Green Mountain

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The sprawling facility, which features 233 guest rooms, overlooks Lake Mohonk
The sprawling facility, which features 233 guest rooms, overlooks Lake Mohonk


















Mohonk Mountain House Resort and Spa in New Paltz, NY, reflects one family's continuing commitment to the environment.

Nearly 140 years ago twin brothers Alfred and Albert Smiley pooled their resources to buy a piece of property in New York's Hudson Valley near New Paltz. A small tavern overlooked Lake Mohonk, while the Shawnagunks—a rugged mountain range with precipitous crags and overhanging quartz rock formations—rose up in the background. Just 90 minutes from New York City, it was, and still is, the perfect location for a resort hotel. Because they were Quakers, the brothers banned alcohol, dancing and card-playing at the resort, suggesting that instead guests partake of daily nature walks, boating, bowling, horseback riding, fishing and evening concerts. The emphasis was on direct contact with nature and conversation with others. It still is. For example, there are no televisions in any of the guest rooms. "We'd rather people get out of their rooms and participate in outdoor activities," says Nina Smiley, director of marketing at Mohonk Mountain, which is still owned and operated by members of the Smiley family, who have been doing their part to protect the environment since 1869.

The boat dock at Mohonk Mountain House
The boat dock at Mohonk Mountain House

A composting program provides fertilizer for the extensive flower gardens on the property.
A composting program provides fertilizer for the extensive flower gardens on the property.

Today, Mohonk continues its commitment to environmental stewardship through earth-friendly design features, an extensive recycling program and green initiatives that preserve the land and educate people. By switching to fluorescent lightbulbs, Mohonk has reduced its lighting load by 150,000 watts—a portion of its electric power is also purchased from a renewable energy source that is Green-e Certified. Mohonk has also donated 5,300 acres of land through the establishment of the nonprofit Mohonk Preserve and maintains a carbon-neutral environment by planting new trees and protecting forests within its 2,200 acres. When the family decided to build a spa on the property in 2005, they were adamant that the new facility integrate well with the rich architectural heritage of the original building, a 266-room "Victorian Castle" that is a National Historic Landmark. In keeping with the ecologically friendly approach to the land, a geothermal heating-and-cooling system was implemented. Using the constant temperature of the earth, the system moderates the temperature of the 30,000-square-foot facility and provides an emission- and noise-free alternative to traditional heating and cooling methods. Additionally, a green roof composed of eight inches of sod helps insulate the building, reducing energy use and runoff and providing a habitat for birds and butterflies. In the spring and summer months, yoga and meditation classes are held there.

The Solarium, with its stone fireplace, is one of the guests' favorite places to relax after spa treatments
The Solarium, with its stone fireplace, is one of the guests' favorite places to relax after spa treatments

Before the spa could be built, approximately 17,000 tons of Shawangunk Ridge rock had to be excavated from the mountaintop to create space for the new facility. More than 600 tons of quartz conglomerate stone were recycled into stone walls, fireplaces and retaining walls throughout the spa. Two 80-foot-long, glass-enclosed verandas connect to a solarium with a stone fireplace and provide breathtaking views of the landscape. Indeed, just taking in the spectacular surroundings is likely to induce a sense of serenity. "My great-grand-uncle, Albert Smiley, understood the need to provide guests with an opportunity to experience nature directly," says Mohonk's President Albert K. Smiley III. "People today have little free time, so it's increasingly important to provide a place where guests can easily connect with a strikingly beautiful natural environment and immediately feel nurtured by that connection."

Several signature spa treatments were also developed to connect spa guests back to the earth. The Shawangunk Grit Body Treatment uses indigenous quartzite rocks crushed to a fine powder in a body scrub that exfoliates and improves circulation. Guests can directly feel the benefits of the earth in this ultimate "eco spa" treatment. The Mohonk Red Massage was created in honor of the Mohonk red witch hazel grown on the property. The treatment begins with a relaxation breathing technique and aromatic inhalation of calming evergreen. Massage techniques include traditional Thai stretches, Swedish massage and Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage. Warmed towels infused with witch hazel cocoon the face and feet as the experience concludes with a guided power nap. Guests are also given a flacon of the signature oil to take home with them.

Meditating on the green roof-garden terrace
Meditating on the green roof-garden terrace

To help sustain the surrounding land, Mohonk Mountain House has supported the revival of a century-old farming tradition by providing land for the nearby Brook Farm Project. Vegetables such as squash, beans, cucumbers, carrots, greens and tomatoes are grown in the organic garden, which supplies hotel guests with seasonable farm-to-table produce. An on-site composting and recycling program has reduced waste sent to landfills by 50 percent. What's more, the compost is used to fertilize the extensive flower gardens on the property. Smiley points out that employees at Mohonk are encouraged to participate in eco-friendly activities, as well. Not only is a composting receptacle located in the employee dining area, but employees also participate in the annual Mohonk Mountain House "Clean Sweep" event. Oh, and to eliminate the use of Styrofoam cups, each employee has been given a reusable mug.

Mixing the Shawangunk Grit for a body treatment that exfoliates and improves circulation.
Mixing the Shawangunk Grit for a body treatment that exfoliates and improves circulation.

Other green initiatives at Mohonk include nature and interpretive programs, such as walks, slide shows and lectures hosted by Mohonk's staff naturalist; an environmentally friendly wastewater treatment plant; use of biodegradable laundry products and nonaerosol cleaning materials; a recycling program for office computers, batteries and fluorescent lightbulbs; and the donation of a regional headquarters for the Student Conservation Association, a national association dedicated to developing conservation leaders of the future. Last June, Mohonk introduced the Junior Naturalist Experience. Designed for children ages four to 12, the program includes a variety of nature-based activities, like climate lessons at the resort's boat dock and expeditions to observe the many types of flora and fauna that make up the spectacular natural environment at Mohonk. "This is one of the ways that Mohonk Mountain House is seeking to nurture children's delight in nature and to create future generations of environmentally aware adults," Smiley says. —MARIANNE DOUGHERTY

The Women's Veranda features energy-efficient windows that afford a spectacular view of the woods behind the spa
The Women's Veranda features energy-efficient windows that afford a spectacular view of the woods behind the spa

The indoor pool is also surrounded by windows that virtually bring the outdoors in.
The indoor pool is also surrounded by windows that virtually bring the outdoors in.