Associate editor Cathy Carroll visited the Grand Hotel
Quellenhof Health, Spa & Golf Resort in Switzerland last month.
Her report follows.
BAD RAGAZ, Switzerland -- Spa vacations are considered one of
the hottest trends in luxury travel today, and the U.S. does not
lack resorts catering to that interest.
If consumers could easily have a week of massages, facials and
workouts without getting a passport, why try to sell them on such
things in Switzerland? At the completely rebuilt Grand Hotel
Quellenhof Health, Spa & Golf Resort, the answer lies not only
in the Alpine scenery, which soothes guests the moment they arrive,
but also in the Swiss attitude toward what a spa experience should
Edith Nussbaumer, the property's marketing director, said this
Swiss spa's philosophy is to enjoy nature and oneself. She said she
could not understand the regimented atmosphere of a famous spa she
visited recently in the western U.S. "People would get up at 5 a.m.
to hike, but they would walk and walk and not see the nature, and
it was like a stress to go to all the classes," she said.
And then there was the food. "They would serve this [lowfat]
food, and at the end of a week, you could have one cookie. You
couldn't even have a glass of wine," she said.
The philosophy at Grand Hotel Quellenhof, in contrast, is one of
freedom of choice, said Nussbaumer. She made her comments over a
lunch -- served on the hotel's terrace -- that started with a salad
of rabbit filet with warm mushrooms. It was followed by scallops
with Pernod, spinach and asparagus, accompanied by a 1997 Riesling,
and ended with a dessert of vanilla ice cream with berries.
Americans, she said, can learn from the Swiss spa attitude that
healthy living can be about enjoying food and outdoor activities
rather than boot-camp-style exercise and denying oneself
good-tasting meals. At the same time, fresh salads, fruits and
vegetables are emphasized on menus that offer low-salt and low-fat
dishes. A nutritionist can devise a diet in consultation with a
physician and the head chef.
Local wines, especially Blauburgunder pinot noir, are served
here, and the hotel serves its own brand of bottled Alpine
The Swiss, particularly those in this village, should know about
creating spa experiences, given that since medieval times,
travelers have ventured here to "take the waters." The water that
gushes from a cliff into the Tamina Gorge is 98 degrees. It is
pumped about three miles into the resort's indoor and outdoor
The five-star property, which reopened in November 1996 after an
18-month rebuild, has been fine-tuning its spa and fitness program
during the last three years and is targeting a youthful, active
clientele, Nussbaumer said.
It should not be a tough sell. Clean, crisp air wafts down from
snowcapped mountains and tall pine trees encircle the resort.
Guests can take in the vistas from the warmth of an outdoor pool
that is a virtual playground of relaxation. But to get there,
guests never have to walk outside in temperatures that can be
chilly to someone wearing a swimsuit. Instead, the pool is designed
with a canal leading directly from the spa into the warm pool.
Once in the water, guests can venture to several stations, each
with its own configuration of water-massage jets. A stone grotto in
the center of the pool is evocative of the water's source from the
Tamina Gorge. Here guests can get a water massage from a jet inside
the structure. They can also get a massage by standing beneath a
waterfall that tumbles down over the grotto. For a little fun mixed
in with the relaxation, guests can move to a corner and be swirled
round in the "current canal."
Inside the spa are a nearly 7,000-square-foot "water landscape:"
a Roman thermal bathing "temple;" a 56-foot-long swimming pool;
saunas; steambaths; hot tubs, and frigid plunge pools. In the
aromatherapy steambath booths, big enough for two, guests can press
buttons to release the scent they desire: hayseed, camomile, pine
The fitness area offers daily classes, many not usually found in
U.S. fitness programs. Classes range from "active awakening," with
exercises designed especially for those with varicose veins, to qi
gong, a mix of meditation, breathing and slow body movements
performed to Chinese music. Other classes include exercises
designed to support and strengthen the spine as well as the more
familiar step aerobics. Facials, massages, manicures, pedicures and
other treatments are available at additional charges.
The hotel's par 70, 6,300-yard golf course offers a 50% greens
fee reduction for hotel guests. The resort area also offers biking,
jogging, fishing, horseback riding, hang-gliding, rock climbing and
skiing. The Pizol ski area, at 7,000 feet, can be reached from Bad
Ragaz by gondola. The St. Moritz ski area is about a 90-minute
drive, and Davos is 40 minutes away.