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Weekend: Stowe Spas

Weekend: Stowe Spas
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Stowe, Vermont, is known for action: skiing in winter and biking, hiking, fishing, and horseback riding in summer and fall. But for simple relaxation in a beautiful place, come here in early spring when the crowds melt away with the snow. When Stowe Mountain Lodge opens this April, this town of just 4,400 or so residents will boast three full-service luxury spas.

With a total 106,000 square feet of spa space, equivalent to almost two football fields, Stowe has more room for pampering than any other New England town. Each spa is a destination in itself, as each offers a different feel.

My husband, Seth, and I checked in first at Topnotch, halfway up Mountain Road. Opposite the spa desk, a full wall of glass looked into a sky-lit solarium and an indoor swimming pool. We were escorted to separate men’s and women’s relaxation rooms, where we slipped into the requisite spa robes and sandals. I began with the Vermont Wildflower Treatment, a sugar scrub, before being bundled in herb-soaked linens, all followed by a deeply relaxing 25-minute massage.

Meanwhile, Seth, a first-time spa-goer, hesitantly tried the hour-long Swedish massage. He loved it, and couldn’t stop talking about the extras: big-screen TV and overstuffed chairs in the men’s waiting room, fresh fruit, steam room with eucalyptus, and towels soaked in cucumber water.

We repaired to the hot tub, where a waterfall cascaded onto our shoulders as we gazed out at Mount Mansfield. We could have lunched in town at any of its 60-plus restaurants, taverns, and pubs; we could have shopped; or we could have walked the famed 5.5-mile Stowe Recreation Path that runs past the West Branch River, swollen with snow melt … But in the end, we put on our spa robes, walked back to our room (decorated with chic country quilts), and made our way to the bistro atmosphere of Norma’s (part of the Vermont Fresh Network), right next door — no crowd, no wait.

Closer to town, the family-owned Stoweflake resort highlights New England with details such as leaf-print wallpaper in the bathrooms, a signature maple sugar scrub on the list of spa treatments (one of more than 120), and a mural of the surrounding mountains by the indoor pool. Here you’ll find the waiting rooms more intimate; the guest rooms, most with gas fireplaces, offer still more local charm. And if you’re in the mood for a boisterous scene après-spa, check out Charlie B’s Pub.

Tucked at the base of Spruce Peak is the brand-new Stowe Mountain Lodge. With its opening set for this April, the resort includes a hotel, a restaurant (also part of Vermont Fresh), and, of course, a spa. As at Topnotch and Stoweflake, locals and visitors are welcome with a day pass. Here, décor and spa offerings embody the ancients’ four elements, with amenities such as “rain” showers, twig screens, ultrasonic oxygen infusion facials, and wood-burning fireplaces.

Yes, the ultimate relaxation may simply be to get away to a place where lodging, dining, and diversions all flow from one source. To the long list of Stowe activities, it’s time to add pure pampering — at any time of the year.

Please Note: This information was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

Updated Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

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