It’s a province better known for outdoor activities and wildlife viewing than spas. But while Manitoba doesn’t boast large numbers of spas — when compared with Ontario or B.C., for instance — it does deliver several unique spa experiences. Here are two:
It’s fitting that the signature treatment at the Riverstone Spa at Inn on the Forks should be an Indigenous Hot Stone Massage. The Forks (where the Assiniboine and Red rivers meet) is a national historic site with a rich history of early aboriginal settlement.
Now granted, a hot stone massage is nothing new, but the one offered by Riverstone is distinctive and special because it was developed in conjunction with — and has the blessing of — elders at the City of Life Thunderbird House, a local aboriginal cultural centre.
The second thing that makes it a cut above is the therapist. Head massage therapist Stephen Meleck brings a passion to the treatment that lends to its authenticity. Meleck has been immersed in the indigenous culture from an early age. “We had pow wows in school,” he says. “It’s a proud part of Manitoba’s culture.”
The 90-minute treatment includes “homegrown” ingredients and tools including a Golden Eagle feather (a symbol of strength and power to the Thunderbird community); a double shell from Lake Winnipeg holding the local sage used in a purification ritual; braided sweet grass (a healing motif) and sweet grass candles.
Other experiential enhancements include heated sheets and towels, warmed massage oils and a ceremonial tea made from local cedar trees. In the background, lulling native songs and gentle chanting, add a spiritual feel.
Beyond this indigenous-themed massage, there’s a wide range of services including a number of Asian-inspired, wellness-type treatments such as Reiki, Stem Cell Massage and the new Facial Reflexology. Or you might want to try a pedicure in one of the ultimately relaxing zero gravity chairs.
The spa is intimate but with 10 treatment rooms, larger than one would expect to find in a 115-room hotel. And the relaxed, good-energy feel that flows freely throughout could be partly due to the daily sage smudging. Negative energies be gone.
Pocket of luxury
It’s a long two-hour-plus drive north of the city along the shores of the mighty Lake Winnipeg to get to Hecla/Grindstone Provincial Park — and, in the middle of it all, Hecla Oasis Resort.
The historical property reopened in late 2008 following a $30-million renovation, and now it sits like a cut-and-polished semi-precious stone in this isolated and rugged island park. I’ve barely checked in when resident naturalist and program director Heather Hinam invites me on a nature walk. There are 75 kilometres of trails on the island and several of them, she says, run right through the property. Along with guided nature walks, other resort activities include cultural tours and geocaching.
Surrounded by wilderness on all sides, the spacious and upscale Hecla Oasis Mineral Spa comes as somewhat of a surprise. For instance, the large and stylish pedicure area with its orange leather banquets feels more NYC than provincial park.
And, in the Unwind Lounge, guests relax on white leather settees, keeping themselves cozy warm with soft grey wool throws. There are 10 good-sized treatment rooms, a full menu of services and adjacent to the spa (and available to all resort guests) a mineral pool water circuit.
After the nature walks, the spa and the soaking in mineral waters, dining on fresh pickerel in the resort’s first-rate dining room constitutes another memorable Manitoba moment.
• For more information on spa and wellness travel, visit www.traveltowellness.com .
– Anne Dimon is a spa and wellness travel writer and editor of www.traveltowellness.com.
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