topnotch photos


Above, an exterior nighttime view of the Spa at Topnotch in Stowe, Vt.


If you’re booked into the Spa at Topnotch for an acupuncture weight loss treatment or fitness program — you might want to avoid the lobby at tea time. The fresh-from-the-oven cookies set out for guests are too yummy for anyone hoping to drop a few pounds. I rave about them to John the concierge as I hurry to a kick-boxing class.

While its category remains a “resort spa,” the 30-plus treatment room Spa at Topnotch — located near Stowe and the ski hills of Mount Mansfield — is among a growing list of such facilities that finds itself offering treatments and programs more often associated with a “destination spa.”

Take kick-boxing, for instance. It’s one of many regularly-scheduled fitness classes that guests can partake of seven days a week. Hip hop, Zoomba, Pilates, yoga, Tai Chi and a sophisticated tennis program are a few other options. Along with regular, expert-led classes, the resort also has a great gym with personal trainers. I book a one-on-one session with fitness manager Peter Johnson who makes me fill out a health questionnaire before teaching me a few weight-bearing exercises to help build muscle strength.

Additionally, the spa menu offers treatments not generally available at your average resort spa. Acupuncture for weight loss or facial rejuvenation, for instance. Thai massage and Shiatsu treatments are listed on many spa menus, but it’s rare in North America to find a therapist who has spent 12 years in Japan devoting himself to the practice.

Then there’s the medi-spa. “We partnered with an esthetic dermatologist to create a true medi-spa,” says spa director Alexandra Robinson. How does she define the term that, even in the spa industry, is still not clearly articulated? “It’s a spa offering cutting-edge esthetic services that are medically supervised,” she says.

Of the many things I like about this spa, one is the concierge service offered by medical director Dr. Randy Stoloff. If the doctor is in, guests can sign up for a little Botox, for instance. The doctor works according to a client’s schedule and not his own. I put the promise to the test. Instead of ordering dessert with dinner, I booked a shot of Botox. The spa was closed but Dr. Stoloff opened his office and it was done in the time it would have taken to devour a crème caramel.

Also on the medi-spa menu is a space-age facial called the VI Peel that promises results with “no down time.” It’s not something Dr. Stoloff would recommend just before an important event. “No down time” generally means you can go about your regular business, but, in the case of chemical peels, you may look as if you’ve had a snooze under a sunlamp. I did. But my temporary florid complexion wasn’t offensive enough that I couldn’t attend a dinner party that evening.

Along with fitness classes, alternative therapies, space-aged-doctor-driven rejuvenation treatments, another thing that smacks of “destination spa” is the customization factor: Spa guests don’t have to pre-book treatments. Instead, they meet with a therapist upon arrival to set up a customized schedule.

That night, turn down service includes a plate of cookies on the bedside table. A midnight snack from John the concierge. Now that’s what I call attention to detail.