ALBERTA SPAS & WELLNESS TRAVEL

In the province of Alberta, spa-goers will find the greatest number of spas concentrated in the areas of Calgary and Banff/Lake Louise. But it's not really the spas that bring visitors to Alberta - it's the spectacular natural attractions and outdoor activities. Wellness-minded travellers should choose Alberta for its "mountain medicine." Read more... Heralding the arrival of 2008, Alberta has just passed a province- wide smoking bylaw prohibiting smoking in bars and restaurants. Good for you Alberta!

SPAS IN ALBERTA
Calgary
Stillwater Spa at the Park Hyatt,
Santé Spa

Banff
Willow Stream, Fairmont Banff Springs; Red Earth Spa, Banff Caribou Lodge; Spa at The Rimrock Resort

Lake Louise
Aveda Escape Spa, Fairmont Lake Louise; Temple Mountain Spa, Post Hotel & Spa

Things you should know before you go:

The Canadian Rockies offer visitors a variety of geographic landscapes, alpine meadows, emerald lakes, rushing waterways, backcountry wilderness and some of the best hiking and skiing in Canada.

Edmonton, the capital of Alberta is knows as the Festival City.

The province boasts almost two dozen scenic drives.

Calgary prides itself on being a "cowboy town" especially during July and the Calgary Stampede - billed "the greatest outdoor show on Earth."

This is where you'll find two of the most popular national parks in the country - Banff National Park and Jasper National Park.

SPAS IN CALGARY

Known as "the gateway to the Canadian Rockies" Calgary is a booming city with lots of new development underway. From here it's about a hour-and-a-half drive to Banff, two hours to Lake Louise. It's also a city for cyclists. Calgary has Canada's largest paved bike path system - more than 635 km long.

Stillwater Spa, Park Hyatt Hotel

Compared to the traditional feel of the Hyatt Hotel Calgary, this Stillwater Spa is surprisingly modern and chic. There are 13 treatment rooms and a lovely dimly lit serenity lounge for relaxing afterwards. A beautiful built-in acquirium is a nice touch and watching the fish (seemingly chosen to match the colours of the room) becomes almost meditative. It's a very pretty space. A couple's treatment room allows twosomes to share a spa meal in privacy.

Santé Spa

Don't let the entrance of the adjacent-to-a-parking-lot-building that houses Sante Spa fool you. Inside, is a "very spa" environment. The spa has 12 treatments including a hydro-therapy room and couple's room with a fireplace and a mani-pedi area. Much of the clientel come in for medical esthetics such as Botox, fillers, peels, micro-dermabrashion, IPL (intense pulse light) and laser treatments. It was the first full-service medi-spa in Canada. There's now a second Sante Spa at the Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort & Spa, just outside Victoria, B.C. The company also has its own cosmaceutical line of skin-care products called Medique.

Santé Spa is a good bet for Calgary visitors wanting a spa service, a bit of Botox or instant plumping.


SPAS IN BANFF

Willow Stream, Fairmont Banff Springs

One of the largest spas in Canada (23 treatment rooms on three levels), this Willow Stream's claim to fame is the beautiful, mineral springs water circuit. The main focus of the spa, the co-ed, indoor space offers a collection of pools (set at varying degrees of hot and cold), three waterfalls, a steam room and an outdoor jacuzzi with a spectacular view of the Rockies. The spacious spa is decorated with artwork and potted plants and there are several quiet areas. It's Willow Stream's flagship Canadian property and helped set the benchmark for the quality chain of spas. The locker room is stocked with a full line of amenities. The two points of distinction are the mineral pool and the view.

Red Earth Spa, Banff Caribou Lodge

Pleasantly earthy with the decor - lots of natural materials, stone tile floors, bleached wood cabinets and earth tones - Red Earth Spa offers six treatments rooms including a Vichy room, a couples room with a private plunge pool and a mani-pedi area. Spa guests share the hotel's large hot pool with hotel guests. There's a small gym. It's a small but very pretty spa. We like it.

Spa at The Rimrock Resort

Located on Sulpher Mountain overlooking Bow Valley just a five-six minute walk from the Banff Upper Hot Springs (see review below), The Rimrock Resort is a quiet mountain setting where the rooms are categorized by view - Superior, Deluxe and Premier. Each room offers a view to nature and as far as we're concerned they are all grat. The spa is small but in keepng with the intimacy of the 346 room hotel. There's a small lounge, four treatment rooms and a mani-pedi area but it's all about the view, which you can drink in while sitting out on the spa's patio. Weather permitting, it's the perfect spot to enjoy a spa lunch. There's a good size gym, pool area, a large hot tub and great mountain views from almost every perspective. Conveniently, a two-minute public shuttle to downtown runs every 40 minutes.

Pleiades Massage & Spa, Banff Upper Hot Springs

Visitors have been coming to "take the waters" at Banff Upper Hot Springs" for over 100 years and while there is no luxury and pampering here, The two-level (six treatment rooms) Pleiades Massage and Spa (added in 1996)offers excellent treatments either before or after a dip in the steamy door mineral pool. There are no mani-pedis. No worries if you've forgotten a bathing suit, vintage bathing suits can be rented on site. They are not terribly sexy but at least they are not made out of wool. The natural attraction is open 365 days a year. Go for the view and the unique experience. With the steam raising off the hot pool and the mountains in the background - it's really quite mystical.


SPAS IN LAKE LOUISE

When the weather is good and the Trans Canada Highway (the road that connects these two much visited mountain destinations)is not deemed dangerous due to ice or snow conditions, the 45 minute to 1 hour drive between Banff and Lake Louise is therapy onto itself. The highway is flanked with a legion of tall, proud evergreens act as footguards for the kingly Canadian Rockies in the distance. Mountain therapy at its best.

Aveda Escape Spa, Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

Aveda Escape Spa on the lower level of the Fairmont Lake Louise doesn't do this iconic property justice. It's a disappointment. Maybe, it was an off day when we visited but the staff wasn't at their most cordial. Locker room is itsy bitsy and even though this is an Aveda spa, the locker room amenities are few. The body treatment at the hands of Heather the spa therapist was lovely but overall we have to say this is a guest amenity that does not live up to the quality Fairmont brand.

Overlooking Lake Louise, The Fairmont has one of the most photographed views in Canada - the incredibly scenic and, on a good day, breath-taking Lake Louise.

Temple Mountain Spa, Post Hotel & Spa

Temple Mountain Spa on the lower level of the Post Hotel & Spa reflects the rustic style and feel of this mountain side inn. In the lounge there's a stone-faced gas fireplace, leather chairs grouped around a coffee talbel and a self-serve sideboard with infused waters, fresh fruit and herbal teas. A water feature provides sound effects. The locker room offers great amenities and one of the reasons is that the spa manager believes in allowing guest to sample the products she sells in the retail area. Along with the standard treatments and services there are also signature treatments such as Thai Stem Massage using hot, herbal packed stems (poultices the size of baseballs.)

The Post is a lovely rambling inn with a fine dining room but it's a family hotel so if you're looking for quiet down time don't visit during March Break or the Holiday Season.

MORE ABOUT ALBERTA

Yes. Most visitors to Alberta head for the hills. Huge hills. Alberta is home of the Canadian Rocky Mountains and the country's most renowned national park - Banff National Park where you'll find the town of Banff and Canada's most photographed lake - Lake Louise. Along with mountains and lakes, it's a province of great geographical diversity. United Nations has designated four natural wonders as World Heritage Sites.These World Heritage Sites are the Canadian Badlands, The Icefields, the Northern Lights (best place to view is Fort McMurray
and, of course, the majestic, snow-capped Canadian Rockies.


Banff Upper Hot Springs

It was back in 1883 when railway workers found hot water at the base of Sulpher Mountain. A year later another railway worker noticed steam on the top of the mountain and that let to the discovery of the Upper Springs. In 1885 Banff became Canada's first national Park. The facilities were built in the 1930 and totally refurbished in the mid-1990s. The Pleiades Massage & Spa, a cafe and a gift shop were added at that time.

People came as early as the late 1800s for the "Banff Cure." They came for relief of ailments such as arthritis, gout, diabetes and liver disorders. Curative effects were attributed to the water's minerals and radio-active properties. Minerals include magnesium, solfate, hydrogin and solphite. Clorine is added.

For hikers there's the Sulpher Mountain Trail.

Summer is the busiest time on Sulpher Mountain when guests come by the bus loads to experience Banff's Upper Hot Springs. A public bus runs daily from downtown Banff. It's about $8 Cdn. by taxi.

Interesting fact: A drop of rain falling on the top of Rundle Mountain 200 years ago is just reaching Sulpher Hot Springs today. When the hot springs water reaches the surface it has not seen daylight for hundreds of years and has travelled over 3 km (1.8 miles) into the earths crust.

Where to Stay: While the Fairmont Banff Springs is truly a Canadian icon of accommodations, it is a rambling, sprawling castle-like building and can leave one overwhelmed by its shear size. It can be stressful just trying to find your guestroom. The Rim Rock Resort Hotel is our first choice. The spa is much smaller than the Fairmont's Willow Stream but the views here are superlative and the resort is just a five-minute walk from the Hot Springs.

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