Trying to Shine, Needs More Polish

sparkling hill resort[trip style = spa] Sparkling Hill Elegantly sitting on the highest hilltop in Vernon's swanky Predator Ridge community, the recently-opened Sparkling Hill Resort and Spa blends into its environment, as well as stands out from the landscape. Why hide this gem? After all, this $122-million masterpiece was financed by the Swarovski Family, and crystals are meant to stand out and glisten.

Naturally, I couldn't just read about Canada's newest and most talked-about destination, I had to come and experience it for myself. So I did this past weekend for my 6th wedding anniversary, a few weeks after it opened. [more pictures below]

The Vision Versus The Service Every hotel I've been to in the first month of operation---even the big-names resorts who boast the best and brightest staff in the industry---seem to wobble a little before they walk steadily. Such is the case with Sparkling Hill. The incredible vision for this 152-room property is visible in every physical detail, from the 3.5 million crystals (worth $10-million) delicately placed in every---and I mean e-v-e-r-y---detail of the resort, to the West Coast architecture and as-far-as-the-eye-can-see vistas. But when you spend a weekend at Sparkling Hill, you sense a tension between the resort's oasis-like appeal and the eager, yet not-fully-trained staff. The service inconsistencies simply don't match the hotel's grandiose demeanor, nor its inclusion in the prestigious Preferred Hotels & Resorts Group, whose ambition is to be the premier global partner for the world's best hotels and resorts.

Would I Suggest Sparkling Hill? Yes, but wait to visit until the fall of 2010. This will hopefully give them time to bring their service to five-stars. It has a lot of potential, it just needs to mature and realize that potential. Aside from the service, Sparkling Hill's beauty mirroring the region's expansive lakes and mountains will ease you into a serenity now moment. And its healing features will transport you into kid-like wonder and amusement. One afternoon when relaxing in Kurspa's aqua thermal area, I could hear groups of adults giggling as they marveled at the unique series of steam and sauna rooms, and experience showers with a cool-water downpour aptly named thunderstorm, and a balmy sprinkle coined tropical rain.

Wellness...Almost One of Sparkling Hill's major draws is its -110 degree Celsius cold sauna, the first of its kind in North America. In Europe, where the cold sauna concept is widely accepted, waits can be up to a year long. I was looking so forward to experiencing fridgid healing, but there was a problem, the cold sauna is indefinitely closed and I got no further explanation. I hope it re-opens, but in the meantime, Sparkling Hill will have to rely on the grandeur of its 40,000 square foot spa, alternating warm and cool calf-deep Kneipp waterway, indoor and outdoor pools, 100+ treatments and aromatherapy steam and sauna rooms to draw people in.

Over the next few months I hope Sparkling Hill's growing pains will strengthen its already remarkable vision, so its crystals will properly reflect the world-class wellness resort it was meant to be.

Know Before you Go

  • Weekend Packages for two start at $790 (oct - jun) and include 2 nights stay in a deluxe suite, dual oasis massages, breakfast and dinner daily, and a welcome beverage at the resort's coffee and wine bar
  • Pets are allowed for $25/day, but you'll need to stay in a first-floor standard, mountain view room (with direct access to the outdoors for your furry friend's needs)
  • Free parking
  • Free Kelowna Airport shuttle service
  • Free wifi
  • Breakfast included
  • Free Aqua-Thermal Saunas (open from 2 - 10pm, 9-10pm is clothing optional)

Other Hints

  • The diamond-shaped tub-for-two overlooking Lake Okanagan is perfectly placed in each spacious guestroom
  • In the summer, don't try and connect with nature by sleeping with the window open, mosquitoes could be buzzing in your ear all.night.long.
  • The robes and spa slippers in each guestroom are plush and useful
  • Sadly, the bed linens are rough and need to soften
  • There are no coffee makers in the guestrooms
  • Guestroom doors aren't very soundproof, as a result, try and select a room away from the elevator
  • During the summer, lounging by the outdoor infinity pool is a perfect way to complement a post-spa experience
  • The pool loungers are beyond comfortable (adjust height to any angle pneumatically)
  • Look out for the plentiful and adorable marmots who scamper around the exterior of the resort
  • Take advantage of the extensive walking trails surrounding the resort
  • Make sure you follow up with the resort via email once you book to reserve your spa treatments and to make dinner reservations
  • Unless something changes, and I hope it does, there's no bellhop or doorman to assist with luggage
  • Find more info in my review on Trip Advisor

Pictures resort's entrance sparkling hill's entrance

chandelier one of the many crystal chandeliers adorning the space

guestroom deluxe, 3rd-floor guestroom

sparkling hill guestroom tub guestroom's diamond-shaped soaker-tub overlooking Lake Okanagan

guestroom bathroom guestroom's bathroom with crystal feature

guestroom crystal feature guestroom crystal fireplace

view from guestroom view from deluxe 3rd-floor guestroom at sundown

infinity pool outdoor infinity pool

serenity room spa's serenity room

sauna spa's panorama sauna

peak fine view from the table at peak fine restaurant