Part of the treat of going to West Virginia's Oglebay Resort was sampling its new spa, simply called The West Spa. (Update: August 2018 marks its 10th anniversary.) Located in Wilson Lodge, the main building for accommodations, we’d heard that it was getting solid reviews.
We are about to add to that, but certainly not because of its discreet, almost hidden location. There is one thing to be a best-kept secret, but The West Spa takes that to a new level – their signage is so low-key, it’s like they want to remain undiscovered. And our praise is not going to be about size. At 5,000 square feet, it is as big as, perhaps bigger than, other spas we’ve visited. In fact, with 12 well-appointed treatment rooms, it has plenty of space.
How that space is used is the drawback. It is woefully lacking in grooming stations and amenities in its men's dressing/locker areas, as well as its restroom spaces.
It has been a long time since we’ve been to a newly opened spa where there are no sinks in a dressing area with no toilet. The women's has a single toilet closet in the main locker rooms.
But the locker rooms are spartan to the point that it makes one wonder why the basics have been overlooked when there seems to be room available to add what most spas consider the necessities. Fletcher was glad he'd shaved with his electric razor during the drive over, because if he had not, the masseuses would have had to deal with a rough stubble of whiskers during the massage.
The compact rooms are pretty spaces, as is every space in The West Spa - the entrance to reception is quite lovely, in fact.
The West Spa does use two oustanding product lines - kudos: Eminence for its skin treatments, especially the face; and the fabulous Zents, which are incorporated into specific body treatments including our truly outstanding massages.
Zents samples are also placed in the locker rooms for customers to sample - smart and attractive displays of the Zents scents are also placed on the tables in the beautifully decorated waiting lounge so customers can smell them and decide what one to use during the massage.
Having the stylishly designed samples (vials set in a marble base) available for patrons to smell was a very nice touch, and we loved the variety.
The choices of scented oils for your customized massage - many of them simply heavenly - are:
Ore - featuring bay laurel, violet and jasmine and touted as euphoric and stimulating;
Fresh - with linden blossom, cucumber and heliotrope and categorized as soothing and cleansing;
Oolong - with lime, oolong tea and lavender, balancing and energizing;
Earth - with hints of Siberian fur, frankincense and sandalwood, categorized as strengthening and grounding;
Mandarin - with ginger, cardamom and ginger, of course, warming and invigorating;
• Sun - featuring orange, vanilla and grapefruit and comforting and calming. (J.S. Fletcher photo)
Those are the displayed choices in the lounge, which is extremely relaxing with great music, the fireplace and comfortable seating for at least eight people.
In the spa reception, you can also purchase these Zents scents in candles, body lotion and concerta - concentrated forms - with all those and additional fragrances, including petal, fig and others, too.
For our treatments, Fletcher chose Fresh while his masseuse, Tya Paulus, liked Ore. I chose Sun while my masseuse, Myra Horne, also likes Sun the best.
The lounge is very reflective of the overall ambience of Oglebay Resort: woodsy, outdoorish, and welcoming even for the men venturing to the spa. Carried throughout the facility is a leaf motif that can be seen in the lighting, the ceilings, the furniture, artwork and more. And there are darling pieces of pottery and nicknacks that add whimsy and flair. And the use of rock adds to the natural look.
Comfortable chairs, lounges, couches, pillows, and Ottomans really call out to setting the mood for relaxation in this co-ed area. Of course, the fireplace, hearth, mantel and artwork add to the feel. A refreshment station with cold water and cold drinks, a dried fruit selection, and hot tea choices are a great touch.
Of course, customers will judge the facilities and the setting, each integral to an overall evaluation of the spa, but, fortunately for us, the true test of a spa are the treatments.
We were scheduled for the 80-minute Experience treatments (the signature West Spa massage) in the couples room with Myra and Tya.
Myra and Tya. It’s not often that specific masseuses are assigned like they are rock stars, but we were soon to discover these two could take their act on the road and be asked for an encore performance. Yes, they are that good. We're bummed that they don't live closer to Raleigh, NC, as we would use them regularly.
They approached us in the waiting lounge and introduced themselves as Myra and Tya, but went on to say, “Just think of us as the drink: the mai-tai." It worked, and like the drink, they turned out to be sweet and strong, proving that they knew what they were doing and could deliver the goods just like we wanted.
Maybe what Fletcher said up front gave them an added incentive to do well when he told them we had just come back from Southeast Asia where he’d made the comment, “Why do I bother getting massages in America?”
He was speaking directly about Thai massage and how thoroughly the masseuses work over the body – literally work “over” it in many cases because they actually get up on the table and twist and turn you, using their knees, feet, arms and hands to work areas most American masseuses never touch.
Tya proved him wrong. She did not get up on the table, but proved strong enough to perform a masterful massage; intuitive enough to know where he needed work; smart enough to listen to what he’d asked for and follow his instructions, and professional enough to address areas that needed attention (like his lower back, chest, and abdomen) while still guarding a sense of privacy.
Here’s the best part: Tya brought both massage and therapeutic moves to the table, manipulating arms, neck and legs, and also using a combination of techniques to work the muscles with a keen sense of how much pressure was needed. Tya used deep pressure, but when Fletcher asked her to take it back a notch, she did.
Tya delivered an excellent massage that assured Fletcher that he can get a great massage in America, after all.
Although she could be rough, Tya had an uncommon nurturing approach. She and Myra started us both out face up on the table and after doing an invigorating scalp massage, both switched to simply holding our heads in their hands and almost imperceptively rocking us, individually, much like you’d expect on a boat or in a cradle. For Kathy, the addition of basalt hot stones was a brilliant component. Myra explained that these volcanic stones hold heat better than normal river rocks. It was interesting, when we both were face down and they used the stones, it was very hard to tell when their long hand strokes were just hands, and when the stone was added. That's how smooth these ladies are; only the heat in the stones gave them away. And they would place the stones in the palm of our hands while they were cooling down, which was very soothing.
As she worked Kathy’s always-in-need back with the stones, Myra explained that the stones really helped loosen the muscles first and helped avoid soreness the following day. She was right, and Kathy loved that about this treatment. Very well done.
The heated neck and eye pillows were great, as well. Myra and Tya are also advocates of stretching exercises first thing in the morning, Myra taking that a step further to recommend a hot bath to further loosen muscles.
Afterward our treatment, Myra and Tya wiped our feet and backs with warm towels, which is totally relaxing and was appreciated.
When Mai-Tai finished their magic, they instructed us that we also were given a complimentary shower upgrade. We are, of course, all about the upgrade - just travel with us and you'll see - and loved every one of our 15 minutes in the steam shower with multiple wall showers and plenty of room. When we got out, we were nearly mush and were happy to return to the waiting lounge where we spent an hour or so reading and watching the fire while we waited for our room to be ready.
The West Spa? If you want a great treatment, visit, and we definitely recommend the 80-minute Experience Massage, which is being fine-tuned into a signature treatment.
If You’re Going: Oglebay Resort & Conference Center is in Wheeling, West Virginia, three miles off I-70, Exit 2A. Call 800-624-6988 or visit www.oglebay-resort.com. This year’s holiday Festival of Lights runs November 12, 2010 through January 2, 2011. Cold-weather offerings include downhill skiing and snowboard area featuring a triple chair-lift, snowmaking, rental equipment and instruction.