Blue Ridge Bliss
Set in southern Virginia’s spectacular Blue Ridge Mountains, Primland (Meadows of Dan), a sporting retreat and idyllic getaway, is a true family affair. The property’s 12,000 acres are owned by the Primat family, once headed by French-Swiss billionaire Didier Primat. He bought the property in 1978, and it is said he was so taken with it that he gave his daughter Garance, born the same year, the middle name of Virginia. Although he passed away in 2008, his legacy is carried on by his eight children, who play an active role in the Primat family-owned company, Primwest, headquartered in Geneva, which owns Primland and other leisure-related businesses.
Nearly the size of Bermuda, the expansive property has a storied history dating back to 1747, when the governor of Virginia, Lord Brooke, gave a 60,000-acre land grant to one William Austin. In the 1900s, much of the land was tapped for lumber. It was also a popular area for making moonshine whiskey. In fact, evidence of this remains today with numerous whiskey still sites scattered throughout the property. After the land was bought for the family-owned Primtimber, the Primat family began spending its summer holidays there. Realizing it was a special place that deserved to be shared, the family celebrated the grand opening of the 72,000-square-foot Lodge at Primland in 2009. It wasn’t long after that The Spa at Primland made its debut.
Playing a key role in developing the 8,134-square-foot spa, Garance Primat made sure the healing haven incorporated her father’s love of nature and respect for the environment. In keeping with the lodge’s aesthetics, the six-treatment-room spa relies on locally sourced natural building materials, such as marble, stone, and wood. Although the lodge’s exterior was completed earlier, Primat was adamant that alterations be made to the design when it became apparent the spa’s relaxation room wouldn’t benefit from the property’s stunning views. As a result, guests are now able to relax in comfort before floor-to-ceiling windows that capture an idyllic view of nature.
According to spa director Melissa Dillon, most guests are looking to relax, recharge, and rejuvenate in harmony with nature. “We wanted to take the spa experience to new heights and give our guests a feeling that will linger as long as their memories of this very special mountain getaway,” says Primat. “To do this, we have taken a European approach and blended it with the holistic remedies used by local Native American tribes to be able to offer a variety of massages that will renew the body amid sounds and settings that will renew the spirit.” In creating the menu, Little Wolf Griffith, a Monacan elder, was consulted along with some members from the Cherokee, Lumbee, and Lakota tribes. “Over many years, some eight Indian tribes have visited, claimed, or lived on the land now known as Primland,” says Dillon. “It is the culture of these first Americans that influenced the spa’s philosophy.”
Inspired by these beliefs and legends, the treatments are based on the concept of the medicine wheel and are designed to work in line with the energies of the natural world, changing with the seasons, in an ongoing cycle. Guests can opt for the Shenandoah, Daughter of the Stars Facial ($210, 2 hours), which was inspired by the legend of Shenandoah, a river and valley considered so beautiful that the stars in the heavens chose to place their brightest jewels there; the See-Quayah Facial ($110, 60 minutes), inspired by the chief who invented the Cherokee alphabet; and the Magic Lake Wrap & Float ($130, 60 minutes), inspired by another legend that tells of a mystical, healing body of water known only to the animals of the forest.
It was with a sense of harmony in mind that Naturopathica, Jane Iredale—The Skincare Makeup, DayNa Decker, SpaRitual, and ME! Bath product lines were chosen. “We use natural and organic products to always keep in harmony with nature,” says Dillon. The spa also incorporates turquoise, a stone that Native Americans believe harmonizes the body, the skin, and the spirit. Not only is it used in various treatments but the color was also chosen for the frames, tiles, and towels, as well as elsewhere throughout the spa. According to Native Americans, turquoise is believed to represent a piece of sky that has fallen to the earth. It is considered to be the “stone of eternal youth.”
In addition to the Native American influence, the spa incorporates a European approach. The women’s locker room features a hammam and Spa Horizon, a unique mosaic-tiled hydrospa that is the first of its kind in the U.S. The spa also offers a number of treatments using a Soft Pack System, which allows guests to experience the sensation of floating without actually getting wet. “The Soft Pack System is a new treatment to this region, and after its introduction, it has quickly become a favorite,” says Dillon. According to her, both Spa Horizon and the Soft Pack System were essential to creating the European/American Indian blend found at the spa.
With 10 to 15 full- and part-time employees on staff, the spa can accommodate up to 42 guests in a day. “We have taken time to build a well-trained and knowledgeable staff, mostly scouted from within and around Meadows of Dan,” says Dillon, noting that staffing poses her greatest challenge in the remote area. In regards to the future, she is focused on continuing to offer high-quality treatments and service. Says Dillon, “As everything does in nature, we will keep evolving.”