Snake River Lodge & Spa in Jackson, Wyoming

As I write this, I’ve learned the founder of RockResorts has just passed away at the grand old age of 94. Laurance Rockefeller’s obituary loomed large in the newspaper lying in the seat next to me at the airport. Besides his famous name, Rockefeller was a pioneer in conservation efforts, long before it was politically correct. He funded the expansion of Grand Teton National Park and promoted the expansion of numerous other national parks.

Rockefeller started RockResorts in the 1960s. Properties have come and gone from the resort family, but his original objectives have remained consistent.

Snake River Lodge & Spa, in Jackson, Wyoming, displays the significant characteristics Rockfeller sought in a hotel. First, it possesses a setting of natural beauty at the base of the Grand Teton ridge. Secondly, RockResort properties must be sustainable, with a profitable return and offer recreational activities unobtrusive to the surroundings. Again, Snake River Lodge & Spa meets the challenge.

On the other hand, the lodge doesn’t take itself too seriously. Arriving guests are welcomed at the entrance by a family of bears – carved from wood, not the real thing. Inside are more bears, funny little beasts popping out of the woodwork and peeking over banisters. They add a whimsical touch to the lobby and can put a smile on the face of even the weariest traveler.

Sampling spa treatments is certainly one of the best aspects of my job. I was scheduled for two treatments while at Snake River, beginning with a soothing aromatherapy bath, followed by an 80-minute Avanyu massage. I’m starting to understand why more and more hotels are adding spas to their list of amenities. As our stress increases, so does our need for complete relaxation.

Snake River Lodge & Spa is one of several RockResorts with an Avanyu Spa. Avanyu is a mythical term for a plumed water serpent that guards rivers, waters and streams.

For Native Americans, Avanyu represents the importance of water and the nourishment it brings to dry land or dry skin in this case. The philosophy of living in harmony and balance with nature is at the core of this spa experience. As you might guess, water is a vital component in many of their therapeutic treatments.

Their signature treatment is a paint pot mud bath, inspired by the famous paint pot mud found in nearby Yellowstone National Park.

This isn’t your backyard variety of dirt and water, by any means. This special substance has its origins deep inside the earth. As heated water filters through layers of clay and minerals bringing them to the surface, the minerals infuse the mud with striking, bold colors. After the mud works its magic, 20 minutes in the hydrotherapy tub washes it away, leaving skin soft and smooth. A final application of hydrating oil completes the treatment.

Snake River Lodge & Spa sits near the base of the aerial tram at Teton Village. Even in early June, the snow-topped mountains were still enticing snow-boarders.

Several young men, boards in hand, were on our tram. Up top, the temperatures were significantly cooler. After a look at the far-reaching views, we had a hot drink in the cafe.

I visited in the summer, but if cold weather is your true love, you probably already know about Jackson. This region is perfectly situated to get the key ingredient for winter fun -snow, not by the inch but by the foot.

The mountains can get more than 500 inches of the white stuff over a winter. Renowned for its light-density powder snow, it’s gotten the nickname Cold Smoke.

Combine that with three ski areas, thousands of acres of prime snowmobiling terrain and some of the most famous backcountry skiing in the nation and you’ll understand why Jackson is a major draw for winter sports enthusiasts.

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