The term “wellness travel” can conjure a wide range of soothing settings in one’s mind. Whether it’s some form of mindfulness retreat, an epic outdoor adventure trip, a week at Burning Man, or just time spent in silence (Aquarius fam: I see you), it’s all welcome. Every definition of what it means to be well when you’re away from home is warranted.

If connecting to nature in a profound way is a priority for your next wellness-centric travel experience, The Lodge at Blue Sky, Auberge Resorts Collection is the best in class.

Where earth meets sky

The Lodge at Blue Sky is nestled on 3,500 acres of serenely secluded wilderness in Utah’s scenic Wasatch mountain range, roughly a 25 minute drive from Park City. Its 46 rooms and suites sit on a sprawling private ranch “where earth meets sky” (an apt description). The hotel’s thoughtful, modern design is an endless homage to the beauty of mountain life and, of course, the dazzling sky and stars that beam from above it.

As soon as you pull up at Blue Sky, you’ll spot Sky Lodge right on the horizon line—this serves as the main hub of the property. It’s home to Yuta, the resort’s main restaurant, helmed by three time James Beard Award-nominated executive chef Jason Franey, plus an on-site bar, lounge, and patio. Every meal at The Lodge at Blue Sky is inherently “mountain farm to table,” as chef Franey collaborates closely with Lynsey Gammon, the director of farming for onsite Gracie’s Farm. The culinary program draws inspiration from the region’s surroundings with a special nod to the melting pot of Wasatch Mountain Range’s many cultural influences. Local and sustainable produce and proteins—including regeneratively-grown greens, garlic, tomatoes, root vegetables, honey, and herbs—abound.

Also next door is a stunning infinity pool as well as Edge Spa, which is built on the edge of a cliff that overlooks Blue Sky’s creek—which, yes, you’ll listen to as you inhale and exhale their locally-sourced lavender oil. Water is the key component in the design of Edge Spa, which offers open-air soaking pools, a variety of mountain-inspired treatments, fitness training, and mindful pursuits, including aerial yoga and guided meditation.

Each room at The Lodge at Blue Sky celebrates nature in the purest and most effective way possible: by letting it in. The high ceilings and large windows in every spacious suite maximize views and draw the gaze outward; glass doors open up to transform your already-spacious suite into an indoor-outdoor narnia. The bed is in the middle of the room, which makes you feel more like you’re laying among the aspen trees outside. Plan to wake up in the morning with panoramic views of pristine wilderness and the sounds of the babbling brook, Alexander Creek, outside your window.

If activity is what you’re after, The Lodge at Blue Sky offers every mountain adventure imaginable, including horseback riding, Vaquero horsemanship lessons, working cattle, fly fishing, championship-caliber shooting clays, hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing.

The Lodge at Blue Sky: What real mission-driven hospitality looks like

All of the above—the stellar spa, outdoor rain showers, creekside cold plunges—are what will lure you. Your expectations will be beyond exceeded. But what will leave you feeling more connected to the universe and all of the wonder’s that the earth has to offer and reinstall your faith in humanity—and, yes, disconnected from Slack—will be something entirely different. It won’t have anything to do with how plush the linens are (like the fluffy cumulus cloud outside your window though) or even the fact that your room’s mini fridge will contain a small Weck jar filled with cold, farm-fresh cream provided by happy cows on-site: a far cry from coffee mate. What will move your proverbial mountains is the mission-driven reason that the serene ranch-resort exists, none of which has to do with luxury.

Enter Barbara Phillips, the owner and visionary of The Lodge at Blue Sky.

In 2013, long before there were on-site infinity pools and spirulina smoothies, Phillips discovered a nearby ranch that was neglecting their horses, and took it upon herself to care for them, feeding them daily over the fence. One horse in particular really needed help; she was declining quickly and wouldn’t make it without treatment. Phillips convinced a local officer to transport her to a nearby vet hospital and, from that day forward, vowed to take care of the horse for the rest of her life. She named her Gracie, feeling that it was a “Saving Grace” that she was able to rescue her. When officers pounded on Phillips’ door to investigate the ‘theft’ of Gracie (and threaten her with legal action) over a year later, her response came naturally: “You can put me in jail, but I will never allow that horse to go back to those people.”

Gracie inspired Phillips to found the Saving Gracie Equine Healing Foundation, which is now part of the resort. Since 2015, Saving Gracie’s has rescued and become a forever home for more than 45 horses in addition to dozens of cows, chickens, goats, dogs, cats, and more.

“Saving Gracie’s and its beliefs underscore the entire culture and messaging of Blue Sky: These animals will be treated fairly. They will be respected. We will not overwork them.”

—Barb Phillips, owner of The Lodge at Blue Sky, Auberge Resorts Collection

As a 3,500-acre working ranch, horses are written deeply into Blue Sky’s core DNA. The animal sanctuary Phillips has created is unlike anywhere else in the world. She employs a full-time property vet (The Lodge at Blue Sky is the only resort in North America that has one) and uses its natural horsemanship program to bring the impactful healing and educational powers of horses to all guests.

On a recent visit to The Lodge, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Phillips in an attempt to comprehend how she and her husband, Mike, look after the livelihood of so much—a resort, ranch, 3,500 acres of property, hundreds of employees, and enough animals to fill an arc. The answer was clear to me before Phillips opened her mouth: Deeply, and with tremendous care.

“My decision to start the Saving Gracie Equine Healing Foundation, in complete transparency, came from a very emotional place,” Phillips starts. “From day one, my goal has been to rescue, heal, and rehabilitate horses in a way that is as impactful as possible and done with extreme care.”

For Phillips, that meant taking lifelong responsibility for the physical and emotional livelihood of these creatures. “I don’t currently rehome the horses that I rescue. I give them a permanent home here at the ranch, because these animals are still recovering from so much. They’ve experienced so much trauma and emotional pain, and often require medical treatment for physical issues. These are costly responsibilities that require long-term care. I’m fearful that if I rehome the horses, their issues will not get addressed.”

The solution was simple: “So I created a sanctuary,” laughs Phillips. (Far from simple, but you get it: Saving Gracie’s was her calling.) “When an animal comes to stay here with us, they find their forever home. If a ‘working horse’ is no longer able to work, they can enjoy a beautiful retirement at Gracie’s.” Horse retirement, Phillips emphasizes, is about “not being useful anymore”—it’s about valuing their spirit and providing them with love and nurturing.

“Saving Gracie’s and its beliefs underscore the entire culture and messaging of Blue Sky: These animals will be treated fairly. They will be respected. We will not overwork them. If a horse is working for the ranch, we treat them with the respect an employee deserves, meaning they will get benefits and days off, too. We will never treat them like they’re a commodity,” Phillips says as tears well in her eyes. See what I mean about the magic and healing that happens at this mountainside paradise?

During our meeting, I watched as Phillips’ team of equine experts carefully administered muscle-relaxing massage treatments to aging, formerly-abused horses. The expression of deep emotion and relief on each horse’s face was enough to make you understand their mission.

It wasn’t long into our conversation that a pickup truck filled with five thirsty puppies stopped by, a horse’s leg injury needed medical attention, one cow started getting a stomach issue, and Phillips got whisked away, back to work. But first, I had to know: How can guests take some of this mountain air home and feel more connected to nature when they’re not staying at a luxury wellness report? “We prioritize the care we take of the land, the animals, and each other above all on the ranch—and this prominent culture of care has really infused itself in a positive way across the entire property. Educating folks who visit and teaching them something that helps them heal or feel more connected to nature after they leave, too—that is what we’re after here,” Phillips says.

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