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The Spa at Salish Lodge - Spa Review

The Sound of Silence

by Kim Fay

According to a Snoqualmie Tribe legend, the 268-foot Snoqualmie Falls is a mystical place where heaven and earth come together. Its vertiginous grandeur demands reverence, even from those who do not believe in the sacred. And so it seems only natural that The Spa at Salish Lodge, which sits on a cliff beside the falls, emanates such a strong spiritual feeling.

This sentiment is echoed by Joan Southon, the spa’s director, who says, “When you walk to the bottom of the falls, you can feel how sacred this area is.” Her voice is soft and soothing, but it also carries a trace of veneration—the same veneration that is evident as we tour the spa and she describes the pattern along the hand-crafted Shoji doors that reflect the bell curve of life, and a crisscross wood design that represents the meeting of the body and mind.

The spa belongs to The Salish Lodge, a historic hotel 30 minutes outside Seattle. Once the “last stop” outside the city for automobile travelers on their way across Snoqualmie Pass, it is now a destination in itself ... especially since it added the spa in 1996. The architecturally eloquent spa blends the design traditions of Japan with those of the Northwest. It is a natural communion, one that feels organic. Add the pervasive spirit of the surrounding forested landscape, and the atmosphere is complete.

Upon arrival at the spa, you are politely informed that you are now entering a silent sanctuary. This edict applies to more than just the treatment spaces. There is a gorgeous soaking pool area; one pool is tiered above the other, with a cascading waterfall flowing into the lower, and from both you can gaze through floor-to-ceiling windows across the road to Mount Si. Although the flow of the water is melodic, it is the hush that you notice. The silence in this spa is so profound that you can actually hear it, much like the silence you hear when you venture into the woods. This kind of quiet isn’t about a lack of noise, but rather the lack of the kind of noise—cars, loud voices and the like—that is associated with civilization.

The Lemongrass Body Elixir, first on the schedule, was preceded by a footbath. This treatment has become a common part of the spa experience, but often it comes at the end. We liked it at the beginning; it relaxed us and got us in the mood for our lemongrass scrub. The refreshing smell of lemongrass was just as pleasurable as the scrub itself, which paired vigorous scrubbing with a tranquil head massage and one of the most soothing uses of hot towels we’ve ever encountered. Draped over the stomach, the warmth and the weight of the towels were divine.

The scrub was followed by the spa’s signature heated river rock massage, using polished stones from the Snoqualmie River. While we mentioned our sore spots to the masseuse, we didn’t expect her to be so intuitive. Having snuggled warm stones between our toes, she began to seek—and gently find—not only those places we’d told her about, but those we had forgotten to mention but were bothering us as well. Our only complaint: that it had to end. It was the best massage we’ve had.

The spa isn’t physically large, and its layout adds to the feeling of intimacy. This is why its impressive range of spaces comes as such a surprise. Hidden away are three Japanese-style massage rooms, a Tutami Thai massage mat room, skincare rooms, a hydrotherapy rain room and more. There is also a couples fireside treatment room in a converted guestroom. With its river rock fireplace, dark tapestry and earthy chenille blankets, it has a warm masculine ambience, which helps men to feel at home. In fact, the spa draws its fair share of male clients because of the fact that it isn’t “girly” and intimidating.

Once done with our treatments, we plundered the gift shop, which offers a library of books on wellness and a wonderful selection of gift items. The spa's soaps were our favorite, perhaps because they are so representative of the spa itself. They are a tiny detail, but great care has been taken with them, just as it has been taken throughout the spa, from the Montana slate floors to the aromatic cedar ceilings. If there was anything we felt was lacking, it was a lounge-like meditation/waiting area. That said, this was one of our most enjoyable spa experiences. And we aren’t the only ones who feel this way. The Spa at Salish Lodge is busy most of the time (although you’d never know it—thank you, silence policy), evidence of a pervasive desire to make the sacred a part of everyday life.

Salish Lodge & Spa
6501 Railroad Ave.
Snoqualmie, WA

(Updated: 07/10/08 HC)

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