Enjoy a retreat that combines luxury and wellness at Sparkling Hill Resort.

Sparkling Hill Resort Travel Guide

I’m sitting in one of the saunas at Sparkling Hill Resort in B.C.'s Okanagan Valley, and I’m perfectly relaxed. I didn’t start out this way, of course; like many of us in this hyperconnected world, I showed up on my mini vacation still checking emails and debating business decisions. But after the valet took my car keys and I quickly stopped in my room to exchange clothes, bags and smartphone for a bathing suit, robe and slippers, I committed to unplugging. Now, a few hot-cold circuits into my spa afternoon, the stress has melted away, replaced with a pleasing lack of decisiveness that has me gazing out the sauna window as I debate a splash in the saltwater pool versus sampling one of the steam rooms. Tough decisions indeed.

The Beginnings of Sparkling Hill Resort

Drive north from Kelowna Airport toward Vernon and, within half an hour you’ll find yourself above the steel-blue depths of Kalamalka Lake, ready to turn left into
the arid hills that form the gateway to this unique property. Several kilometres along the winding country road, you’ll start passing the sand traps and putting greens of Predator Ridge–in hibernation at this time of year—and twist and turn past the residential areas of the popular golf community before you pull up at the grand entrance of Sparkling Hill. The multifaceted glass and steel sculpture above the door is a hint at the 3.5-million Swarovski crystals integrated into the decor inside.

Sparkling Hill Resort Travel Guide

The crystals are the only things shiny enough to take your eyes off the sweeping views of Okanagan Lake below and to the west—views that in fact are the main reason why the resort even exists here. Property lore has it that a representative of Gernot Langes-Swarovski—yes, those Swarovskis—was exploring the world for the right place to build a European-style wellness-oriented resort and came across this undeveloped hillside locale that looked down at the sparkling lake below. Thus, Sparkling Hill was born.

From Helicopter Tours to Infinity Pools: What to Do in the Okanagan Valley

The Okanagan Valley is a year-round vacationer's paradise, be it for mountain biking and beach lounging or skiing and wine tasting. The nearby Silver Star Mountain Resort welcomes skiers of all levels and interests, whether you prefer gentle groomers, steep ridge-side double-blacks or rolling cross-country trails that lead to hilltop warming huts. For a truly memorable winter experience, Kingfisher Heliskiing will pick you up right at Sparkling Hill's helipad for a day making S-turns down untouched powder in the Monashee Mountains. Or, if you’re not a skier, have a helicopter take you to some of the region’s top wineries instead or for a sightseeing tour over the valley.

Sparkling Hill Resort Travel Guide

Of course, if a retreat is what you need, you don’t have to leave the property. Week-long wellness packages put guests in the hands of the pros to reach specific health goals, such as stress reduction, anti-aging, weight loss or athletic recovery. Your day might include a (weather-dependent) morning walk on the trails outside before a healthy breakfast prepared to your liking and then some sauna and relaxation time, followed by lunch, a yoga class, and a soak in the standalone tub in your room—it’s big enough for two. At dinner, sip a glass of local Merlot or Pinot Noir as you sample the best of the evening’s menu, then pop back to the spa for a nighttime swim in the infinity pool, gazing up at the stars.

Spa Treatments to Try at Sparkling Hill Resort

Sparkling Hill Resort Travel Guide

On my last day at Sparkling Hill, I wander into the spa for a morning treatment. The choices encompass a series of massages and body and skin treatments—think maple sugar body scrubs, reflexology and custom facials—as well as health-oriented offerings like acupuncture and vitamin B12 injections. But perhaps the most standout (and, for people like me who don’t like the cold, slightly terrifying) option is the cold sauna, a specialized room set to a chilly -110 ̊C, where clients spend up to three minutes dressed in a bathing suit, shoes and socks, gloves, a headband and a face mask. The fully monitored cryotherapy treatment brings the skin's temperature down to 5 ̊C; the body’s protective reaction is supposed to boost the nervous and circulatory systems, providing benefits such as pain relief and improved joint and muscle function.

Instead, though, I’ve opted for the less-intense Fango treatment, a 30-minute session during which my back is coated in a thick layer of volcanic mud. The therapist wraps me up tightly in plastic and blankets and gives me a soothing scalp massage. Detoxifying or not, there's a lot to be said for any excuse to lie still in a dim room with no goal but to relax. And by the time I rinse off, my mind is clear, free of any sense of needing to rush, so I return to my favourite sauna, lie back on my towel and gaze out at the clouds once again.