Q&A with Canyon Ranch Spa Co-Founder and Wellness Visionary Mel Zuckerman
As its 35th anniversary year comes to a close, Canyon Ranch and its co-founder, Mel Zuckerman, are eyeing a bright future—one that explores new frontiers in health and wellness—and includes brand-new campuses.
As the well-told story goes, 40-year-old Zuckerman was an unhealthy overweight accountant with a penchant for junk food who had suffered his whole life from asthma, told as a child that exercise meant a most certain death. His storied turnaround happened at the Oaks at Ojai, where wellness guru Karma Kientzler set him straight, and on a course toward fitness and vibrancy. He exercised, lost weight, and discovered his life’s calling. Together with his wife, at age 50, he founded Canyon Ranch outside of Tucson, Arizona, pioneering a new concept in spas, where healing happened in luxurious surroundings under the supervision of medical professionals—psychologists, nutritionists, etc. Program and treatment results led to vocal testimonies and devoted following. An iconic destination spa and health retreat was born.
Fast-forward 35 years, and Mr. Zuckerman, at age 85, is still going strong. We sat down with the father of the modern wellness vacation to talk about trends and Canyon Ranch news.
Q: What big trends are you seeing in Spa and Wellness for 2015?
A: Spiritual Wellness. The early Canyon Ranch was a lot about doing. Over the years, we’ve spent a lot of time focused on the body. But now, it’s time to look inward and be introspective—be more holistic. People are looking for something more, something deeper.
New programming at Canyon Ranch [yoga, dance, meditation, creative arts, drumming, and something called “Soul Journeys”] will focus on way to live a more meaningful, connected, and stress-free life—no matter your religious orientation.
A: Yes, we are working on a full-service destination resort spa in Southeast Asia on the northernmost island of Bintan, just a short ferry ride from Singapore. The all-inclusive resort will incorporate the best of local culture, and Canyon Ranch’s signature offerings. We are looking at other international projects, too.
Q: What are your personal wellness rituals or routines?
A: For me, it’s all about fitness—a morning workout in the pool, intervals, and weight training. My meditation is massage, which I get four times a week. When my face hits the cradle, I quiet my busy mind.
Q: Where do you see Canyon Ranch going beyond the new year?
A: I’d love to create a Canyon Ranch-like experience for half the price, if that’s possible. Family resorts—with a strong base-level of health offerings—is something I’m exploring.
I also have this idea about creating “living communities”—developments where it’s easy to live and maintain a healthy life and make healthy choices. A place that continually gives life meaning, and meaning to life.
Adrien Glover is the deputy digital editor at Travel + Leisure.