A brand new, multi-million dollar Nordic spa has opened in Kananaskis Country, making it the first major development project in the provincially protected area in decades.
The spa project represents part of a major renovation and expansion of Delta Kananaskis Lodge, which was purchased by the Pomeroy Lodging company in 2015.
Stephen Dodwell, general manager for the hotel, indicated hotel renovations that have resulted since the family-owned Western Canada-based hotel company purchased the property represents a significant investment – to the tune of $34 million.
“Our company prides itself on trying to deliver real, authentic Canadian hospitality, in what I have come to discover is a real Canadian hospitality base,” Dodwell said. “For us, taking over the Delta Lodge was a no-brainier.
“When I come here now, and I have been here for a year and I have overseen quite a lot of this renovation, it is really exciting, the potential of this place.”
The hotel includes 412 guestrooms, 36,000 square feet of conference and event space and pool and spa facilities.
Hank Van Weelden has partnered with Ryan Pomeroy to completely change the spa amenity for the resort and create a 5,000 square foot Nordic spa facility, the first of its kind in Alberta.
Van Weelden said throughout his career he has travelled the world and sought out hot pools, saunas and spas and added they create for him a passion to find ways to disconnect while away from home – to find places to relax and re-energize.
“We formed a partnership and decided to build this place,” he said. “We officially started a year ago by talking to (Alberta) Parks.”
“The parks people, to give them credit, were wonderful. They fast tracked the permits to allow this to happen and we actually broke ground in July last year and so, in less than a year, this is what you see here right now.”
Alberta Environment and Parks spokesperson Tim Chamberlin indicated the project was provided early conditional approval for the development application in order to clear trees from the property early in the season to avoid disturbing migratory birds.
“If they would have waited, it would have interfered with the migratory bird window,” he said. “Other than that, the rest of the process followed normal regulatory approvals.”
Chamberlin said the renovation and spa development went through an approval process that involved approval from AEP (as it is land leased from the province), the Kananaskis Improvement District development authority issues the development permit and EPCOR reviews all applications for additional water usage.
He added an environmental impact statement was not required as part of the development approval process.
Van Weelden indicated the spa development represents more than a $10 million investment for tourism, and is only partially complete. While the Nordic spa opened to weekend services at the beginning of March, there is still work to be completed through phase two of the project.
When finished, it will include five brand new outdoor pools, with differential temperatures, which is key to the Nordic pool hydrotherapy cycle. It includes multiple saunas, steam rooms, a salt-scrub cabin, outdoor fire pits, yoga studio and meditation space, treatment rooms and a spa lodge bistro.
The company brought in Bow Valley resident and experienced spa manager Jennifer Buckler to help create the experience being offered at the resort.
Buckler said the idea was to bring a Canadian twist to the Nordic spa experience, which includes Canadian tartan robes for guests who want to add that to their spa day.
“We want the hospitality to be like a Canadian kitchen party,” she said. “We really want it to be much more relaxed and little bit more approachable than your traditional European spa.
“We are kicking the stuffiness of the spa aside and making the Canadian aspects really pop.”
Pomeroy Lodging owns more than 18 hotel properties in Alberta and B.C. The Kananaskis property, currently a Delta branded hotel, is expected to change its name and identity as a hotel in the near future as well, said Dodwell.
While it has been a Delta since it was built for the 1988 Winter Olympics, he said under the Marriott hotel banner it would become part of the Autograph Collection, which is tailored to the individual property.
“It means we don’t have to be a cookie cutter,” Dodwell said. “We can be what we want to be and this place is unique; there is nothing like it in the Rockies.
“We will be known as the Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge Autograph Collection by Marriott – it is unique.”
Future plans also include the Executive Resort property, also located in the Kananaskis Village. Dodwell said Pomeroy Lodging also purchased that property and the intent is to develop it into a health and wellness based hotel.