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As Good As It Gets

A deeply restorative wellness retreat at The Springs Resort combines mineral-rich hot springs with fresh Colorado mountain air

Remember in As Good As It Gets when Jack Nicholson asks Diane Keaton why she always wears turtlenecks — even in the summer? Her instant reply was, “Because I like them!” but I think most ladies know there was probably another reason. Like the late writer extraordinaire Nora Ephron, most of us “feel bad about our necks” and, if we’re honest, as the years unfold, we’re a bit surprised by the spread of crepe-y skin almost everywhere. That’s why my most recent hot springs vacation was especially appealing to me. It not only reset my attitude, jumpstarted my metabolism, and motivated my muscle tone but it also rejuvenated and remineralized the skin all over my body. All as a result of soaking in — and, in the case of my favorite spa treatment, being scrubbed with — the mineral rich waters at The Springs Resort in Pagosa Springs, Colorado.  

According to its newly released research, The Global Wellness Institute values the Hot Springs sector of the GW Economy at $46.3 billion. But my hunch is, if people really knew the health benefits of soaking in warm mineral waters and the surprising effect of its minerals on the skin, I think that niche of the healthy vacation market would be even “hotter.”

Health Benefits of Soaking in Warm Mineral Water

The water wellness retreat I recently attended at The Springs was led by the resort’s medical director, Dr. Marcus Coplin, who specializes in naturopathy and something called balneology which I found out is a “science of using mineral water for its health benefits.”

The good doctor — much younger and hipper than the bespeckled and bearded medical experts one might picture prescribing “taking the waters” at a Czechoslovakian kur hotel for a Tolstoy character made it clear that soaking in one of the 25 mineral pools terraced along the San Juan River that fronts the 79-room resort would become the leitmotif of our stay.

And it was exciting to find out that the pools are continually fed by the deepest geothermal spring in the world, located directly in front of the main lodge of the resort. (Fun fact: the Guinness Book of Records came to measure the depth of the Mother Spring and ran out of “ruler” at 1,002 feet — which makes it about 20 feet deeper than the Eiffel Tower is high.) Turns out “The Mother” helps take care of the town of Pagosa Springs, too — providing geothermal power for schools, many municipal and county buildings, and local breweries.

Actual samples of the 13 minerals found in the geothermal waters — like lithium, manganese, iron, sulfate, potassium, zinc and magnesium — are on display in the resort’s Bath House, along with the benefits they provide. They are varied and many but the highlights include promoting healthy skin (see!), lowering blood pressure, strengthening bones and muscles, boosting immunity, increasing energy, and more.

On our first evening, we were invited to wear our bathing suits and robes to a casual, open-air dinner at the resort’s Barefoot Grill. The menu was sort of split down the middle —designed to appeal to both day guests and locals as well as to resort guests who might be a bit more serious about their health goals. It included offerings ranging from cheeseburgers & fries to Kale Cranberry Salad & Edamame Quinoa Salad. In a town known for its craft breweries, it was interesting to look around and see pops of color in drinking glasses and find out they are the resort’s increasingly popular Vitality Tonics which are nutrient rich, hydrating, non-alcoholic drinks. Guests can choose from a ginger Wellness, sea buckthorn Potent-C and wheatgrass Green Up or goji Restore.  

Warm mineral water, sound bathing, and fresh mountain air resulted in one of the best nights of sleep I’d had in weeks

After hours of travel to get to that quaint mountain town in southeastern Colorado, our day ended with a hot mineral soak accompanied by “singing bowls.” Talk about good vibrations.  With roots in ancient Himalayan meditation practices, sound bowl therapy uses specially crafted metal bowls that emit otherworldly, calming tones as they are struck rhythmically by a padded mallet. You can literally feel the sound waves traveling through the air and the water to your body. It’s one of those things that needs to be felt to be believed. Turns out, the recipe of warm mineral water, sound bathing, and fresh mountain air resulted in one of the best nights of sleep I’d had in weeks.

The next morning, after a choice of sweet or savory house-made crepes, we were back in the soaking pools — but this time to do Aqua Yoga! If you’ve ever wished you had better balance or wanted a deeper stretch in your Warrior II or Triangle Pose, softening your muscles in warm mineral water does the trick. And it doesn’t hurt that the tub our instructor picked for us that morning (which she does according to the pool’s temperature that day) jutted out over the San Juan River where we felt suspended in the air, enjoying an acrosstheriver view of the Western movie-set quality of downtown Pagosa Springs.

After a quick shower and a change to workout attire, we were off to the woods for a choice of Forest Yoga (that’s right, Tree Pose amid the trees), or Hang Time, which is a nap in a hammock strung between the trees in a grove not far from where the yogis did their thing.

On the way back to the resort, we stopped at what turned out to be my favorite restaurant in Pagosa, Kip’s Grill, which is famous for its Green Chile Cheeseburgers, Baja Style Street Tacos and its range of take-home hot sauces. With a nearly 30-year history in the area, there’s a sense that you’ve found the local spot.

The treatments [at the spa] were designed to take advantage of the healing properties of local ingredients

Now it was time for the spa. Unlike many perfunctory and productdriven body treatments at other spas, the treatments here were designed by the resort’s Wellness Director, Sharon Holtz, to take advantage of the healing properties of local ingredients. (Turns out that prior to settling in this mountain town with her familyminutes from the ranch where she coincidentally had planned her dream wedding two decades before — Holtz had lived globally running spas for Mandarin Oriental and Destination Hotels & Resorts.)  

I had a choice of the Aqua Massage (you guessed it: done in the water), a Magnesium Melt or an Energizing Herbal Renewal. I chose the latter and was so happy I did. Detoxifying herbs and clay were blended with mineral water from the Mother Spring to create an active and deeply penetrating body mask. The treatment also incorporates dry brushing of the body — which stimulates the lymph and circulatory systems and acts as an all-over exfoliator — as well as a face and scalp massage, resulting in a powerful body revitalization therapy. The whole thing is topped off with deliciously emollient body oil from the local organic skincare brand ISUN. Did I mention skin is the largest organ of the body? Imagine reserving time to give the skin on our body at least some of the attention we give the skin on our face!

Another not-to-be-missed experience at The Springs is the daily Warrior Plunge. “Dr. C” led us to a comfortable pool to warm up and hear the myriad benefits of contrast bathing — i.e., a hot soak or steam followed by a cold dip. Then we lined up behind him like little lemmings as he led us down the steps to the river, and one by one we slipped into the very chilly, pre-winter waters and tried to get shoulder deep for at least 30 seconds. I made it to 90 seconds. During the next of two contrast rounds, I even held my nose and went all the way under for a few seconds. It was truly invigorating, and you do feel a huge rush of calm after the final soak. But what got me was later in the day when I had a tingling sensation up and down my legs and just felt so damn good and peaceful overall.

Major Lunar Standstill

Unlike a more clinical detox retreat, we certainly were not tethered to the resort during our visit. We even spent one afternoon exploring nearby Chimney Rock National Monument, one of the largest Pueblo (900-1150 AD) communities in southwestern Colorado. The remains of the Great House in this sacred site of the ancient Puebloan community offered views of the Major Lunar Standstill (MLS), a phenomenon that happens every 18 years where, for a few days throughout the year for three years, the moon appears to stand still between two of the mountain’s majestic and aptly named rock spires. Much to my surprise, we just happened to be touring the park the first day of the MLS happening in 2023 through 2024. Sadly for us, the park closed early since there was only space for scientists on the top of the mountain in front of the spires, but it was a thrill to be there at the start of the only MLS in two decades, nonetheless. Another of the wonders of the American West.

I guess you can say, when we were out of the pools at The Springs, we were still soaked in nature. And I could not think of a more fabulous way to end our water wellness retreat in the mountains than a hot air balloon ride, where we seemed to float among them. From about 3,000 feet above that unforgettable Western town, we could even see the steam rising from the depths of the famous Mother Spring.

Looking back on my Colorado soaking respite, it seems the very least I can do is plan an annual hot springs vacation for my mind, my body and my skin — turtlenecks or not, this trip was as good as it gets. 

See medical disclaimer below. ↓

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The ideas expressed here are solely the opinions of the author and are not researched or verified by AGEIST LLC, or anyone associated with AGEIST LLC. This material should not be construed as medical advice or recommendation, it is for informational use only. We encourage all readers to discuss with your qualified practitioners the relevance of the application of any of these ideas to your life. The recommendations contained herein are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. You should always consult your physician or other qualified health provider before starting any new treatment or stopping any treatment that has been prescribed for you by your physician or other qualified health provider. Please call your doctor or 911 immediately if you think you may have a medical or psychiatric emergency.

Kim Marshall
Kim S. Marshall has been at the forefront of the spa & wellness industry for over two decades, visiting spas from Turkey to Tahiti; from Italy to Indonesia and spearheading campaigns for the International Spa Association, Global Wellness Day and the Global Wellness Institute. Known as a ”Wellness Storyteller” on the cusp of industry trends, Kim created the Global Wellness Conversations Podcast in 2019 and since then has interviewed such luminaries as Blue Zone’s Dan Buettner and former member of the Whitehouse COVID Task Force, Dr. Deborah Birx.

 

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