looking at just the last decade, resort spas in Las Vegas witnessed a revolutionary change. Once they were nothing more than amenities, which included a sauna, steam room, whirlpool, conventional Swedish massages and a few whining excercycles. Today, the menu of offerings is modern and eclectic, from Watsu pool massages to seaweed body cocoons and equipment fit for NASA’s training program.

Before Mandalay Bay, THEhotel, Four Seasons, Bellagio, Paris, and The Venetian joined the strip, resort spas were sparse. Las Vegas now has the highest spa density in the country, and these mega properties boast the largest spas in the nation. When Canyon Ranch SpaClub completes its expansion, it’s poised to be the world’s largest spa - maxing out at 143,000 square feet – bigger than most gaming floors on the strip.

Originally, luxury clientele like Casino VIPs made up most of the spa-going crowd. But, today’s clientele has virtually no profile, as spa culture has developed into an activity of the masses. Men are also joining the “feel-good” club, which may explain why Canyon Ranch SpaClub is adding the conservatory, a grand 2,700 square foot co-ed gathering space. “In Las Vegas we create an experience that they (patrons) cannot get at home,” says Blake Feeney, Spa Director for the SpaClub.

So what makes Las Vegas spas so unique, and how have our expectations evolved as intelligent spa enthusiasts? We want to be invited into a tranquil setting that has indoor streams and stone bridges, accompanied by the sounds of a fluttering bamboo flute in the background to reconnect us with nature. We desire to be taken far away from society to experience an exotic massage where the therapist kneads our backs with her feet. We want to paint our partners with colorful mud before taking our Swiss showers. We eagerly partake in a questionnaire to discover our aromotherapeutic needs and create a customized concoction of oils to be used during our massage. We expect classes in power yoga, meditation and Pilates. And, since we’ve been known to spend an entire day at the spa, we order in a delicious meal to our relaxation room that surrounds us with soothing color therapy lights and trickling waterfalls. And, when we’re all rejuvenated, we dare to get an application of body art made up of tiny Swarovski crystals to show off when we go out on the town.

Our contemporary hot wells have significantly evolved over time, but the fundamental concept of cleansing and rejuvenation is still the core elements of the present-day spa. Despite how spas have grown in the last 10 years, in Vegas, we may be still be closer the Roman ages when drinking, merry-making and feasting preceded the healing therapies they found in nearby springs. Perhaps that’s why some of the best restorative sanctuaries for the mind, body and soul, are found in Las Vegas.

No comments: