The grand canyon of wellbeing

With three locations across the United States Canyon Ranch has garnered something of a cult following, offering guests plenty to restore both body and mind

Amy Hughes

Canyon Ranch is a 30-plus-year-old institution centered on healthy living, for the mind and body. It began in Scottsdale, Arizona more than 30 years ago, and broke ground with its holistic approach. Two other locations, in Lenox, Massachusetts, at the heart of the Berkshires mountain range, and Miami Beach, opened subsequently. In Lenox, Canyon Ranch created an entire community of day and overnight spas. The integrative CR approach combines fitness with health and wellness, physiology, physical and mental therapy, nutrition, and lifestyle activities promoting healthier living, some of it simply for the duration of the stay, much of it aimed at take-home habits, like its famous cookbooks. Specialists are on hand, for extra fees, to develop and design bespoke exercise and nutritional programmes.

CR’s all-around approach means staff are trained to ask questions and fill in less obvious blanks, which equates to much more than a typical treatment. When my companion took the CR massage, her masseuse made a connection between her foot and shoulder pain, explaining that nerves in the shoulder run all the way down to the feet, so one injury almost certainly impacts another.

De-stressing: Yoga classes
De-stressing: Yoga classes

There are doctors on staff, who see regular and annual patients, and there’s twice-a-day delivery service from the local, holistic pharmacy, which was a lifesaver when I needed Vitamin C – stat.

De-stressing activities like drawing lessons, the stuff one dreams of finding extra hours for at home, are easily accessible, and offer variety from the daily schedule of fitness classes and wellness workshops. Talks like “Living through Loss,” address contemporary issues, like personal and professional transitions, and there are cooking demonstrations, like preparing a dinner party. Movies, with popcorn add a dose of summer camp fun, as does the Winter Solstice Bonfire.

With a 60 per cent return rate, there’s a bit of a Canyon Ranch cult. No longer a female-dominant crowd, CR guests, at least late December, were a range of couples, mother-daughters, girlfriends, and families. Sunday afternoons, in season, offer a group viewing of NFL games and there are guided hikes and walks around the grounds. Guests are all ages – from teenagers, to the senior set, making the atmosphere very inclusive. Many come for 5-day stays. If you’re worried about being surrounded by skinny-Minnie’s, don’t be. Not everyone is here to lose weight, in fact, many are here just to chill, downshift to Pilates and yoga classes, or rehab injuries.

Nor is the all-inclusive food served restricted to traditional diet fare. Homemade pizza and chocolate chip cookies are available daily, which takes a bit of self-policing. The dark chocolate trail mix is dangerously good. The august dining room is overly formal, but the café is spot on with its farm-to-table Mediterranean cuisine. We enjoyed mascarpone French toast and cinnamon baked apples one morning, and guests can pop in for take-away snacks at any time.

Farm to table: Canyon Ranch Lenox Cafe
Farm to table: Canyon Ranch Lenox Cafe

The spa complex houses main activities in one central area. Lovely public spaces include a library and a fireplace-lit lounge stocked with books and games, encouraging slow time. Room and reception interiors are reminiscent of 1980s New England, with dark wood and heavy tones of brown and green, out of sync with today’s light, soft-coloured spa interiors. An 18-month renovation has just begun. Sadly, this means rooms come with views, and sounds of tractors and diggers. Local art for sale lines the corridors; a nice touch, but could be better curated to avoid the feeling of a local arts and crafts fair.

Outside CR, Lenox is a lovely town, which can be explored easily on foot. The resort provides car service from the airport in Hartford, but it pays to have a car for access to some of the prettiest New England villages nearby, like Stockbridge, which is also home to the Norman Rockwell museum, well worth a visit. Just about a 15-minute drive, in Lee, is a small, but substantial outlet shopping centre and a lovely local egg farm (sign-posted) with an old-fashioned general store, which sells delicious homemade pies.

Canyon Ranch

165 Kemble Street

Lenox, MA 01240

Image credits: Canyon Ranch

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