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Spas: Into the Woods

After opening their 58-room Lodge at Woodloch in the Poconos town of Hawley, Pa., last summer, Ginny and John Lopis reminisced about the first American destination spas. Twenty years ago, when the couple established their consulting business, advising spa owners on everything from architecture and design to treatment menus, this country was home to only a handful of destination spas, including Southern California’s Golden Door and Canyon Ranch in Arizona. Usually arriving with the goal of losing weight, guests of these retreats would endure predawn hikes and calorie-controlled meals and stay in relatively basic accommodations. “Our advice to clients was, ‘Use your own natural resources and riches to create something genuine,’ ” recalls Ginny.


Some of Woodloch’s natural resources, its towering oaks and maples, are on display through the floor-to-ceiling windows at Tree, the spa’s moody, candlelit restaurant. There, well-dressed couples gather around the Tapas Bar, sipping hard-to-find Delirium beer and Pinot Noir, while a jazz singer croons nearby. Other guests debate wine selections and consider dishes such as organic Moroccan-spiced lamb chops and bison burgers, while a few patrons gather in a separate kitchen to observe the chef’s cooking demonstration and sample his tasting menu, which consists of five courses, each paired with wine.

“During our first week, a guest commented that we had forgotten to list calories on the menu, and I replied, ‘No, we’ve just evolved,’ ” says John. “Spas have put far too much focus on calories and far too little on a sophisticated, elegant, healthy, but uncomplicated, fine-dining experience.”


The spa menu, which is as uncomplicated as the dinner menu, is neither lengthy nor rife with florid descriptions of treatments. “You won’t find a $200 hay wrap,” says Ginny. “Spa-goers are increasingly sophisticated and looking to genuine healing therapies like Thai, Shiatsu, and deep tissue massage, and reflexology.”

Woodloch’s facilities also are simple yet impressive. The coed Aqua Garden’s various soaking options include an outdoor infinity-edge hot tub and a hydromassage waterfall. Inside the separate men’s and women’s retreat areas, you can relax by the fireplaces or engage in hot-and-cold circuits, moving from the large Finnish saunas and steam rooms to the screened porches with heated floors. Because of space and cost restraints, several of the Lopis’ consulting clients passed on the couple’s recommendation to add these types of porches to their spas, but Woodloch’s $37 million budget and its 75-acre site allowed for their inclusion.

The guest rooms at Woodloch are spacious and have high-speed Internet access, flat-screen TVs, marble baths, and Frette linens. “It’s the 21st century,” Ginny muses. “Why not work out, do yoga, have fabulous spa treatments, hike, kayak, golf, and, at the end of day, enjoy a glass of wine over dinner before slipping under fine linens.” 

The Lodge at Woodloch



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