On the hour, on busy days, they wander the hallways of Salish Lodge & Spa. Dressed in white, fully half of them are Zenned, to coin...
SNOQUALMIE — On the hour, on busy days, they wander the hallways of Salish Lodge & Spa.
Dressed in white, fully half of them are Zenned, to coin a verb.
Blissed out, to flashback the ’60s.
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They are the half who have just emerged from a heated-river-rock massage, from a waterfall-graced heated pool, or from a honey-and-oatmeal detoxifying wrap at the spa at Salish. They are the ones who, when they entered the doors of this 4,000-plus-square-foot, Northwest/Asian-inspired retreat earlier in the day, were the other half — a bit agitated, a bit careworn … a bit sheepish at bare legs and feet sticking out from under one-size-fits-all robes.
But after bliss, they’ve forgotten all that and are simply trying to find their rooms. Maybe even that’s too taxing.
No fear. Someone will direct them. Life can be like that at Salish Lodge & Spa, redone and reborn with a new name about 20 years ago in its historic perch atop Snoqualmie Falls, one of the state’s more famous tourist attractions.
Once noted for enormous weekend breakfasts that featured honey poured from about ceiling height (and group-gluttonous behavior by Seattle-area residents), the restaurant-turned-resort now regularly shows up on various lists of top lodges, spas and dining locations in the world (and still offers a version of the famous Country Breakfast — four courses — at $29.50 a person).
Right here, in our own back yard, on the site of the old Snoqualmie Falls Lodge — built in 1919, above the roaring water that plunges nearly twice the distance of Niagara Falls. The Snoqualmie Tribe believes the falls are the “place where First Woman and First Man were created by Moon the Transformer… ” and “where prayers were carried up to the Creator by great mists that rise from the powerful flow.” Those words come from the Web site of the Sacred Land Film Project; reading them, it’s easy to see the vision, as giant mists do, indeed, rise from the basin 280 feet below the top of the falls.
Salish Lodge pros and cons
PRO: Location. It’s hard to beat. Snoqualmie Falls always are a beautiful sight, especially during heavy runoff. And the 30-minute drive from Seattle is an easy ride.
CON: The views from the rooms at the lodge itself are nice, but you really don’t get to see the falls top to bottom. Because the lodge is perched immediately above and beside the falls, with views across the canyon, you have to walk off the lodge grounds to see much of the cataract. It certainly isn’t a deal breaker, but some folks are expecting otherwise.
PRO: The spa will cost you for various treatments, but the quiet (especially on week days) and the design soothes the soul and then some.
CON: The spa can get to be a little busy when the lodge is full and there are outside spa-goers to boot. An appointment system keeps things manageable. The dining room, too, can be tough to get into. There’s little weekend lodge guests can do — other than order from room service — if they wait until after they arrive to make reservations and there are no times left.
PRO: The number of times the resort seeks guest feedback, from its forms which seem to be everywhere, to pre and post e-mails.
CON: Especially if you drive through the newly developed Snoqualmie Ridge, the juxtaposition of that enormous, close-packed development and the falls can be startling.
There are some 200-plus Salish staff, who will remark on the sense of the spiritual. But only if you engage them in that discussion.
Otherwise, the “associates,” as they’re called by general manager Sam Johnson, are efficient, polite and everywhere — 40 of them alone in the 11-year-old spa.
There are 89 rooms at the lodge (four of them one-bedroom suites), most of them facing the Snoqualmie River (and part of an original power plant circa 1898, still in operation), with views of the top of the falls to the west and the Cascades (including Mount Si) to the east. Many have small decks, all have huge, comfortable beds, wood-burning fireplaces and swirling jetted tubs — which, if you’re a little older or have less-than-limber joints, can take a little effort to crawl into and out of. There are the ubiquitous bathrobes and several pairs (and sizes) of slippers to make getting up and down hallways, stairways and elevator en route to the spa a lot more effortless (at least you don’t have to change from your street clothes the way the day visitors do).
Johnson expects all the rooms to be renovated over the next two years, with plans still in the works. It may be just what the building needs. Besides décor that’s a bit dated, we found a failed insulated window panel, a flickering closet lamp, a very slow-draining tub, a few too many scuff marks around the edges in our room — nothing major, though maybe niggling to some guests at a luxury resort considering the price they’re asked to pay. Johnson also says Gateway Cascades, lodge owner, is considering a plan to add 250 units to the resort across Railroad Avenue to the north.
Salish Lodge & Spa
From Seattle and its suburbs, it’s an easy drive via Interstate 90 to Snoqualmie and the lodge — about 30 minutes maximum. From the interstate, take Exit 5, for Highway 18 and Snoqualmie Parkway. Turn left and head north about 3.5 miles through Snoqualmie Ridge, a residential development, to Railroad Avenue Southeast. Turn left and drive .25 miles. Salish will be on your left.
There is an alternative, more country, route, especially if you don’t want what can be the shock of driving through the massive, housing-unit-on-housing-unit array of Snoqualmie Ridge, spoiling the sense of isolation the lodge tries to provide:
Take Highway 520 into Redmond and then turn right onto Redmond Way past Marymoor Park at the north end of Lake Sammamish. Redmond Way will become Northwest Redmond-Fall City Road east of Redmond (Highway 202). At Fall City, cross the Snoqualmie River and turn right on Southeast Fall City-Snoqualmie Road and follow it as it winds up the hill toward Snoqualmie. Signs at the top of the hill will point to the parking lots for Snoqualmie Falls and Salish Lodge & Spa.
Rooms and rates
There are 85 guest rooms and four (one-bedroom) suites at Salish. The rooms are $259-$429 per night; the suites are $599-$899, with cost depending on factors such as season and day of week.
Check for packages, especially online. We did, and last week found this online-only special, for example, on citysearch.com (under “Seattle”): “One night’s accommodation along with breakfast for two in the Dining Room for $199 per night. The package is available Sun-Friday, April 1, 2007-May 31, 2007.”
We found other rooms available online as low as $179 per night, depending on the date and type of room reserved.
There are several food-related events at the lodge over the next few months. Coming up is Celebrate “Slow Food” of Italy on May 24, with Armandino Batali, owner of Seattle’s popular Salumi restaurant. $95 per person (40-person limit).
Salish Lodge & Spa: www.salishlodge.com or 800-272-5474.
• Northwest and Asian themes throughout. Black-and-white photos of the falls line the walls of the room. There’s either a balcony or long window seat (in rooms without balconies) facing the view. The beds come with a choice of pillows — from buckwheat to the pregnancy pillow.
• Wood-burning fireplaces in every room — a ready-to-light pressed log already on the grate, lots of wood and paper below in storage. Make sure to follow the lighting instructions.
• The bathroom includes a two-person, six-jet tub beside open-out windows that let users see across the room and out to a view, or at least the fireplace. You even have your pick of red or blue lights in the tub! Plenty of huge, fluffy towels.
• Along with the usual complimentary soaps and shampoos, there’s a basket of for-sale products in the bathroom from a ped groomer ($3) to massage oils ($20). The entire basket of products (basket included) is $135.
The Dining Room at the Lodge is the more formal dining area (the service is formal; guests may dress more casually) off the lobby level of the hotel, offering breakfast and dinner. The far more casual “Attic Bistro” on the floor above is open most days from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (or longer, depending on the crowd).
Both rooms offer views of the top of the falls, though nearly all tables are away from the windows. Even at that, the lodge itself doesn’t really offer a top-to-bottom view of the feature nearly everyone comes to see. Visitors will have to do a little work to catch that vista by walking to an overlook to the west (easy), or hiking a fairly steep, half-mile trail to the bottom of the falls (more difficult).
• Make reservations in the main dining room early on — even before arrival at the lodge. That’s especially important for weekends and high seasons, for both dinner and breakfast. Remember, the dining room has lots of customers who are not staying at the lodge. If you can’t reserve a seat near the windows, ask to sit near the fireplace — the original from the old lodge.
• Ask for wine recommendations. The list is enormous — more than 1,600 types.
• It can be pricey. A three-eggs, sausage, ham and bacon breakfast fetches $19. A wild salmon sandwich, $19. Dinner appetizers range from $10 to $21, salads $10-$14, entrees from $19-$65 and desserts $10-$12.
A breakfast of the salmon sandwich, coffee and orange juice, plus tax and tip, was $36. A dinner with a martini, a glass of wine, mushroom bisque, duck prosciutto and seared scallops, plus tax and tip, was $96. That’s for one. Double it if there are two of you.
Come to think of it, it would not be a bad idea (read excuse), after hiking to the bottom of Snoqualmie Falls and back, to get a heated stone massage in the Salish Spa.
Or perhaps time in a eucalyptus steam room or maybe an earth cocoon treatment in the hydrotherapy rain room.
The five-hour Cascade Escape (including foot revitalizer, facial, exfoliation, cocoon and massage) is the top of the line at $508 — the ultimate in spa-ing here and no doubt a major reason some guests might collapse afterward in their rooms.
Considering the 19-page room service list found in every room, there must be at least a few blissed-out souls who choose to continue their spa-induced relaxation in bed — or who simply can’t move.
The spa design alone is something of an inspiration — slate and madrona floors and soaring cedar ceilings. You will be reminded that the soaking pools, sauna and steam room are silent — meaning keep quiet. If guests must talk, the staff suggests nothing louder than an “intimate whisper.”
• We repeat. Be quiet.
• There are facials for men and teens, among others (starting at $108 for 50 minutes). There is specialized facial treatment — power repair, green tea, rosacia, prematurely aging skin, etc. (starting at $128 for 50 minutes). And more — detoxifying wraps (from $128), specialized body treatments (from $108), massages (from $108). Bathing suits are required in the pool area. No one under 18 unless accompanied by an adult.
• Make reservations. It’s a must on weekends, although lodge guests have free use of the sauna and pool. The spa is used by both guests and day visitors.
The adventure activities at Salish have been added and expanded in the past few years. They range from simply pointing out some good hikes (which you can do all by yourself for free), to driving you to and from some classic Northwest outdoor adventures.
• Activities can be seasonal so ask about availability if a particular activity is important to you. Make reservations ahead of time.
• Nearly everything is close by and is arranged by the lodge through outside vendors. For example, you can river raft ($125-$150 per person depending on the number of participants), hike (a guided hike is $25 per person or a flat rate of $100 for groups of 10 or more) or play golf at the highly rated, nearby Tournament Players Course at Snoqualmie Ridge ($165 per round per person).
Seattle Times reporters reserve and check-in anonymously and spend at least one night sampling a resort’s amenities and service before introducing themselves to management or employees. Reporters pay commonly available rates for all services and goods and accept no special considerations from lodging operators. Impressions are based on a single visit.
The lodge includes a gift shop (Country Store), a library, a small workout room and spaces for meetings.
• If you’re looking for the classic lodge great room, you won’t find it here. There is a fireplace in the compact lobby and a few chairs. But not the high-ceilinged, mountain leisure of your dreams where you can sit and read for hours.
• The library is right off the lobby entrance, small and quiet and a nice substitute for the lack of that great room. There is complimentary coffee service in the morning and tea and cookies from 4 to 6 in the afternoon.
• With the 1-mile walk to the town of Snoqualmie or the 1-mile, down-and-back hike to the base of Snoqualmie Falls, literally right outside the door, one wonders why anyone would use the small workout room. But some do.
Everything at Salish Lodge & Spa is designed to be part of what Johnson calls the “Wow!” factor.
“It’s really just trying to create an experience that’s above and beyond what people expect — ‘the best meal I’ve ever had, or the most romantic weekend we’ve had in 10 years.’ “
Some wows: The location is surely one; the spa is another; the cuisine of Chef Roy Breinam another; the wine list — a huge investment.
The price, too, can be a wow for some. If a couple spends a weekend at standard rates, tries a spa-arranged adventure (anything from snowshoeing to fly-fishing), visits the spa, has breakfasts and dinners, they easily can spend $2,500 and more for the experience.
“We are not an inexpensive place,” Johnson says.
The trap, he says, is that some people who live within 30 miles (read Seattle) of the lodge and spa see the sticker shock and don’t see the change.
“They think, ‘It’s just Salish; it’s the breakfast place.’
“They don’t place us in the same sandbox as a true world-class destination resort — which is what we have molded ourselves into. They don’t put us on the same playing field as a resort they have to fly into.
“If they haven’t come up and tried it in the last five years, they should. We’re different now.”
• There are Guest Comment Cards everywhere — in the room, in the spa, with your bills when dining, with your bill even if you have just one drink at the Attic Bistro, everywhere.
• And there were e-mails everywhere. For one reservation, there were four different mailings: One to say thank you and repeating date and room reservation requests, and recommending reservations for spa, dining and adventure activities at least two weeks in advance; then came the reservation confirmation and another reminder on reservations; a third e-mail with more confirmations and strong reminders about reservations (by the way, pay particular attention to cancellation polices which require a 7-day warning — otherwise you forfeit the cost of the room); and finally an e-mail after departure saying thank you, again, with links to the guest comment card online.
Terry Tazioli: email@example.com or 206-464-2224