Natural Selection

Couple relaxing in Ascent Room
Ascent’s ambiance and services were designed to complement guests’ adventures in Yosemite.

The Green Team

Spa director Mark Amoriello greets me from behind a wooden counter and introduces my massage therapist, Melissa, who is dressed in a loose, gray shirt and pants. Friendly and professional, she addresses me by an honorific and my last name, and leads me to the women’s dressing room, where I change into slippers and a cashmere-soft brown robe—not the typical bright white garment one sees at most resort spas. Ascent, a LEED Silver-certified facility and a member of the Green Spa Network, stocks only brown towels and robes, which means no bleach and thus, a minimized environmental impact.

Tenaya Lodge is run by Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts, a corporation that also manages Yosemite’s Ahwanee Hotel and Yosemite Lodge. The company asserts it was eco-minded “long before green was fashionable.” So, by extension, the spa was created in a decidedly sustainable fashion: Treatments were designed to use less water and fewer towels; the facility utilizes motion sensors, so when a room is not in use the lights switch off; and the whole property opts for environmentally friendly cleaning products.

The Tenaya team decided to develop the spa, in part, as a way of distinguishing itself as a destination property. Opened in July 2010, Ascent is the only spa near this beloved national park—or near any national park. “We wanted Ascent to be a sanctuary for wellness and healing,” says Amoriello. “It’s a place to unite with Yosemite’s natural side—soaking in the organic scents of the forest, and basking in steam rooms and saunas.”

And true to that notion, the women’s locker room is a series of peaceful rooms painted in soothing green tones of the forest. Framed photographs from nature grace the walls. Textured chaises crafted from wicker and wood sit in the quiet relaxation area, where a jug of iced citrus water and a thermos of brewed vanilla tea await guests. Deserving Thyme aromatherapy hand lotion and natural anti-bacterial hand wash line the sinks and, as I lather up, scents of grapefruit, lavender and lemon fill the air. I take a moment to unwind in the wood-lined sauna and the steam room before Melissa summons me for my massage.