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Beth Weitzman | Photo: Courtesy Images | February 12, 2013
Miraval’s new Life in Balance Spa With Clarins is the perfect Aspen escape after the lifts close.
Life is a marathon. But unlike a punishing 26-miler, the journey matters more than the finish. So if taking time to recharge seems “impossible,” know this: Sourcing serenity is as easy as a quick trip to Tucson, Ariz., and a check-in to Miraval (miravalresorts.com). The luxurious destination spa lured me back, after two long years away, for the opening of its Life in Balance Spa With Clarins—the result of a new partnership between Miraval owners Steve and Jean Case (yes, the same Steve Case that co-founded AOL), and the namesake beauty brand. While it’s likely you’ve been to this desert oasis—or have at least heard about it—erase your memories, as this ultramod addition exceeds all expectations.
Its mantra, “life-enhancing minimalism,” informs all aspects of the revamped spa, and its luxurious environs a credit to renowned Mithun Architects and Clodagh Design. Stylish sustainability, shepherded along by a constellation of stunning indoor and outdoor spaces, seamlessly reconnects spa-goers to nature and nurture.
With the new Life in Balance Spa With Clarins, Miraval—situated on more than 400 acres at the foot of the Santa Catalina Mountains in the Sonoran Desert—cements its atypical status. Providing tranquility for throngs of spa enthusiasts—urged on by Miraval’s most ardent endorser, Oprah—the top-rated refuge refuses to settle for standard. In fact, it’s surging ahead of the pampering pack, with customized skincare regimes, advanced botanical science and more than 30 new and exclusive Clarins-inspired treatments featuring the brand’s revolutionary Pro Formula products. Also new is a perfect-for-two Miraval spa suite, boasting a large bath, shower, in-ground hot tub and fireplace.
Eager to experience the new spa for myself, I plan a quick four-day getaway. But if you can swing a full week, do it—the vast slate of spoils, including spa treatments, fitness classes, integrative wellness offerings and personal enrichment activities (like astrology reading, art and photography)—command it. Self-discovery recreation programs, which include the popular Challenge Course—with 15 low- and high-ropes activities, involving a climbing wall, Giant’s Ladder and, Oprah’s fave, the Swing and a Prayer—are on offer, too.
Arriving at Miraval after weeks of back-to-back deadlines and anticipating a balance adjustment, I get exactly that, with spa treatments, workouts and much-needed downtime. Once here, all stress is behind me. Taking in Miraval’s surrounds (including aromatic plants and freely roaming bunnies), I’m escorted to my Catalina suite (suites join the property’s guest rooms and villas), and the space makes an immediate impact. Inspired by its exterior landscape, the warmly modern interiors boast earthy hues and floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors that overlook the mountainside. Contemporary amenities—the usual high-tech extras, plus a soaking tub, indoor and outdoor showers, and a large living space—impress. At the center of this mod 900-square-foot sanctuary is the heart of Miraval’s signature sleep experience—a well-dressed king bed.
But it all has to wait, as I’m expected at the new spa for the Anti-Aging facial, the first of many signature treatments I have on my agenda to experience. With its incorporation of a slew of Clarins products, I know, the facial will no doubt be phenomenal. And it is; its concentration on smoothing fine lines and addressing hyperpigmentation issues actually works—not just for skin, but for shut-eye, too. As any spa-goer knows, the best treatments put you to sleep, so after mine, I wrap up in a soft blanket and de-grog on a plush chaise lounge in the spacious, well-appointed relaxation room. Tea in hand, mags within reach, I decompress, pausing to lap up the mountainside vista... dusk has never looked better (and neither has my skin). So impressed by my glowing façade after enjoying much-needed Zen time, I am motivated to peruse the well-stocked Clarins spa boutique, where a customized menu of recommended products await my visit. No pressure is given; it’s just there for my use, if I so choose.
Alas, with a slight nod from a now-hungry stomach, I stroll over to the Cactus Flower, Miraval’s main healthy cuisine hub, appreciating the property’s beautiful intersection of art and nature along the way, then, later, a savory starter, entrée and perfectly portioned dessert. Meals here (and classes) are included in the package rate. Once full, and a few levels closer to relaxed, I cozy up in bed until the 5:30am alarm sounds—group hike!
Miraval offers a variety of skill-based hikes, and, though reasonably fit, I join a less-intense trek. Knowing a tasty, buffet-style breakfast that requires a semblance of self-control is awaiting me, I steam ahead.
After refueling, I experience my first Discovery Challenge—the Desert Sky Zipline. Expecting a breeze, I fail to factor in scaling a telephone pole (challenge No. 1!). Taking advantage of my middle position, I make mental notes and watch how easy this seems to be for everyone, before, finally, from a small platform 40 feet above the ground, I take the big leap. Never have I felt so accomplished… and all before noon.
Later, I’m happy to see Carolyn Crawford for an hourlong astrology reading. She shares insights about my personal and professional characteristics, and predictions for the coming year (since my visit, more than a few of them have come to fruition). Before I know it, it’s lunchtime. Midday replenishment proves that the culinary promise of my first meals at Miraval was no fluke. A vast salad bar offering a nice selection of healthy options complements a mouthwatering à la carte menu. So savory is the spa cuisine, I would choose it over that of many restaurants.
Indulgences continue at the spa, this time with the Ultimate Ayurvedic treatment in the indoor-outdoor treatment rooms (the original spa’s only holdovers). This singular restorative treatment focuses on the essential elements of Ayurvedic therapies (Abhyanga massage to loosen toxins and increase circulation; serene marma point therapy to cleanse and balance energy; and Shirodhara therapy, an oil practice whereby a soothing stream of gently heated oil rolls over the forehead, known to deeply relax and balance the nervous system). Lastly, I’m bundled in a warm wrap to magnify the treatment’s healing properties—taking relaxation to new heights.
While it would be easy to drift off to sleep for the night, I freshen up for predinner cocktails at Palm Court. If, like me, you frequent a bevy of destination spas, then you know that the presence of alcohol is a rarity. Not at Miraval! Here, you sip freely, and the option is, well, refreshing. Capping things off is a private Cooking
With the Chef experience—a kitchen demo and healthy cooking instructional that produces a seasonal five-courser and wine pairings.
Another morning finds me heading off property for the Miraval Equine Experience—where guests go one-on-one with well-trained steeds to perform basic equestrian ground skills. In the moment, I use the time to reflect. It’s a relaxing primer for the marquee event—the grand-opening ceremony hosted by the Cases and Miraval Director Philippe Bourguignon. The evening began as guests enjoyed healthy bites and Champagne indulgences while rubbing elbows with celebs like Sharon Stone, and Bill and Giuliana Rancic, before the anticipated ribbon-cutting. The evening was topped off with a VIP cocktail party at Bourguignon’s private Miraval villa.
Such exertions necessitate yet another spa experience—the HydraQuench body treatment, which leaves my skin feeling moist and my body rejuvenated. Like all Miraval spa indulgences, designed to provide the mind-body-spirit set with a physical and emotional overhaul, this one delivers. But, in the end, it all does.
Astonishing new look aside, Miraval is still a desert oasis proffering serenity and, when needed, a luxurious return to sanity. Still, it appears that some things never change.