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Spas: Rules of Surrender

Photo by Barbara Kraft/Getty Images

In 2003, I was among the first guests to experience the Spa Montage Surrender at Southern California’s Montage Laguna Beach. So when I was recently offered a similar opportunity at the resort’s sister property in Utah, I was happy to capitulate.

Montage Hotels & Resorts, which also operates a city hotel in Beverly Hills, officially launched its Surrender program at the 220-room Montage Deer Valley in November. Priced from $2,950 for three days, the program is designed as an ultracustomized destination-spa experience in which the responsibility of choosing treatments rests with the therapist, who remains with his or her assigned guest during the duration of the retreat. The offering includes all accommodations, meals, and gratuities, as well as all therapies at Montage Deer Valley’s spa—a sprawling 29-treatment-room facility that features Vichy shower areas, hydrotherapy rooms, and a couple’s zone complete with side-by-side copper bathtubs.

The Montage Surrender program is the brainchild of Anne Bramham, a no-nonsense Brit who founded the American Spa Therapy and Education Certification Center (ASTECC) and is an instructor for the Dr. Vodder School of North America. Bramham has an unwavering focus on the holistic and therapeutic value of treatments, and her Surrender regimen delivers one of the most well-rounded and personal spa experiences in the States.

During my first experience Surrendering, I was at one point assigned a one-on-one yoga session by my therapist. Not fond of yoga, I let the instructor know my preference, and she instead took me on a hike. Taking a break during the hike, we sat on a rock reviewing simple breathing exercises that she felt would benefit my type A personality. I still practice those exercises today, and several others I learned over that weekend.

As I had done in 2003, I filled out a Personal Lifestyle Profile (covering eating habits, exercise routines, allergies, and more) prior to my visit to Deer Valley. Upon arrival, I handed myself over to Ashley Jo Cantrell, an enthusiastic and well-educated young woman who, like every Montage Surrender therapist, is ASTECC-certified with 264 postgraduate education hours. Cantrell compiled a three-day schedule for me that included dry-brushing, algae wraps, hot-and-cold contrasting Vichy showers, craniosacral work, massages using manual lymphatic-drainage techniques, and an excellent core-fitness session and hydrotherapy massage that managed to help an old problem with my right hip (for which I have visited osteopaths, massage therapists, and others over the years). After the fitness work, my hip was so improved that I felt like I was walking on a cloud. The following hydrotherapy bath—with algae, yarrow, nettle, and chamomile—helped calm my body while Cantrell worked deep into my joints, hips, and back with the gentle pressure of water from a hose.

Montage Deer Valley’s comprehensive Surrender does not end at the spa. Like the Laguna Beach program, the Utah property’s Surrender includes customized cuisine. During my stay, I enjoyed entrees tailored to my body type, which is long and lean with a high metabolism. The dishes—halibut with watermelon, watercress, and serrano pepper; crispy tofu with pineapple rice—were equally well suited to my tastes.

Montage Deer Valley, 435.604.1300, www.montagedeervalley.com

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