As for the resort, Ranch Hudson Valley will have 25 guest rooms on a 40,000-square-foot estate that was built in 1902 by JP Morgan for his daughter as a wedding gift when she married Alexander Hamilton’s great-grandson; Many guests will have preserved such details as decorative wall paneling and ornate plaster molding. Also in the works are a 5,000-square-foot solarium with a cold-plunge pool and a jacuzzi overlooking the back lawn, and a 2,000-square-foot ballroom-turned-gym.
The property fronts on a lake, which allows for such water activities as stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking, according to Alex Glasscock, co-founder and chief executive officer of Ranch Malibu.
“The Ranch Malibu has a reputation of being really challenging,” Glasscock says. “We want to reach out to a greater audience of people.”
The flexibility afforded by briefer retreats will help, as will programs of varying intensity catering to those who might have been deterred by the programs’ physical demands. The three-day program, for instance, will cap hikes at two hours (rather than four) and include more daily downtime for relaxation and wellness treatments. In New York, that won’t be limited to massages; it will include chiropractor appointments and acupuncture. Four-day programs will be considered of intermediate difficulty, with all the rigors of the Malibu curriculum in fewer days. Standard weeklong programs will also be on offer.
Additionally, the Ranch will provide private one-on-one programs and corporate retreats. Both have enjoyed good demand in Malibu, according to Glasscock.
Glasscock says the local clientele is already established: Some 40% of Ranch Malibu’s existing clients are from the tristate area that includes Connecticut and New Jersey. He expects that the location and shorter program durations will better cater to their needs, especially as work-from-anywhere lifestyles shift back to hybrid office schedules. The resort will be able to operate 52 weeks annually—a feat made possible, at least partially, by climate change. “Hiking in the mountains in February is not as daunting as it might have been decades ago,” Glasscock says.
Wellness travel is a booming industry, with the global market projected to reach $817 billion this year, from $436 billion in 2020, and to hit $1.3 trillion in 2025, according to the US-based nonprofit Global Wellness Institute, which provides research on the wellness industry. In the Northeast, several brands—apart from Ranch Malibu—have recently expanded from West Coast flagships. Most notable among them are Canyon Ranch and Miraval, which opened luxury wellness retreats in the Berkshires in Massachusetts over the past two years.
It’s all part of a broader wave of ultra-luxury retreats opening around the Hudson Valley and the Catskill Mountains. Among the notable newcomers is Inness, a country club, hotel, and golf destination led by hospitality maven Taavo Somer; There’s also Chatwal Lodge, a $1,200-per-night country retreat in a modernized great camp estate. Wildflower Farms, an Auberge Resort, will bring a Blackberry Farm sensibility—and similar ambitions to be among the world’s best leisure resorts—to the town of Gardiner, just beyond New York City’s suburbs, this fall.
Ranch Hudson Valley will be unlike any of them. Even Canyon Ranch and Miraval offer room for personal preferences, explains Dawn Oliver, a wellness travel expert and adviser with luxury agency Embark Beyond; those close competitors let guests pick and choose their activities and design their own programs. At Ranch Malibu, Oliver says, you surrender with a small group to a single, proven formula. That’s the point.
“What people are starving for is to get down and dirty and really connect with another human,” says Oliver about Ranch Malibu. She likens it to a health version of hazing in which participants bonded amid a shared, challenging experience. “It’s like you have to go through the discomfort to get to the other side. There’s really nothing like it in the Northeast.”