courtesy of hills health ranch
Juanita Corbett, co-owner of Hills Health Ranch in the teeny, tiny town of 108 Mile Ranch, B.C., looks at my skin and tells me I’m low in vitamin A. How can that be? Raw carrots are my snack of choice. “You’d need to eat a whole basket of carrots everyday to get the vitamin A you need,” she tells me. A homeopathic esthetician for more than 20 years, she should know. I also need more fish and fish oils, she adds, which contain the fatty acids we need for healthy glowing skin and overall health. I’m booked for a facial and this is the type of knowledge and experience that sets the spa at Hills Health apart.
One of only a handful of health and wellness spas in Canada, Hills Health Ranch has been catering to health and wellness seeking patrons since the mid-’80s. A scenic one-hour shuttle from Williams Lake airport, the spa is embraced by authentic ranch country.
A collection of buildings include a main house (with spa, dining room, indoor pool and gym) several buildings with accommodations plus a log-home-style structure devoted to retail, a second dining room, tea salon and games room for families.
“It’s the only spa in North America approved by any of the European countries medical systems,” says Corbett. About two years ago, the Finnish government announced an initiative to cover the cost of seven- and 14-night all-inclusive wellness programs for its army veterans. He estimates, about 80 Finns have already taken advantage of the offer.
Along with complete spa facilities and a full menu of treatments, the health ranch offers guided hikes, wellness workshops, fitness classes and yoga. Spa treatments can be combined with personal fitness, weight loss, nutrition counselling and a wide range of outdoor activities to create customized programs. There’s a large, fully-equipped workout centre and a daily schedule of classes such as Pilates, yoga, soft aerobics and low-impact cardio. Outdoor activities include guided fitness hikes and, come winter, snow-shoeing.
Every one who comes for a six-night or longer wellness program automatically gets a fitness assessment, and private nutritional and lifestyle consultations. Conducted by certified fitness consultant Patti Harper, the 90-minute assessment covers things such as BMI, aerobic fitness, grip strength, push-ups, back extensions and flexibility. She stresses it’s an assessment and not a test, and everyone must go through the ropes before participating in any form of weight loss or fitness program.
There’s a full menu of spa treatments — the usual such as pedicures, facials, massages and wraps — but many of the services have more of a wellness twist than what you’d find in your average spa. Since skin is the largest organ of the body, it speaks volumes about nutritional deficiencies and all Hills Health estheticians, for instance, are trained to do a nutritional analysis prior to a facial.
The Corbetts acknowledge that savvy spa goers might miss the glass, brass and marble of more luxurious facilities, but the true value they say (and I can vouch for it) is in the staff and the treatments. The range and calibre of wellness professionals available — from a microbiologist, GP, kinesiology, nutritionist, half a dozen personal trainers —for personal programs, and their depth of knowledge more than make up for anything the ranch lacks in upscale esthetic appeal.
It was back in the early ‘80s the Corbetts realized the wellness lifestyle was not just something they wanted to live, but something to share. And share they do. I left feeling not only relaxed and refreshed, but armed with new knowledge that can help me live a longer healthier life.
Anne Dimon is a spa and wellness travel writer and editor of www.traveltowellness.com, the online magazine for the wellness-minded traveller.