I head to the Red Mountain Spa
outside St. George, Utah in search of energy, adventure, pampering, and
time with my daughter. A spa holiday can be so many different
experiences. Which would I find the week before Christmas at this
desert retreat?

The two-hour drive from Las Vegas begins the transition: from clamor to
quiet, blaring to muted, brassy to timeless. The gates of the Red
Mountain Spa swing open to a series of red clay buildings barely
discernable from the landscape. I wonder briefly if the interiors will
be equally modest. Then an attentive staff member leads us to our villa
the discovery of balance begins.

A seemingly endless resource in the desert is space. At Red Mountain,
space becomes a component of luxury. Ceilings are high, floors stone
tiled. Oversized rooms provide an escape from heat or a cozy refuge
complete with gas fireplaces in bedroom and living area - - depending
on the time of year. Light filters down on the massive Jacuzzi tub and
the floor of the shower is set with individual stones that massage the
feet. My daughter considers the bathroom the third room - - easily her

Our first (all-inclusive) meal is dinner so we follow the path past the
outdoor pool, around the fitness complex, and past the Outfitters store
to the dining facility. Here too the d├ęcor highlights local products,
drawing from and giving back to the community. I'm also amazed at the
use of kerei board. The look is similar to woven bamboo but is made
from sorghum stalks and reflects the Spa's commitment to

Dining room tables accommodate groups of varying sizes and while
breakfast and lunch are buffet style, the evening meal is ordered from
a menu. A soup and salad bar offer starters and guilt-free seconds.
My daughter is thrilled with the beef entree and I'm pleased with my
vegetarian option. Dessert offerings are creative and scrumptious. Who
can feel deprived when the choice is between a banana split and pumpkin

We are up early the next morning hoping to take our first hike, but a
rare storm has blanketed the desert with snow. We head to the Adventure
Center (located next to registration) in search of alternative
activities and find the guides excitedly unpacking snowshoes. A local
canyon has already been scouted and a potential disappointment is
transformed into a unique opportunity. Immediate camaraderie develops
in our snowshoeing group of about eight guests and information is
exchanged about activities, spa treatments and staff. All receive rave

The afternoon brings the classic spa dilemma. Pilates class or a
facial? Yoga or Chi ball? I even consider a nap followed by an outdoor
hot tub in the snow - - the purpose is, after all, revival! My daughter
chooses the Canyon Warm Stone Message in honor of our morning trek.
When I see her two hours later she is relaxed almost to the point of
incoherence. I decide on the Desert Gem Hydrating Body Facial. I
carefully note that the spa facility is elegantly decorated and
spotlessly clean. Then I surrender to what I can only describe as
combination message and cocooning. It is pampering par excellence!

The next morning, we appear at the Fitness Center bright and early - -
perhaps the self-imposed price for yesterday's indulgence. At Total
Body Conditioning, we discover we are one of three mother-daughter
pairs in the class. We learn that another guest has come with her dog
because there are two dog-friendly rooms available. We tell her that
we are signed up for the Pound Puppy Hike this afternoon. It's a
program set up by a former Red Mountain Spa adventure guide who runs
the only No Kill shelter in Utah.

The hike is scheduled for after lunch when we are taken by van to the
nearby town of Ivins. The shelter is in need of renovation but the
animals are well cared for and have clearly arrived at a safe haven.
The Animal control officer Linda, who leads the hike, matches us each
with an eager canine companion and off we go. The dogs fall into line
(the alpha dog is a pit bull named Duke) and the bonding process
begins. Linda explains that each walk teaches the dog to trust a new
human and ultimately makes the dog more adoptable. From the human
perspective - - well it made my day.

As we pack up to return to Vegas, I'm reminded of my initial question:
what experiences would I find at the Red Mountain Spa? I could list
activities, but more important is my renewed sense of balance. I'm
happy to have eaten well and healthfully. I'm pleased to have snow
shoed and napped. I'm glad I chose a property that is respectful of the
environment. And I found my dog walk and my hydrating wrap equally
rewarding. Balance means many things. The Red Mountain Spa makes it
possible for each person to strike his or her own.