Switzerland’s Other Luxury Medical Spa

Courtesy of Bad Ragaz

A health retreat in the Swiss Alps, an hour outside Zurich, combines spa amenities with comprehensive medical care.

Conventional medicine and spa wellness have coexisted for some time in Switzerland. Clinique La Prairie is a good example. A private, medically focused spa on Lake Geneva, it delivers the full panoply of beautifying technologies, from noninvasive antiaging facials to cosmetic surgery to the spa’s famous CLP Extract—an orally consumed dose of liver cells from unborn sheep (the treatment claims to boost the immune system). On the other side of the country, a 70-minute drive from Zurich into the German-speaking reaches, lies Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, a lesser-known alternative. Although it was established in 1869, it is strangely unfamiliar to anyone except wealthy Swiss of a certain age and national sports stars, Roger Federer among them. That is a reputation set to change. “We needed to find new clients,” says Bad Ragaz CEO Peter Tschirky, who headed the recent two-year investment of $150 million with the intention of turning Bad Ragaz into one of the most comprehensive destinations of its kind in Europe—and one that tallies with the rising trend in preventive health care. “It’s not as if we just bring in a doctor for two hours a week,” says Teo Albarano, M.D., director of the resort’s Medical Health Center, referring to a common practice at a number of so-called “medical spas.”

Located in a bowl of mountains, the Bad Ragaz resort is big, complex, and confusing. But because it’s Switzerland, it’s run with razor-sharp efficiency. In simple terms, it is comprised of three interconnected accommodation buildings: the Grand Hotel Hof Ragaz (formerly a four-star but now upgraded); the Grand Hotel Quellenhof (a classic Swiss grand hotel with swags, gilt, and high ceilings); and the new, all-white Spa Suites occupying nine floors of a contemporary tower. The suites, which opened last May, have private steam rooms and whirlpool baths—and are the ones to book. On the upper levels, floor-to-ceiling windows and balconies offer striking views of the resort, a church steeple, and the Alps. Chic, sleek, and modern, the aesthetic makes sense to guests who want to maximize wellness under the professional eye of 70 full-time medical staff and 30 well-being specialists.

The Medical Health Center offers numerous pathology-seeking technologies, from MRIs to vascular ultrasounds, as well as specializations like aesthetic surgery and rheumatology. The sports medicine department, officially accredited as the Swiss Olympic Medical Center in 2004, operates under the expert eye of Christian Schlegel, M.D., chief medical officer to the Swiss Olympic team. This is where I had my spine examined, a heart checkup using an ECG scanner, some posture analysis, and lactate testing in order to maximize my workouts.

Another key feature of the resort is the Tamina Therme. All-white and gleaming clean with an outdoor pool, these public baths and hydromassage facilities draw thermal water from a gorge only two and a half miles away. Then there is the To B. Wellbeing and Spa, offering more than 30 treatments including spinal column therapy (recommended), highly customized facials, and an esoteric clutch of holistic massages, like a 5,000-year-old Tibetan singing bowl massage. On top of all this is the 18-hole PGA Championship golf course, seven restaurants (some good, some average, two featuring a calorie-calibrated menu), and numerous off-site activities like winter skiing and Nordic walking in nearby Pizol.

How to navigate this gamut of options is perhaps the biggest challenge presented by a stay here—and one that would be impossible without the assistance of an English-speaking personal coordinator who is provided, if necessary, upon arrival. To make it easier still, the resort recommends prepackaged medical programs. Each of the 11 plans has highly specific diagnostics built in, such as mammograms and in-depth full-body analyses. According to Albarano, about 20 percent of Bad Ragaz’s guests are there to identify real pathologies or disorders, as well as risk factors for potential health problems ranging from orthopedics to cancer to cardiac disease. Another 50 percent visit for rehabilitative health—physiotherapy following an injury or an illness, for instance. Some only use the spa, but nearly all append treatments whenever there’s a spare hour.

Was I convinced? I thought the prices were frightening—the two-night Business Check package I experienced starts at $7,180—and the results can be, too, with some 20 percent identifying previously unknown problems, according to Albarano. Did I benefit? Yes, insomuch as I learned my low iron levels would be better treated with injections than oral supplements. I was also advised to watch key aspects of my lifestyle in order to avoid recurring deep vein thrombosis (the flight stockings I was prescribed not only took 20 minutes to fit, but I could choose from black, white, and nude). The one-stop nature of it all meant I had time to address more general wellness issues while my medical tests were in the works. Those included my exercise habits, my sleep, dry skin, and uneven muscular strength resulting from a teenage motorcycle injury. Other clients’ benefits are more dramatic: The plastic surgeon has an exceptional reputation. Rooms, from $412; 41-81/303-3030; resortragaz.ch.