Topnotch Resort and Spa, a high-end hotel in Stowe, Vermont, is adapting to the depressed economy by offering rare specials on lodging, cuisine and spa treatments.
“Our regular clients are still keen to indulge,” managing director Dan Oberlander said. “But they’re more frugal. Now it might be two massages during a visit instead of three or four, and a $50 bottle of wine instead of a $100 bottle.
“We also have a number of accessible specials and upcoming low-season prices so more people can experience the resort.”
Owned by Montreal’s Cummings family, Topnotch is considered one of the leading luxury resorts in North America by Condé Nast Traveler and Tennis Magazine. The grand estate has livery horses grazing in meadows, outstanding indoor and outdoor salt-water swimming pools and a comprehensive tennis centre used for international competitions.
The posh resort attracts celebrities like John Mellencamp, Harvey Keitel, Conan O’Brien and Montreal’s Sophie Grégoire, wife of Justin Trudeau.
Still, the resort is constantly evolving.
Mark Timms, the new executive chef and one of television’s Iron Chefs, will present his specialities in May at James Beard House, a culinary centre in New York. He also orchestrates gastronomic food-and-wine evenings for $75, and on March 28 will preview his James Beard feast of Vermont lamb and Canadian salmon for 60 patrons.
The cozy Buttertub Bar has new suede sofas in earthy tones built around the old fireplace and an updated après-ski menu of hot cider, mac-and-cheese and steak-frites.
On the decor side, Topnotch has re-invented its look, changing from its homogenous hotel style to that of a sophisticated country manor. The 68 rooms and seven suites are swaddled in fine French fabrics, with Vermont folk art, rustic white-washed furniture and warm colour schemes like gold and terra cotta or antique blue and cream.
The resort’s 35 mountainside houses are lesser-known but even more lavish, with handsome walnut furniture and kitchens of stainless steel and granite. All accommodations have such luxury conveniences as telephones in the bathrooms and solicitous services like twice-daily housekeeping.
The pièce de résistance for many travellers – nearly 70,000 per year – is The Spa at Topnotch, recognized for its top practitioners and gorgeous men’s and women’s lounges with fireplaces. The inventive exercise programs include Got Core?, Hydro Power and Pilates for Skiers. Among the 120 outstanding beauty and body services are the Sugar Scrub Facial for teens, the Gents’ Peppermint Pedicure and the Mount Mansfield Saucha, a decadent trio of treatments, all done with sage-infused salts and oils.
One of the hotel’s attractions is the stunning view of majestic Mount Mansfield, part of the Stowe Mountain Resort ski and snowboard area (800-253-4754, www. Stowe.com). The resort is planning to close its lifts April 19. For the in-between “mud season,” Topnotch is offering a rare two-for-one special on spa treatments starting today to April 9 (valid Monday to Thursday), from April 16 to May 14 (Thursday to Sunday) and from May 18 to June 18 (Monday to Thursday). Prices range from $10 for a paraffin treatment for hands to $210 for the 110-minute custom massage.
Spa director Alexandra Robinson has created a series of wellness seminars for June. The June 12-13 Bloom & Branch Yoga Workshops emphasize the ancient discipline and include meditation, spa services and both restorative and Iyengar yoga. Also mixing the spiritual with the corporeal, Montrealer Layne Dalfen will present a session June 13 on dream analysis, stress release and sleep apnea. Timms’s wellness sessions, called Super Foods Mondays, will include cooking classes, lunch or dinner and take-home recipes.
“It’s hard to diet, but easy to eat the right things,” Timms said. “I believe in moderation, not deprivation, so watch portions and include ‘super foods’ like blueberries, yogurt, tomatoes and walnuts.”
Timms’s nutritional recipes feature treats like pumpkin muffins, spinach and apple smoothies, a morsel of dark chocolate daily and a glass of red wine with dinner. His cuisine at Norma’s bistro is artfully presented on striking white china and features updates on classics like rack of lamb, sirloin steak and osso bucco. Spa choices include Thai veggie rolls, bison steak and Indian-spiced shrimp.
IF YOU GO:
Stowe is a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Montreal. Take Highway 10 east to Exit 22 and Highways 35 and 133 south, then Vermont Interstate 89 south to Exit 10 for Stowe and Route 100 north.
Topnotch at Stowe Resort and Spa: 800-451-8686, 4000 Mountain Rd. (Route 108), Stowe, Vt.
Prices range from $300 for a room and $575 for a one-bedroom suite to $900 for the Governor’s Suite with a fireplace, deck and kitchen. Weekdays to May 31, rooms cost $195. One-, two-and three-bedroom houses are available. Prices include swimming pools, hot tubs, steam room, sauna, cardio and weight rooms. Children 12 and younger stay free.
Wellness programs: Super Foods Mondays in June, $100; yoga for five hours, including lunch, June 12-13, $150; Dream Analysis for four hours June 13, $175 (with massage, $250).
Luxury Stowe Vermont Day Spa Resort offers rejuvenating and relaxing spa packages that come with free gourmet luncheon.