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The exterior of Sparkling Hill Resort in Vernon, B.C. (Jeff Bassett for the Globe and Mail)
The exterior of Sparkling Hill Resort in Vernon, B.C. (Jeff Bassett for the Globe and Mail)

Sparkling Hill resort offers Okanagan oasis Add to ...

Canada and Austria have just produced the perfect spa lovechild and it is called Sparkling Hill Resort.

I'm here, just ahead of the official opening, and I've returned to my room just in time to watch a sudden shower sweep across Coldstream Valley. I race to shut the floor-to-ceiling windows before the coastal weather system starts lashing the glass, but within moments the rain is gone, replaced by a ridiculously perfect rainbow that looks as if a Grade 3 student got out a fresh pack of magic markers and went to town on the sky over Sparkling Hill Resort. As the sun streams back in and the room's subtle crystal components start refracting the light, I realize that there are no happy accidents when you build a $122-million resort funded by Gernot Langes-Swarovski - the patriarch of the Swarovski crystal empire.

Sparkling Hill will become a premier international destination for extended wellness holidays. I will bet money on this, and here's why: I have visited more than 150 spas around the world, have written a book on the subject, and I can tell you that even in its infancy, Sparkling Hill ranks among the very best.

Hans-Peter Mayr, who worked in Austria at a wellness hotel but often vacationed in Western Canada, is the brainchild behind the project. "I was looking in Canada for similar destination spas like we have in Austria, because I wanted to bring good ideas back to Austria to have something new," says Mayr, Sparkling Hill's chief executive officer. "But what I found is that there is nothing in Canada that is similar to what we are doing in Europe. And then the idea was born: Let's bring the European idea to Canada."

That means a more therapeutic approach, he explains.

"I'm not saying that the European concept is better - no, no, no. But it is much more health-orientated and not only focused on pampering."

And then he found his investor: Langes-Swarovski, whom Mayr calls a visionary and the "nicest Austrian person that you could meet." Langes-Swarovski bought in, literally, arranging the financing, buying the land and taking care of the financial details.

Soon after the land purchase in 2003, the footprint for Sparkling Hill was blasted out of a granite rock face on a ridge atop a 72-hectare parcel of land known as Mount Royce, which has sweeping views of the Monashee Mountains and over Lake Okanagan. Because of the hotel's height, it feels as though you've got an aerial view of the valley. And how did they score this peerless vantage point? "This was the first and this will probably be the last time the City of Vernon will allow a building permit like ours," Mayr says. That permit, at $55-million, is the biggest in Vernon's history.

Every room at the resort has a spectacular view. When you call to reserve, you're asked if you would prefer a lake- or mountain-view suite. (Insider's tip: No. 333 is a corner room so you get a dishy slice of both.)

Each of the 152 suites is confidently cozy in white linens, custom-designed Kohler soaker tubs, natural wood finishes and earth tones: Warm yet streamlined in the European manner.

You won't find artwork or crazily patterned carpets, as nature, and the various crystal components scattered throughout the hotel - from the encrusted washroom sign in the restaurant and the one-of-a-kind crystal sculpture in the tea room to the floating crystal handrails in the grand foyer - are all the beauty you need. Swarovski now is so much more than jewellery and figurines.

The real jewel in the crown, however, is the resort's 40,000-square-foot spa.

Tinus Pietersen is the Wellness Manager at Sparkling Hill's KurSpa, and is perhaps the most enthusiastic spa director you will ever meet. (I'm willing to put money on this too.)

"We are not here for one night like a normal hotel," he tells me as we sit down for a quick consultation to arrange my spa schedule. He says they want to teach guests real lifestyle changes. "You want to seriously consider what it means to be alive. We can transform you. This is not an idle promise."

What it amounts to is a whole lot of pampering and relaxation coupled with bouts of alternative healing therapies.

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