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I drove slowly up the mountain road, dodging the patches of ice that grew larger the higher I climbed. Small piles of snow dropped from the tall pines hovering on the cliffside onto my windshield with a soft “poof.” I tried to keep my eyes on the road while simultaneously taking in the vistas afforded by the narrow, twisting road. Soon after, I pulled over and put on my snow chains in below-freezing temperatures.
I could have easily been wending through any remote mountain town in Colorado or Wyoming, but I wasn’t even 100 miles from my home in Los Angeles. Visitors to the sunny, temperate city often complain that it “doesn’t have seasons,” but drive just 90 minutes east in wintertime, and an entirely different topography and weather system await.
The destination is Lake Arrowhead, a getaway popular with the Southern California crowd, who flocks to the area in colder months to enjoy the winter wonderland.
That was my impetus, too, and I was en route to a weekend stay at Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa, an Autograph Collection hotel managed by Benchmark Resorts & Hotels. Open since 1982, the 27-acre property sits right on the shores of scenic Lake Arrowhead and adjacent to Lake Arrowhead Village. The location provides guests both exclusivity — it has a private beach, with access only for clients — and centrality, as the village is a hub of restaurants, shopping and entertainment.
I arrived at the resort after an extra-heavy snowfall, and the grounds were blanketed in a couple feet of sparkling powder. But although the tableau was worthy of a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie, the road to the ski areas was closed due to dangerous conditions, and the natives were growing restless, according to Allison Kneubuhl, the property’s marketing consultant.
“We turned this meeting room into a game room so that kids and families would have somewhere to play,” Kneubuhl said as she showed me around Lake Arrowhead Resort’s large, open-air lobby.
She also noted the newly updated, state-of the-art fitness center and the heated outdoor pool and hot tub as places to expend extra energy, but I was more interested in some old-fashioned R&R at the spa.
The 8,000-square-foot AAA Four Diamond Spa of the Pines features 10 treatment rooms; women’s and men’s locker rooms with whirlpool spas, steam rooms and showers; lounges for women, men and couples; the gym; and a salon. Even if they haven’t booked a treatment, resort guests have complimentary access to the spa facilities.
Treatments range from salt and sugar scrubs to Swedish and deep-tissue massages, and specialty services include couples massages, craniosacral therapy, reflexology and CBD oil massages.
My 50-minute facial incorporated natural, hydrating treatments; extractions; infrared LED light therapy, which stimulates healing and can treat skin blemishes; and a high-frequency device that generates oxygen to kill bacteria and calm inflamed skin. During each step, my esthetician explained to me what she was doing, along with the benefits, and provided personalized recommendations for my everyday skincare routine.
I left glowing and feeling serene, and moved to the post-treatment room for more pampering — mimosas, tea and snacks awaited. I highly recommend a spa treatment any time of year, but there was something about wrapping up in a robe and gazing out at the snowy lake while basking in my well-earned Zen that felt especially right in winter.
To enjoy more lake views and mountain fare, I headed to Bin 189, where executive chef Roberto Vazquez Pulido serves contemporary American cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The rustic chic, birch-paneled venue — complete with a stone fireplace, antler chandeliers and a bar sporting tree stumps — offers signature dishes, cocktails, microbrews and wines by the glass, along with live entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights.
My weekend was built around indulgence, and I wasn’t about to back off during dinner. I ordered the filet mignon, served with roasted balsamic Brussels sprouts, a red wine reduction and roasted potatoes, which chef Pulido kindly subbed for me in place of parsnip puree when he learned about my dietary restrictions. I opted for the suggested wine pairing — a cabernet sauvignon — but had to bypass dessert (for once), which includes treats such as bananas Foster and pomegranate cheesecake mousse.
I was more than happy to amble to my Lake Side Guest Room, where a king bed awaited my slumber. The spacious room featured a sitting area, a desk and a private balcony facing the lake and the pool. Giant icicles hung down the balcony awning — a true visual delight for an Angeleno.
In addition to its 162 guestrooms, the property also offers 11 suites. For a romantic getaway, I suggest booking clients in a suite; each features a living area and an oversize bathroom with a large walk-in shower and a separate tub (some have deep-soaking tubs). For a real treat, try the Presidential Suite, which has living and dining areas, a decorative fireplace, lake and mountain views, a private balcony and two full baths.
Guestroom and suite amenities include televisions, coffee makers and minifridges, and hotel guests receive complimentary Wi-Fi access and complimentary on-site parking.
After a restful night’s sleep, I headed back to Bin 189 for a sit-down breakfast, where a sunny morning, a soy latte and smoked salmon eggs Benedict prepared me for my journey home. In addition to Bin 189, room service is available, or clients can grab pastries and light fare at coffee bar Aromas.
I wasn’t quite ready to make my way down the mountain, though. I grabbed my book, donned a robe and went to my happy place — the spa — for one last soak in the hot tub.
The DetailsLake Arrowhead Resort and Spawww.lakearrowheadresort.com