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The Great Desert Escape

By J.P. Faber
Posted On Mar 22, 2011

By: Eliza Drewa

Our editor heads west and finds ‘spa’ inside and out

Scottsdale. I was last here more than a decade ago, but I remember it well. A hub for the elite, with chic shopping, fine dining—all the things I LOVE when vacationing. Okay, this wasn’t really a vacation. This was work. Work, vacation, whatever. I was going to visit two spas and stay at their exclusive properties. Just what the doctor ordered for this weary traveler.

I flew in at night. Peering out of the plane window at what in most cities would have been an almost-black sky, this sky was alight with the reflection of a twinkling expanse of lights that stretched in every direction as far as my eyes could see. Hello, Phoenix! Compare that with my 30-minute taxi ride from the airport to Scottsdale. We drove away from the artificial lights of the city and into a desert night that was so dark I wondered for a moment if my driver had taken a wrong turn. (Should I be worried?!) That’s when we pulled into the dimly lit, barely discernible Four Seasons property.

Note to self: Next time, arrive during daylight hours.

The Four Seasons Scottsdale

It’s the kind of place you could come and while a week away without the desire to roam—except for the surrounding desert, of course. With views of the quiet Sonoran Desert, situated in and around jagged mountain peaks and saguaro cacti, it’s literally breathtaking. A jewel in which you “spa” simply by “being” one with the landscape.

Of course I didn’t get to see these natural wonders until the next day. I could barely see anything more than 20 feet in front of me. But the sky—the sky! It was the kind of sky you only see in isolated areas not polluted with excess light. Turns out, that’s why it was so dark: light pollution restrictions. (A-ha!)

The property doesn’t house a traditional hotel. Rooms are pueblo-style, built into the foothills of Pinnacle Peak, and the resort design is in tune with the harmony of its desert environment. I was greeted in my room with a bottle of champagne and plate of chocolates and fruits to enjoy sitting by the fireplace.

But I wasn’t here just to marvel at the Four Seasons property. I was also here for the spa. The Four Seasons spa appropriately offers unique treatments inspired by the spirit and ingredients of the desert, such as desert sage and jojoba—from skin and body treatments to scrubs, wraps, facials and massages.

One of their signature treatments is the Sedona earth clay body mask, which uses indigenous, iron-rich Sedona clay to remove impurities and nourish the skin.

Another body treatment is the jojoba and prickly pear polish. This is a full-body exfoliation that combines jojoba oil with the healing properties of prickly pear to leave your skin moisture-rich.

While the body treatments were tempting, in the dry desert air, I felt like my face needed some TLC. So I opted for their Firming Collagen Facial designed to make my face look smoother and more youthful. After 80 minutes of facial massage to stimulate circulation and a botanical collagen mask, I reappeared with a visibly radiant visage. Just what this dry skin needed!

Back out in the clean air and bright blue skies, I watched the warm golden sunshine slowly fade into the cooling foothills of Pinnacle Peak. It was time to say goodbye to The Four Seasons and head to my next retreat.

The Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North
10600 East Crescent Moon Drive
Scottsdale, Arizona 85262-8342
Telephone: (480) 515-5700

Hyatt Place Scottsdale

Being the split personality work-spa traveler that I am, I was very happy to be greeted at the front desk of Hyatt Place Scottsdale with a prickly pear margarita. Nothing like a cocktail to convince you that you might actually be on vacation when you’re not.

Located in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale, Hyatt Place is a property for the more metro-minded traveler. Close to galleries, museums and nightlife, there is a plethora of options to entertain the vacationer and business traveler alike.

Drink in one hand, and flanked by two bags, one strapped across each shoulder, I was escorted through the primary 474-room hotel, out into one of the 5 courtyards. My room was in one of the separate casita areas of which there are a mere 18 (talk about royal treatment). Beyond even the amenities of a hotel suite, my casita had it all: a living area, wet bar, kitchen, fireplace and two separate outside terraces. Sweet.

But even sweeter is their onsite spa facility and philosophy. Spa “Avania,” the Greek word for “tranquil,” was designed to provide holistic, total-immersion spa experiences. The spa emphasizes combining six essential spa elements into treatment offerings geared to the body’s natural cycles during three specific periods of the day: (1) morning—awakening and revitalization; (2) afternoon—restoration and balance; and (3) evening—relaxation and repair. Elements include customized spa treatments, mineral therapy, music, natural light, specific antioxidant teas and dining menu. Spa Avania strives to synchronize these elements to balance the body’s daily rhythms and requirements. In my own quest for optimal body balance, I began my day at the spa with Vincent Ruiz, the onsite fitness director, where I took the concept of “awakening and revitalization” into my own hands—make that his hands.

Metabolic Boot Camp and TRX Suspension Training. I can’t think of anything much scarier at 6:30 am before I start my day. (Even the sun wasn’t up yet.) But what can I say?

I’m always up for a challenge… And a challenge it was! I’m in relatively good shape. I run. I lift weights. But the TRX training brought my body close to muscle failure in less than an hour, demanding muscle engagement and response from muscles that I didn’t even know I had.

No doubt about it, I earned my 5 pm trip to Spa Avania for what they call their Evening Offering Experience Two—a dry exfoliation and 90-minute Relaxing Mineral Massage (in dire need of massage at this point!) So the idea at “lifestyle” spas such as this one is to show up early and enjoy the spa amenities. I managed to make it 30 minutes before my scheduled treatment and was greeted by an amber-laced fragrance in the air described to me as their “scent” for the evening, designed to stimulate a physical and psychological response for the evening’s body cycle: relaxation and repair.

After donning robe and slippers, I lounged in the relaxation room with my face turned towards the floor-to-ceiling windows along one wall for a little natural light therapy to reset my inner clock. I also enjoyed a cup of Midnight Jasmine tea, served to aid in decompression from the day for mind-body balance. I would’ve also gone into the healing mineral waters of the pool in the coed spa area, but didn’t have the requisite bathing suit. (Since when do you need clothes at a spa? Somehow I don’t think the guys would mind!)

The treatment itself, exfoliation and massage, was the perfect remedy to repair my body from its rigorous workout that morning.

It was a Saturday night and despite the opportunity to hit the town, I embraced the rhythm of relaxation from my evening treatments and stayed in. If only I could do this every week…

Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch
7500 East Doubletree Ranch Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85258
Telephone: (480) 444-1234