I admit I’m not one of those people who can’t get enough of spas. About as far as I go into the world of body treatments are manicures and pedicures so you might wonder why I boarded an airplane in Toronto and flew to Kelowna, B.C. to check out a brand new spa resort called Sparkling Hill. What piqued my attention was the fact it was, and is, being touted as being entirely different than any other wellness facility in Canada.

I was more than a little skeptical but come to find out… it is.

In the heart of the Okanagan Valley, about 25 minutes north of the Kelowna International Airport, the Sparkling Hill Resort near the town of Vernon is a $122 million property that sits atop a granite cliff above the renowned Predator Ridge golf course.

This 152-room European-style health and wellness resort was financed by members of Austria’s Sworovski crystal family and features a mind-boggling $10 million in crystal adornments and floor to ceiling windows in both public and guest rooms. “There isn’t a single room in the resort that doesn’t have a magnificent view of the glorious landscape,” says Hans-Peter Mayr, general manager.

My guest room window covered an entire exterior wall offering spectacular vistas of Lake Okanagan, the Monashee Mountains and a surrounding landscape of pine and hardwood forest populated by bear, deer, coyote, hawks and eagles. It’s easy to see why the Austrian developers were attracted to this particular area since it so closely resembles the forest and lake regions of their home country.

Moreover, since this destination spa and resort is owned by the Sworovski crystal family, it’s hardly surprising the place was named Sparkling Hill, and even less surprising that crystal adornments are everywhere. The lobby is a good introduction; where a giant chandelier bigger than a Volkswagen takes your breath away. Indeed, there are crystals everywhere: embedded in walls, entire structural columns are covered with them, resort restaurants feature crystal lighting and guest rooms also get their fair share including hollow tubular columns filled with back-lit crystals. To say the least, the place is dazzling and it’s impossible to walk more than 10 feet without encountering some form of crystal ornamentation. Moreover, around every corner there are other aesthetic surprises such as a depiction of a Michelangelo painting on the ceiling of one of the dry saunas.
While Sparkling Hill may attract people for a variety of reasons such as its awesome crystal adornments, its Okanagan location, scores of local wineries and nearby golf, I suspect the main focus for many will be the resort’s 40,000 sq. ft. KurSpa that offers more than 100 different treatments. Its roster of European inspired therapies uses pure thermal water, Dead Sea salts, volcanic dust and essential oils from plants and flowers.

Mayr says that overall, the spa’s focus is 70 percent therapeutic and 30 percent pampering, adding that his KurSpa “is a highway to health.” What’s promoted here is a total lifestyle change, personal revitalization and relief from pain through physical therapy.

In addition to every kind of massage imaginable – and many introduced for the first time in Canada and beyond – the most unique KurSpa treatment is its signature cold sauna (cryotherapy), purportedly the only such therapy offered in North America. Being a spa-resistant person, I knew instinctively I would not be sampling this treatment. Instead, I would experience it vicariously through my travelling companion who literally salivates over any spa treatment – the more unique, the better.

I watched thru a window into the closet-size sauna where the therapy involved spending up to three minutes in a temperature set at a bone-chilling -110C. Clients wear a bathing suit (to expose more skin) and are also required to wear mittens and socks, plus don a mask over nose and mouth and a headband to cover the ears. Bottom line: the treatment is designed to give the circulatory and nervous system a boost. The cold sauna is also promised to do everything from alleviating muscle and joint pain to reducing and relieving skin irritations. My companion, who admitted she had never been so cold in her life, nevertheless said that after the treatment she felt surprisingly energized. Good for her. I opted for a low-impact pedicure in a warm room.

Also more to my liking were the resort’s two salt water pools, one indoor, one outdoor, plus a smaller hot pool. All three of them are framed by the backdrop of Lake Okanagan, the mountains and forest. For an added touch, the ceiling above the indoor pool glistens with crystals and soft underwater music is piped from somewhere below the surface. In fact, Sparkling Hill is full of surprises including the fact that from 9 to 10 pm. nightly, the KirSpa is a clothing-optional facility. Very European, I’d say.


Overall, Sparkling Hill is a drop-dead gorgeous spa resort with state-of-the-art wellness programs. It benefits from its location in the Okanagan Valley known for the area’s profusion of wineries and world-class golf. For more information about the resort, its range of treatments and various packages go to www.sparklinghill.com or call 1-877-275-1556.

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