A spa visit in the midst of winter helps you soldier on.Outside, the temperature was a windy 28 degrees, but inside the Seasons Spa at the Manor on Golden Pond in Holderness, I was basking in cozy 75-degree temperatures. Relaxing by the fire as I sipped orange spice tea, I took in the views of the estate and the sounds of composer Tim Janis softly playing over the speakers while waiting for my massage, mini facial and foot parafin treatment. Now this was my kind of writing assignment, I thought to myself: find a great winter spa getaway.
Winter is a great time of year to find solace at a spa getaway, and the prospect of pampering during the post-holiday season is especially enticing. After giving so much to others, why not reward yourself? You don’t need to travel far for a mini break. The Manor is less than an hour from Concord, and there is a smattering of other spas throughout the state connected to small and intimate inns, as well as the grand dame hotels (see the list).
Massages for guests have been on the menu at the Manor since Mary Ellen Shields and her husband Brian took over in 1999. “It’s always been an integral part of our inn,” she says. “We had a small spa room upstairs but it really couldn’t accommodate anything other than massages,” she adds. Then two years ago they converted part of the carriage house so that they could offer more amenities to their guests, “but nothing too elaborate. Our typical guests’ stay is two to three days, and most just want to come for a wrap or a massage.” Their formula seems to be working. “Spa treatments are popular no matter what time of year guests come,” says Mary Ellen.
Massages and facials are the most popular choices, according to Amy Pitman, the massage therapist at Seasons. As she deftly kneads the frost heaves out of my back on the heated massage table, I can see why. But the inn likes to offer seasonal choices as well (hence the name of their spa). One of the offerings is a mud wrap infused with pure New Hampshire maple syrup. Coming soon is the BlackBear Body Polish, a scrub that contains coffee, which Amy explains is nourishing for skin, just right for itchy winter dryness.
My facial consists of cleansers and lotions that are hand mixed in small batches, with ingredients like carrot and lemongrass, at a company just outside of Boston. And the paraffin foot treatment is slightly different than any I’ve ever had before. Instead of dipping my foot into a vat of hot wax (which can sometimes be hot and, if you think about how many feet might have gone before yours, a little unnerving), Amy places what look like oversized plastic Christmas stockings on my feet that contain the melted wax already in them. They may look funny, but they feel great. As an added bonus, the solution they contain is salt with essential oils, so when it’s poured into the heating unit, it makes invigorating orange and mint aromatherapy as a byproduct. Mmmm, I love multi-tasking.
“We are good at focusing on more personal details,” says Amy. “While others might just do what the guest signed up for, if I notice that a client’s back is dry or maybe he doesn’t want his legs massaged, I might do a scrub on his back instead. We focus on what the guests really need and make it a great experience for them.”
Mary Ellen agrees. “We don’t believe in ‘fluff and buff’ — that’s not what we’re about. We want it to be custom to their needs. Every massage should be customized to what the guest wants us to work on.”
After my spa indulgence, I follow the short brick walkway back to the main part of the inn to see what the rooms are like. All but three of the rooms have real wood-burning fireplaces, and most have 2-person jacuzzis, explains Mary Ellen. Every room is decorated differently and some have views of the lake below and the snow-capped mountains in the distance. There’s afternoon tea to enjoy every day, as well as candlelight dining at night. And if you want to tear yourself away from the warmth and relaxation, there’s always a midnight walk, knowing you can come right back to the fire later on.
“There’s a peacefulness you get here, people come up from the city and relax. It’s an amazing feeling. All your worries go away. It’s the pines, the fresh smell of the air and seeing the constellations. They are unbelievable,” says Mary Ellen. “There’s not a lot of stress.”
Any stress I might have had is completely dissipated as I steer back down the curving driveway and out through the stone-post entrance. Over the lake, the hazy moon flirts behind the clouds that threaten flurries and I find myself humming, “Though the weather outside is frightful, the fire is so delightful, and since we’ve no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.” And I think about something else Mary Ellen said.
“Everyone is busy and deserves some pampering.” I couldn’t agree more. NH
Leeann Doherty is a former New Hampshire Magazine staffer, who somehow finds time to do some writing for us while being super-mom to three young children. More InfoThough indulging in a spa treatment sure is nice after a day on the slopes or other winter activity, we won’t tell if you skip right to the pampering. Here’s a list of some of
the inns and hotels that offer spa services right on premises. That means you can relax at the spa, enjoy a great meal and get a good night’s sleep all at the same place.
The Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa
The Grandview Inn & Resort
Wentworth by the Sea Marriott Hotel & Spa
The Balsam Grand Resort Hotel
The Inns & Spa at Mill Falls
Inn at Thorn Hill & Spa
Christmas Farm inn & Spa
Darby Field Inn
Mountain Edge Resort and Spa
Lake Opechee Inn & Spa
This article appears in the January 2008 issue of New Hampshire Magazine