SPA INDEX REVIEWS WOLF MOUNTAIN DAY SPA in GRASS VALLEY, CALIFORNIA. An intimate jewel sparkles in California's Gold Country.
January 3 2004--With housing, real estate, schools and associated factors contributing to longer and more arduous commutes for San Francisco Bay Area employees living in outlying areas, some as far away as Placer and Nevada Counties, Spa Index: Guide to Day Spas and Stay Spas has received numerous requests for recommendations to day spas in California's Gold County area.
In October, just as the summer season started to give way to autumnal colors and temperatures, Kristina Fitzhugh, editor for Spa Index, traveled from the San Francisco Bay Area up through California's Gold Country to visit several day spas.
"I visited three day spas in three days in the Auburn, Grass Valley, and Carson City areas in Placer and Nevada Counties, and came away most impressed with Wolf Mountain Day Spa in Grass Valley, which actually made my round-trip worthwhile" said Fitzhugh.
Established in the Nevada County Area in 1990 as "Simply Ahhh," which later evolved to Wolf Mountain Day Spa in 2000, the spa has twice been voted as the Best of Nevada County, with good reason.
The name "Wolf Mountain Day Spa" was adopted after owner Colleen Lunsford expanded her popular "Simply Ahhh" facial and massage services into something larger and more attuned to the growing needs of her expanding clientele, which includes both men and women in a community of 10,000, and visitors from as far away as San Francisco, Sacramento, and Reno. Lunsford explained the name change: "I live near Wolf Creek and Wolf Mountain. Wolves are strong and beautiful, like so many of my clients. The name just seemed right." Wolf Mountain Day Spa is full-service day spa, accredited as such by the Day Spa Association.
The spa welcomes its guests with a soft, butter colored reception and retail area, where the shelves are organized and attractively stocked with the body and bath lines used by the spa and carried for its guests.
Lunsford's clients -- both men and women -- often remark "It smells so good in here!" as soon as they arrive. Lunsford explained that by catering exclusively to spa services, she is able to avoid the strong odors usually associated with hair salons and nail salons. "I think that is important -- those types of smells are often offensive, especially to men."
Behind the reception area is a partitioned area designed for its cosmetic station, where Lunsford uses the Jane Iredale mineral makeup line. I asked what other cosmetic lines were offered besides the popular mineral brand, and Lunsford proudly stated "Jane (Iredale) is all I need."
Typically, I find cosmetic makeover stations in whatever corner is available, or the least useful area of the spa, or in a busy and exposed portion of the hair salon. Lunsford's brand loyalty fits well with the fact her cosmetic station is spacious, comfortable and doesn't feel or look like an afterthought.
A large angled wall divides Wolf Mountain's reception area and cosmetic station from its three treatment rooms, and creates both a sense of privacy and a feeling of expanse, although the overall space is actually compact and intimate. After my tour of the treatment rooms returned me to the reception area, I was surprised to find how little distance we'd traveled. Very often, "cozy" and "intimate" are euphemisms for "tiny" and "small." Wolf Mountain is small, yes, but makes very good use of its floor plan, designed so well that meandering hallways or wide-open spaces are simply unnecessary. The space is devoted to the treatment rooms; Wolf Mountain has four, including the cosmetic area. Each of the rooms appeal to both feminine and masculine tastes; men and women would be equally at home in each of the rooms.
First is the facial and skin care room, where I had my services performed. Both the art work and mirror on the walls are large scale, tasteful, and professionally framed (I'm an artist's daughter and I notice these details), and creates a dramatic statement. Notably absent from the entire spa, in fact, are product posters or industry-generated "faux art" or photographs of airbrushed models emerging from steamy baths. The color scheme of the treatment rooms are also a soft and buttery color, with honey blond cabinetry that faded into the soft glow of dimmed lights.
Next was the hydrotherapy room. This room is lovely. A very large hydrotherapy tub is housed against one wall, with an adjacent European steam shower. The room contains its own massage table for in-room massage and exfoliation services, eliminating the necessity to travel from one room to another for a massage and hydrotherapy package, and also permits couples to alternate massage and hydro treatments in a single room.
Alone, these oversized amenities become a indulgent watery, steamy escape. Couples, however, will find the room ideal for a romantic getaway -- the tub and shower will easily fit two persons. Again, large, dramatic and tasteful art is framed and dominates the room in a positive way.
The third treatment room is for massage therapy and body treatments. Like the other rooms, it is tasteful, with soothing color schemes and tasteful amenities.
Interior treatment rooms are best showcased with soft lighting and built-ins which don't dominate the room or give it a exam-office cubicle feel. Lunsford has taken this to heart and uses color and light to enhance the calming effect of her services in these rooms.
Of equal importance is the "noise factor." In smaller day spas, it can be difficult to segregate noise between rooms or retail areas. When checking out at the reception desk, I noted with some surprise that staff moving about and that additional clients had arrived for services. Despite the intimate size of the facility, and the fact additional clients arrived during my own treatment, I heard not even a murmur from within other rooms in use, the staff, or guests.
Wolf Mountain offers a core group of skincare, body treatments, waxing, and massage, including a menu of nine different facials and Microdermabrasion; body wraps including seaweed, body glow, and marine mud; several massage therapies, including warm stone massage, pregnancy massage, Swedish, body balancing, and aromatherapy; hydrotherapy, including European-style bathing with concentrations of marine extracts and essential oils, and a private steam shower large enough for two; as well as several packages.
Wolf Mountain's cosmetic services include makeup consultations, wedding and special events, and lash and brow tinting. Services for gentleman are generous, and include the "Gentleman's Facial" and "Back Treatment" which includes a complete cleansing and exfoliation, followed by a thermal marine mud mask, finished with an aromatic massage with essential oils.
Wolf Mountain's popular package is the "Scrub, Tub and Rub", a stimulating body exfoliation coupled with an aromatic Jacuzzi bath, and followed by a classic Swedish body massage. A longer, more indulgent version of that package is Wolf Mountain's signature package -- "Home by the Sea." First, your skin is gently polished with an aromatic marine pumice scrub, then enveloped in a hydrating seaweed body mask. After your body is relaxed, you are treated to a specialized seaweed jacuzzi bath in an aromatherapy scented, candle-lit room with soothing background music. The finishing touch is a hydrating aromatherapy facial to bring about renewal and harmony.
The only noticeably absent services are nail services. Although her customers would enjoy having manicure and pedicure options, Lunsford opts to keep her spa focused on what she is best able to offer, instead of trying of settling on less than expert care. "I just couldn't find staff with enough expertise in natural nail care to offer those services on the menu" Lunsford stated. "I'd rather not offer acrylic nail services, or nail services at all, if I can't offer the best in natural nail care."
Instead, Lunsford addresses the need for hand and foot care in a unique way -- her "Foot Facials" and "Helping Hands" treatments offer everything but the nail trimming. Both treatments for men and women offer exfoliation, mask, and moisturizing treatments to help her clients put the best hand and foot forward.
Skincare services include an in-depth consultation which addresses both immediate and long-term concerns. In that regard, Colleen Lunsford is a testament to her own skincare expertise. Her complexion is smooth, radiant, and youthful, and lends credence to her recommendations. I've received a fair number of facials, but Lunsford is the first aesthetician to have both noticed, and addressed, my heavily freckled left cheek as compared to my less freckled right cheek. "You're a driver" she mused. "Yes, I'm on the road quite a bit" I said. "This is sun damage from the driver's side window. You can reduce these darker patches with the right product, and then sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen. If you can see your shadow, you need sunscreen, especially when you're in your car."
My facial was a client favorite -- the sixty-minute ($70.00) Wolf Mountain Signature Facial, using the Yon-Ka Paris line. My facial included a 2-step exfoliation, extractions, a freshly prepared mask targeting my mild rosacea, a heavenly face, neck and shoulder massage designed to melt my stress lines away, and a hand massage with a fragrant fresh lime scented lotion (I chose from several offerings, a nice touch). Our easy banter and my review questions drifted away at the right time, just as the soft background music came to the forefront and I began to drift off. Lunsford is a certified massage therapist as well as an aesthetician, and gave me the best head and shoulder massage I've ever received. Of note, I have what I call a "sensitive musculature" and will tense up and wince with an ordinary "back rub" or shoulder massage. However, my massage started so softly and gradually, building to something deep and relaxing, that it was nearly over before I realized I was deeply relaxed, tension-free, and never anticipated having to ask for less pressure.
Best of all, a month post-facial, using the product recommended by Lunsford -- SkinCeutical's Primacy Phyto+ (with plant extracts, including thyme and cucumber, which help lighten the skin by breaking up excess melanin deposits), I now have a much more even-toned appearance, which delights me. The Phyto+ product has also noticeably lightened my darkened elbows.
Skincare and body care services are offered by Colleen Lunsford, Jocelyn Hagen, and Anna Hodges. Massage therapy is offered by Lunsford, Hagen, and Patricia Lyon.
Ms. Hagen and Ms. Lyon are employees of the spa, and Lunsford is proud of the fact her aestheticians do not rent their space. "I found renting space to independents didn't work for me," said Lunsford. "Having my own employee aestheticians is best for my clients, because they can book appointments based on their availability, without being concerned about loyalty to any one aesthetician, and can develop a rapport with my entire staff."
Wolf Mountain Day Spa sparkles in California's Gold Country, and with its passionate and dedicated owner, will continue to attract visitors from throughout Northern California, as it offers the level of service spa enthusiasts in larger metropolitan areas have come to expect.
Wolf Mountain Day Spa offers gift certificates which may be applied to all services and packages in the spa, as well as retail goods.
Wolf Mountain Day Spa carries the following lines for use and purchase:
Jane Iredale Natural Mineral Cosmetics
MontSource for Men
Gilden Tree Spa Essentials
Zoya Nail Color
Polar Heart Rate Monitors
Professional Makeup Accessories
Home Spa Accessories
Wolf Mountain Day Spa
15690-B Johnson Place
(Alta Sierra Drive and Highway 49)
Grass Valley, California 95949
Monday through Friday: 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m.
Saturday: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Sundays: By Special Arrangement
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