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Spa Profile: Swiss Spas
Switzerland evokes images of winter wonderlands, soaring snowcapped Alps, medieval and baroque architecture, placid lakes and green meadows dotted with docile, hooved animals munching grass as their cowbells sway in the breeze. This prosperous country in the heart of Europe is also known for its popular banking system, Swiss precision timing and geopolitical neutrality. Not surprisingly, Switzerland’s spa culture has been forged by all of these factors.
Wisely, this country’s “spa meisters” seek to organically incorporate the unspoiled grandeur of their surroundings into the wellness experiences they offer, ensuring that the region’s resplendent scenery is an ever-present aspect of the healing process. Preserving nature is all-important for the Swiss—not only for the Green Party, which counts elected members in parliament—but for hoteliers, too. On a previous visit, Urs Hauser, whose family owns the eco-award-winning Hotel Belvedere at Grindelwald overlooking the Jungfrau, told us, “This is one of the most spectacular mountainous areas in the world, and if we don’t preserve it, it’s like cutting off the branch we’re sitting on.”
A peaceful state of mind is the essence of Switzerland, which hasn’t fought a war in 165 years. This is a society that values high efficiency, yet exudes a sense of calm, where the world’s greatest timepiece manufacturers reside, and where the much-traveled trains always run on time. But those who live by the clock need places to unwind, and they do so at oases of bubbly, warming waters and caressing fingertips.
However, Switzerland’s prosperity has made it a victim of its own success. Spa managers relayed to us how being (arguably) the planet’s most affluent nation has produced a whole set of unforeseen challenges. In the spa world, 21st-century multi-cultural realities have led to unexpected treatment trends. Switzerland is now a place where East meets Alpine, and tradition meets innovation.
Here’s what we learned about contemporary Swiss spa culture when we punched the cuckoo clock at three of Switzerland’s top wellness centers.—By Ed Rampell