Sparkling Hill Resort is located outside of Vernon, British Columbia, Canada high up in the hills overlooking the Okanagan Lake to the west, and Kalamalka Lake to the east. The resort is fairly new, having opened in summer 2010. I was fortunate enough to have stayed there in the fall that year taking advantage of one of their ridiculous introductory offers as a treat for myself (and the ex). This place is simply incredible and I thought I would share some of my impressions of the place, and photographs, of course.
The journey to the resort is an experience in itself. Located within 30 minutes of the hustling and bustling city of Kelowna, once you turn off the highway, you enter a new world full of tranquility. The road winds up into the hills past Predator Ridge golf course, itself a beautiful and award winning course, and the views around you are breathtaking. Having spent the past few years in the Okanagan hiking and driving into the hills, the location of the resort offers some of the best (if not the best) views of the region.
If the views of the area weren’t enough, once you make the final turn to approach the resort, your eyes are dazzled by crystals. Crystals are everywhere at this resort – the welcome sign at the base of the hill, embedded in the parking lot, in posts lighting up walkways, and that’s just on the outside. The primary owner and patron of the Sparkling Hill Resort is Gernot Langes-Swarovski, patriarch of the Swarovski family and former head of the Swarovski crystal company. The resort contains 3.5 million crystals within its architecture, and their website states that it is the first of its kind in the world.
I would believe it, too.
When you enter the interior of pretty much every hotel in the world, the first thoughts are: check into the hotel, find a restaurant, get to the room and regroup. After entering this resort, however, the first thing that comes to mind is to pause and take it all in. The space above the lobby is cavernous. Walkways cross over to the restaurant and meeting space, but the main attraction is a huge crystal chandelier. Words simply can’t capture how impressive this chandelier is, nor can a picture of it. It really is a sight that must be seen in person.
Checking in at the Front Desk is rather intimidating, as well. Behind the agents are two cupped hands, perhaps offering to you the wellness and health the resort is designed to provide to you. The resort was designed under the influence of European health spas. The General Manager, Hans-Peter Mayr, has operated other large spas in Europe and wanted to bring that experience to Canada. I haven’t been to a European spa so I am unable to compare the experience of this resort to one of overseas. I think I made an excellent choice in my first spa experience ever, however.
The main highlight of the resort is the KurSpa. The area is massive, including private rooms for private massages and beauty care (hair cuts, styling, manicures, etc.), 7 different sauna and steam rooms (all at varying temperatures), an indoor swimming pool and hot tub, outdoor infinity pool, fitness area, a cold sauna, and the Kneipp Water Therapy stream. There are some other rooms for general relaxation, as well, which provide plenty of sunshine and great views of the mountains.
Apart from private sessions and the cold sauna, access to KurSpa is included in the room price for hotel guests, and is available in the afternoon and evenings. Going through each of the different sauna and steam roomsis an enjoyable experience. The rooms vary in temperature from the Igloo room at 10 degrees Celsius (which is different than the other Cold Sauna which is at -110 Celsius – yes, that is not a typo!) to Finnish Classic sauna at 90 degrees Celsius. After going through them all, I found myself picking a few favourites to go between the rest of the evening or the next day I was there.
Also in the sauna and steam rooms are the experience showers. These showers give you the option to control where the water comes out and the strength of the water pressure. They are not meant to be for washing, but you do feel your body being cleansed in a different ways as you experience the jungle rain shower compared to a more normal shower. The links above are to the Sparkling Hill Resort website and can provide more information about the sauna and steam rooms, the spa treatments, and the Kneipp Water Therapy stream.
There are other little treasures to be discovered at the resort other than the KurSpa. The restaurant, PeakFine, is simply amazing, serving European dishes with the best local ingredients. When I dined there, the menu had three offerings from the chef – a meat, fish, and vegetarian entree, plus appetizer and dessert choices. There were a few other options on the menu, but I couldn’t say no to a lamb sous vide. Breakfast is also served at PeakFine, and is included in the room rate. It is a full buffet with many delicious and tempting offerings to choose from.
Located in the basement, Barrique and Java, serve lunch during the mid-day hours when PeakFine is closed, but also have coffee and pastries in the morning, or fine wines in the afternoon and evenings. I found it to be a nice escape in the afternoon after returning from a lengthy hike through the foothills surrounding the resort.
On the level above PeakFine, there is a quiet room which I thought of as my own personal sanctuary while at the resort. It was full of lounge chairs, small coffee tables, and large bookshelves. It was the perfect area for me to sit down late at night to do some reading when I did not want to stay in my room. In addition to this quiet room, there were other sitting areas spread out in the resort. Most areas had incredible views of the area, others were rather secluded and private.
The one area of the resort I have not touched on are the hotel rooms. The room I stayed in was simply the best hotel room I have ever stayed in. I would like to comment on the room, but honestly, I hardly spent any time in it. The room I stayed in had a large shower and a soaker tub in the room, with star lights above it at night.
The bed was extremely comfortable with a large plasma television directly in front of it. The room was not extravagant in having lots of furniture, but it contained everything I could possibly be looking for in a room at resort. The hotel rooms are definitely something that need to be seen, though. There are a few surprises in the rooms that I think are best discovered in person rather than through pictures.
As I mentioned previously, I took a lengthy hike through the foot hills surrounding the resort. They provide you with a map of the different trails in the area. I went one of the more challenging hikes thinking it would take me to some of the better areas to get a view of the lake. The hike was extremely worth it and was quite the work out going up and down the hills. The view from the top of the hill was almost better than the view from the resort: just forest and a wide-open view of the lake. There are other trails to go through, some were paved or were crushed gravel so they are accessible to anyone who may have some limitations on how grueling of a hike they go on.
Overall, I was blown away by the resort: the location and views, the hospitality, the KurSpa, the rooms, and the dining. The only two things I could possibly wish for would be to either work there or to live there.
As they say on their website,
your personal journey to whole body health and wellness begins here.
A few quick links in case you wish to learn more:
Globe and Mail article about the resort shortly before its grand opening, written by Amy Rosen.