Tradition with a Twist

For centuries, Calistoga, CA, has been a mecca for geothermal healing enthusiasts. Native Americans gathered there to detoxify and purify in the area's steaming pools and rivers, which are rich in magnesium and calcium. Later, in the 1850s, California millionaire Sam Brannan purchased 3,000 acres there and made it his mission to create a healing haven comparable to New York's famed Saratoga Hot Springs. He opened up the Hot Springs Hotel in 1860 as a place where guests could immerse themselves in the hot mineral water and slather their bodies with a mud concoction he created by mixing volcanic ash from nearby Mount St. Helena with the water. This mixture helped establish the region's famed tradition of mud baths, which are said to detoxify, relieve injured muscles, and help soothe stiff joints. Since that time, Calistoga, which is nestled in the wine-laden heart of Napa Valley, has become an acclaimed resort town that is a magnet for those who come to partake in the healing spa circuit that combines immersion in mud and water followed by a period of rest. With the opening of Solage Calistoga, an 89-room contemporary resort that is home to Spa Solage, that tradition is getting an exciting update and turning the new property and spa into the toast of the town. "What sets it apart from other spas in Calistoga is that the mud experience is totally new," says spa director Peggy Francis. "We've just taken the old Calistoga experience and put a twist on it."

 A luxe tub surrounded by flowing curtains is part of Spa Solage's modern take on the soaking portion of the Calistoga bathing circuit.
A luxe tub surrounded by flowing curtains is part of Spa Solage's modern take on the soaking portion of the Calistoga bathing circuit.

The mud option, dubbed the Mudslide ($95, 60 minutes), at the spa's Bathhouse begins when spa-goers sidle up to the Mud Bar, where Mudtenders create a mix of Solage Mud, essential oils, geothermal water, and an antioxidant-rich signature serum filled with grapeseed, green tea, pomegranate, strawberry, and wasabi root extracts. Guests can choose from an invigorating Mud Mojito, a relaxing Lavender Mudtini, a sensual Mud Mimosa, or the Sam Brannan Muscle Soother, which is loaded with essential oils that relieve aching muscles. They can also sip on an indulgent elixir or a low-alcohol mini-cocktail. Next, guests paint themselves—or each other if they are there with a group or as part of a couple—bypassing the traditional dip in a communal tub full of mud. "The benefits of this, and the reason it is great to apply it to yourself, is that you really want to get it into the areas where your lymph nodes are, which is in the groin, chest, and under the arms," explains Francis. "Then the mud holds these great essential oils and serum on the body, so it's a very detoxifying program."

After the mud application, guests then enter either the heated group Mud Lounge or the private Couples' Lounge and allow the mixture to dry for approximately 20 minutes. An attendant then instructs guests to rinse off and guides them to the bathtub room. There, they soak in warm geothermal water in a modern-style bathtub that is inspired by iconic Calistoga clawfoot tubs for 15 more minutes while enjoying a cold drink and a cool compress for the head. The "rest" portion of the experience is next. However, in lieu of taking a catnap on a cot, guests get a space-age spot to chill out in one of five SO Sound Chairs, which hold the body at a zero-gravity position and pump soothing music through headphones and the chair, providing them with vibrational healing therapy. Finally, guests can enter either one of three heated mineral pools—a co-ed pool and separate men's and women's pools—as well as cold plunge pools and a steam room. "The Mudslide is very popular, and I think it will gain more popularity as people begin to understand the detoxification process," says Francis.

Prior to the Mudslide, guests sidle up to the Mud Bar to select their signature Mud-tini.
Prior to the Mudslide, guests sidle up to the Mud Bar to select their signature Mud-tini.

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Francis says that another exciting element of the Bathhouse at Spa Solage is the fact that it encourages a social spa experience, a trend that she says is growing by leaps and bounds in the industry. "One of the delights is that it's such a social environment," she says. "All of these experiences are separated by curtains, so guests can have a very private experience if they choose, or they can open up the curtains and talk and enjoy conversation with a group. We're having lots of bridal parties coming through, and we just had a mud baby shower where everyone from the grandmother to the mother to the pregnant daughter and her friends partook in the Mudslide."

Spa-goers await their treatments in the picturesque open-air relaxation area.
Spa-goers await their treatments in the picturesque open-air relaxation area.

The Bathhouse is just one part of the 20,000-square-foot, 14-treatment-room spa, however. Spa Solage has also partnered with skincare guru Kate Somerville, who has a star-studded clinic in Hollywood. A number of results-oriented facials created by Somerville are available at the spa, and she makes periodic trips north throughout the year to train the staff and offer consultations that put Spa Solage guests on the path to perfect skin. "We really wanted to bring the latest in technology that we could offer to the area, and we love the results-driven philosophy that Kate has with her products," says Francis. "We thought it was a great fit, and we're getting great results. She takes care of some of the most famous faces in Hollywood, people who make their money with their face, so we pretty much just rubber-stamped her clinic and brought it north to Calistoga."

The rest of the spa menu offers other cleverly named results-driven treatments that are presented in a fun way that Francis says are approachable to spa-goers at all levels but "are steeped in traditional healing modalities." Highlights include such body scrubs as the Lava Colada Exfoliation ($65, 30 minutes) and the Fuzzy Navel Body Peel ($65, 30 minutes), nail services like the Feeling Tipsy Manicure and Pedicure ($85, 110 minutes), and the Solage on the Rocks ($200, 80 minutes), a massage that incorporates alternating hot and cold river stones. Products used in the treatment rooms include Kate Somerville, Leonor Greyl for head and scalp treatments, and SumBody for body treatments. The all-natural handmade line, which is also used as an in-room amenity for the resort, is results-driven, but it was also created with a deep respect for the earth.

The "rest" portion of the Mudslide experience occurs in state-of-the-art SO Sound Chairs that provide vibrational healing therapy.
The "rest" portion of the Mudslide experience occurs in state-of-the-art SO Sound Chairs that provide vibrational healing therapy.

In fact, the green movement was a vital consideration in the resort and spa's creation. The property, the first offering in a new brand from Auberge Resorts, creators of the nearby luxurious, earth-friendly escapes Auberge du Soleil and Calistoga Ranch, shows the same respect for the planet as the other properties in the portfolio. Solar panels; furnishings made from natural, sustainably farmed, and recycled materials; natural accents like hemp curtains, wool throws, stone countertops, and pebbled showers; interiors finished with non-toxic paints; and the use of Thai sarongs in lieu of bulky laundry-intensive terry robes for guests in the communal Bathhouse are among the eco-minded approaches that were used throughout the property.



Spa Solage does differ from its sister spas in one important aspect—the fact that it is open to the local community and spa-goers from other hotels rather than just to hotel guests. "My vision is that the spa will eventually cater to around 60 percent outside guests and 40 percent hotel guests when we are fully up and running," says Francis. As such, the spa and resort feature the Club Solage membership program for frequent visitors. Spa benefits of the membership include use of the state-of-the-art gym and complimentary fitness classes, access to the Bathhouse, and use of the mineral pools.

Spa Solage
Spa Solage

Francis, who came to Solage Calistoga after serving as the spa director at Spa du Soleil for several years, says future plans also include developing Spa Solage into a true wellness escape with authentic destination spa offerings that include fitness classes, lectures, life coaching, and more. Until that time, she's excited to enjoy the pleasures of unveiling this Napa Valley escape to the world. "I always said that at Auberge du Soleil, they built a palace for us to do our work in," she says. "With Spa Solage, they built us a playground."

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