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Q&A with Paul Dixon, the Best Spa Therapist in North America
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Q&A with Paul Dixon, the Best Spa Therapist in North America

Massage Therapist at the Willow Stream Spa Takes Win at the Hall of Wellness Awards

Paul Dixon, Massage Therapist at the Willow Stream Spa, was recently named “Best Spa Therapist in North America” in the inaugural Hall of Wellness (HOW) Awards. The award recipients were announced at the virtual awards gala in December 2020 following an in-depth four-stage judging process which involved an expert panel of world-renowned spa leaders.

110 awards were presented to exceptional individuals in the global wellness industry across seven categories, including the Middle East, Asia, Europe and the United Kingdom, Oceania, the Americas, Africa and a global group.

We spoke with Paul following the news of his big win to talk career, wellness and life in Banff National Park. 

Banff Springs Hotel: How long have you worked as a Massage Therapist at the Willow Stream Spa?
Paul Dixon: 24 years. I started in 1997.

BSH: Do you specialize in a certain type of massage therapy?
PD: My original training was for Shiatsu, which translates to “finger pressure” in Japanese. It was a two year, full-time program. Other techniques I use include: reflexology, cupping, active release, and strain-Counterstrain.

BSH: What made you decide to start a career in massage therapy?
PD: I have always been involved in some form of health care or guest service. Before working as a massage therapist, I worked in the restaurant business and ambulance emergency care. Massage and shiatsu seemed to bring both of those careers together. At the time, I was an avid runner and was dealing with various injuries. I found massage, shiatsu and acupuncture were very effective in helping and healing my injuries and seeing these results made me very interested in massage therapy.

BSH: Why do massage therapists typically recommend drinking lots of water following a treatment?
PD: Well, in general people don’t drink enough water so it’s always good advice! Hydration helps to alleviate soreness and aids with muscle recovery following a treatment.

BSH: Besides a traditional massage, what is your favourite treatment to receive at the Willow Stream Spa?
PD: I’d have to say it’s the “Ultimate Ascent” treatment. Ultimate Ascent is a two-hour treatment intended to restore & heal. It includes a warm footbath and foot scrub, followed by a gentle dry-brush exfoliation, and a soothing massage. It’s finished with a warm wrap and a gentle face and foot massage. It’s the ultimate form of relaxation and I highly recommend! 

BSH: What is the most fulfilling part of the job?
PD: Being part of an industry that promotes health and wellbeing. I love that our spa provides a place for guests to relax and learn about health when they visit our facilities. From the benefits of mineral pools to new fitness trends, there is always something new to learn about in the spa world. 

BSH: In your opinion, how have you seen the wellness industry change over your 24 years working as a massage therapist?
PD: Our Willow Stream Spa at Fairmont Banff Springs was the first in the world and now it’s a globally recognized name in the wellness industry. It just wasn’t common to see spas in hotels when I started in the 90s. Nowadays, nearly every community has a spa or massage clinic. Also, back when I started working in the industry, if you told someone that you did massage, shiatsu or reflexology for a living, you were met with confusing looks and lots of questions! 24 years later, that is no longer the case.

BSH: What do you do outside of work to take care of yourself and your own wellbeing? 
PD: In terms of exercise, I love running, biking, downhill and cross country skiing. Meditation and breathing exercises have become part of my lifestyle style more and more over the years. Also, I avoid any alcohol. As for diet, still working on that one! I use massage, acupuncture and shiatsu regularly as well. 

BSH: What do you love most about living in the Bow Valley?
PD: It’s an incredible environment for any type of sport or outdoor activity you wish to participate in and it’s full of people who are dedicated to living active, healthy lives. It’s also a great place to raise a family. City life isn’t for me! I feel very lucky to live in such a great place.

BSH: What is your favourite memory from working at Fairmont Banff Springs?
PD: There are too many to mention! But one recent memory is returning to work after the spa re-opened in 2020 and realizing how much I love my job and how important the work is. Being a part of the Willow Stream Spa team is a major part of who I am and has helped shape me to become the person I am today.

BSH: What does winning this award mean to you?
PD: Of course it’s an honour and I am so appreciative of the award but I am also shocked, quite frankly! I did not expect to win an award of this scale and am so grateful to the entire Willow Stream Spa team because it wouldn’t have been possible without them. From those making spa reservations to those maintaining the facilities, each step of the spa experience is vital. This award is about much more than my skills or experience; it’s a reflection of the hard work and dedication of everyone at the Willow Stream Spa at Fairmont Banff Springs.  

To view the full list of the HOW Award winners, click here.

The recently renovated and award-winning Willow Stream Spa is open daily for select spa and salon services. Click here to learn more and to book your spa treatment today.

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