Spa Spying

April 1997

Day spas are springing up all over Denver, promising temporary respite from the concerns of our stress-filled lives. Some have been built from the ground up as oases of peace and tranquility. Others have been grafted onto existing hair salons. There’s even a place out on Wadsworth that began life as an espresso bar.

The array of services and treatments available is astounding, offering indulgences as familiar as a facial, as exotic as the Himalayan Rejuvenation Treatment, and as scary-sounding as “schmeiss” — which takes its name from the German verb for “to beat.”

But this barrage of places and ways to pamper ourselves raises more than a few questions: What distinguishes a “full-service” day spa from a glorified beauty salon? What are all these bizarre treatments? And, considering the expense, is a trip to the spa any better than a martini and a soak in a bubble bath?

To find the real truth, three harried 5280 staffers (not so reluctantly) volunteered to anonymously visit 12 Denver-area spas and put our stress-ridden bodies to the test. Our adventures taught us several important lessons:
“Full service” is a slippery term. If you’re looking for total escape, beware the combination spa/salon: Some expertly maintain a soothing atmosphere in the spa area, but others lose the sense of escape as salon sights, sounds, and smells creep into the adjoining spa.