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Rockin' It At Red Mountain Resort, St. George, Utah

Red Mountain Resort, St. George, Utah

Photos Credit: Janice R. Nieder

It all began when my out-of-state bestie, Joan, called to say that she really, really missed me (sweet) and would I please find us a fun girlfriend getaway, preferably someplace healthy, relaxing and convenient. This sounded like a spa vacation to me except for the fact that we are such totally opposite people. Joan is a veg-head who does her best thinking in a downward dog position. Her buzzwords are spiritual, chakra, crystal, and mindfulness, while I’ve been known to inhale food-cart hot dogs smothered with everything. I am all about hiking, and challenging myself, sandwiched between lots of great food and wine. As you can imagine, this made our trip planning a wee bit difficult until I came across Red Mountain Resort’s webpage with ”Choose to push your boundaries or gently take in breath and space as you need it. ” Bingo!

Red Mountain Resort, St. George, Utah

While reading Red Mountain Resort’s laundry list of accolades garnered over the year—Voted #1 Destination Spa by Travel & Leisure, Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence, named Fodor's Choice Establishment, World's Best Award by Travel & Leisure Reader's Survey, etc.—I remember thinking, if it’s even half that wonderful, it could work for us. After last week’s visit I am happy to report that is it really is all that and more! Plus, its ideal location, perched in the center of Southwestern Utah’s breathtaking red rock country, meant that it was only a short flight to Las Vegas and then a three-hour shuttle ride to the resort.

Red Mountain Resort, St. George, Utah

Our Girlfriends Getaway package included three nights in a luxe villa, tastefully decorated in soft desert-tone colors. We immediately plopped on the humongous couch which became ground zero for our fireside chats. Two big rooms, two TVs, and two full-sized, spa-style baths ensured no bickering. Our villa was next to the pool and outdoor Jacuzzi, which we promptly commandeered since it was usually empty in the evening. There’s nothing quite like girlfriends reconnecting while relaxing in the warm bubbling water, sipping vino under the starry night sky, while nibbling on healthy hummus, guacamole and chips.

We appreciated the many thoughtful touches: the pretty fruit and herb infused water that made drinking your eight glasses a day a breeze, the villa’s complimentary washer/dryer allows you to fly with carry-on only, the kitchen’s willingness to accommodate virtually any dietary need, the golf cart drivers who will whisk you around the property, complimentary Wi-fi, and a Red Mountain Resort backpack and water bottle. We loved ordering room service, or warming up our meals in the microwave for a decadent dinner in bed!

Red Mountain Resort, St. George, Utah

But the best amenity was the incredible service offered by the sincerely friendly, well-trained staff. I never tired of hearing “My pleasure. Is there anything else you need?” in response to a thank-you. After spending senseless hours trying to put together a spreadsheet with all the best classes, hikes and massages, I admitted defeat and wandered over to the concierge desk, where unflappable Marcy, with a few strokes of her keyboard and a couple of calls, made quick work of it all as she cheerfully organized a stellar itinerary that included everything I wanted, plus some things that I didn’t even know I wanted, before handing me my personalized activity chart.

Red Mountain Resort, St. George, Utah

A typical day for me began with chowing down at the buffet breakfast in preparation for the 8:00 a.m. hike. Offerings included fresh fruit, roasted potatoes, apple turkey bacon, spicy sausages, huevos rancheros, muesli and freshly baked pastries. The three to four hour hikes are classified as Beginners, Intermediate and killer Endurance Hikes. I opted for the intermediate ones that worked out perfectly. I was tempted to try one of the advanced hikes until I saw them actually running over the rocky mountains which was way to Rambo-ish for me. Most hikes took place in Snow Canyon State Park, which doubles as Red Mountain Resort’s 7,000-acre backyard. The guides were all enthusiastic and professional, offering helpful hiking tips, such as instead of side stepping down a steep hill, although counter-intuitive, point your toes straight down to prevent a sprained ankle. They each had their own areas of interest which added to the fun. Giuseppe would stop frequently to share his vast knowledge about the indigenous flora and fauna, handing us stems of the Ephedra plant to chew on for quick energy, while Megan pointed out spots where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were filmed and where Katy Perry shot the desert scenes for her Rise video.

Red Mountain Resort, St. George, Utah

FYI: Bring your oldest pair of hiking boots since it’s virtually impossible to clean off the red hiking dust, which I grew to consider my own Red Badge of Courage. And dog lovers can check out the Pound Puppy Hike where Red Mountain Resort partners up with the Ivins City No-Kill Animal Shelter. Each guest gets a handful of treats and a leash attached to a friendly dog that is more than happy to join you for a rollicking hike.

Red Mountain Resort, St. George, Utah

We always returned by 11:00 a.m., in time to take a stretch-type class to avoid sore muscles. Stretching has always been my fitness Achilles heel since I was born unbendable. When others (like Joan) easily strike a “Downward Dog” pose, I strain for a knee bending “Down Puppy”. I reluctantly joined a Total Stretch class on the fitness balls, which was taught by Kristin, the wellness coordinator. I was blown away by how limber I was afterward so I immediately booked her for a one-on-one. Kristin not only adapted a dozen stretches for me, but she also printed out a sheet with detailed instructions so I can do these at home.

By now I’d was ravenous so I met Joan, who spent the morning “mindfully” walking in circles at the labyrinth, at Canyon Breeze Restaurant for a bountiful buffet lunch which included a salad bar, a steaming pot of soup and about siz to eight mains dishes including healthier versions of burgers, lasagna and chili, plus a tasty dessert. Next to each dish was a bowl displaying the recommended serving size with the nutritional breakdown of each item. Don’t rat me out, but I have to admit that after trying the unbelievably scrumptious choco/coconut/cranberry chewy cookies, and finding out they were under 100 calories, I snuck out a couple for our bedtime snack!

Red Mountain Resort, St. George, Utah

Refueled, it was time for afternoon classes. With a roster of 50+ classes, it was hard to decide until we asked some of the repeat guests for their favorites. The ones that got the most votes were: Best for tapping into your inner rockstar: Drums Alive (which turned out to be a total blast!); Best kick-your-butt class: most any class taught by Rebecca (who takes no prisoners) but in particular the TRX-Boot Camp; Best for reliving the old days: Thriller Dance; Best for chillin’: Candle Light Yoga; and Best new style: MELT. Melt is a hands-off, bodywork method that helps reduce pain and aging. Classes cover the whole bod, just your face or one on hands and feet with a special mini- class on bunion prevention. Since Joan and I are both in the “waiting for the wisdom to kick in” side of 50 we were going to try the MELT Anti-Aging Workshop but instead we heeded the call of the Jacuzzi.

It wasn’t until the last day that I realized that I never stepped foot into the gym which is loaded with state-of-the-art fitness equipment such as a new Life Fitness SYNRGY 360 system which addresses core stability functional movement and over just getting pumped.

Red Mountain Resort, St. George, Utah

There are tons of outdoor adventures to choose from including rock climbing, horseback riding, canyoneering and kayaking. I had two “off-campus” quests that are both must-dos! The first was the full day guided hike through Zion National Park. I was finally able to convince Joan to leave her rock circle (her ears perked up once I told her that Zion means “place of peace and relaxation" in Hebrew) for this, which she later said was the high point of the trip! With the changing of the leaves in full force, the towering sandstone cliffs, gaping canyons, lush forests and spectacular vistas, the park was ridiculously beautiful.

Red Mountain Resort, St. George, Utah

As unforgettable as the Zion hike was, I can’t stop talking about my second adventure, Sunset Rappelling. I lucked out since not only was I the only one who had signed up that day, but also when I scored Marc Hansen as my guide. This lean, mild-mannered, middle-aged, ex-hippy-looking guy, sporting a waist-length, graying ponytail, turned out to be an accomplished yoga slackliner, which is similar to tightrope walking at dizzying heights. He was extremely patient as he explained everything I needed to do, reiterating often that among all the flotsam and jetsam of ropes and pulleys he strapped on me, he also attached a safety line so he could catch me if I fell. For some reason, I completely trusted that he had me (even though I probably outweighed him) and I had absolutely no hesitation about stepping backwards off the edge of the 150-ft. high, Cougar Cliff. It turned out that, per Marc, I was "a natural and totally rocked rappelling!” We quickly proceeded to tackle three other cliffs of increasing difficulty. I was so stoked that I almost belted out my own, wildly off-key version of Perry’s Rise song but managed to rein it in. For an incredible adrenaline rush, I give this three thumbs up!

Red Mountain Resort, St. George, Utah

Made it back just in time for dinner and to regale Joan with every minute detail of my outing. Dinners are more gourmet affairs offering about six entrées with a seafood, chicken, special grass-fed beef from Uruguay and vegetarian options plus a few exotic dishes such as Molasses Seared Cervena Venison served with Pepita Cinnamon Dusted Yams and Danish Blue Cheese. Joan and I spent many a night debating which tempting desserts we wanted to share. She usually picked the most decadent chocolate creation while my fave was the Banana Bread Pudding with warm Bourbon Caramel Sauce and Vanilla Ice-cream that weighed in at a very reasonable 263 calories. Since Joan and I like different wines, we each bought a bottle that they will store for you to finish another night.

Joan and I both liked to book a late spa treatment, for the perfect ending to the day. Joan couldn’t stop yammering on about how “renewed” she felt after her Himalayan Salt Stone Massage which combines a traditional warm stone massage with sage and cedar oil. She was torn between that and “Our Vibrational Sound Therapy” which starts with a cup of specialized tea and a footbath and includes singing bowls to set the stage for deep relaxation. After a wonderful but tiring day hiking in Zion, I was delighted with my plain Jane, in-room massage by the talented Nicole. She knocked on my door toting a sturdy massage table that she set up in front of the hot fire. After she expertly kneaded my aching muscles with fragrant oils, I loved that rather than having to get dressed and walk back to my room, I could just slither off the table and fall into bed for one of my best night’s sleep ever!

Janice Nieder

Janice Nieder could be the love child of Indiana Jones and Julia Child. She was a specialty food consultant for 12 years in New York, with a client list that included Tavern on the Green, Dean & Deluca and Sign of the Dove. After being bitten by the travel bug, her culinary adventures took her to over 90 countries, where she shared a smoked monkey dinner with a generous Shuar Indian family deep...(Read More)

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