Having grown up in the southwest, I feel a deep affinity for all desert landscapes. The otherworldly terrain of southern Utah is particularly close to my heart. I have spent many winter holidays over the last 15 years hiking in Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks, as the days are usually sunny and the cold is never too bone-shattering. That is, until this year, when the wind-chill factor at Bryce was, in my precise estimation, way below zero. Such a meteorological turn of events required me to purchase from the park's visitor's center disposable foot and hand warmers to tuck into my gloves and my boots, a bandana to wear bandit-style around my face for protection against frost bite, and Yak Trax, a contraption that fit snugly onto the soles of my boots to shred the icy slopes so that I wouldn't bite it on the way down the canyon.
Needless to say, my sense of adventure would not be thwarted by the mere threat of freezing to death, but after four days of this, I was ready for some zen time. The Red Mountain Resort in Ivins, Utah, beckoned.
The resort's location is dramatic: It is minutes on foot from Snow Canyon, named after Mormon settlers, not the weather. Massive Navajo sandstone cliffs and turtlebacks are the geological draw here, as well as lava fields created by a nearby volcano that erupted more than 20,000 years ago.
As a health spa, Red Mountain takes full advantage of its rugged and beautiful surroundings, offering guided hikes each morning in a variety of difficulty levels, from “explorer" (a walk in the park) to “challenger" (a serious hike for experienced trail fiends). While "challengers" may be traversing the same sandy washes and rocky lava fields as the "explorers," doing it at a fast clip versus a mere meander is what differentiates the two. Challenger hikes are invigorating and intrepid and well worth the 2.5 hours.
But even if you wanted to spend the rest of the day relaxing in the spa, you could do so without a grain of guilt. I did that once, as I had back-to-back massages scheduled: I highly recommend the Clarins Art of the Touch, an 80-minute full-body massage and facial using different kneading techniques, from Swedish to shiatsu. And since they lather you up with products by, um, Clarins, you emerge glowing, which ain't too shabby considering the havoc the dry climate can wreak on skin.
Other ways I spent my time at Red Mountain: I took yoga classes, which are normally offered outdoors in the canyon, but due to the cold snap were brought to the indoor fitness rooms at the Wellness Center. I swam laps in the heated indoor pool after the paddle board yoga classes let out. I walked the onsite labyrinth in an attempt at meditation. I ate a lot from the breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffets, where the food (think Navajo lamb stew, tandoori tofu, chilequiles, and strawberry shortcake) is super fresh and equally as tasty. I also clocked many hours in my beautifully appointed room, sitting in front of one of two fireplaces or soaking in the jetted tub, listening to episodes of Serial.