By Rene Lynch
Los Angles Times Staff Writer
5:15 PM PDT, October 6, 2010
The new Biggest Loser Resort at Fitness Ridge in Malibu is already booked through mid-November, despite a troubled debut that would have challenged the most dogged contestant on the NBC-TV show that inspired it.
The resort's first full day of operations was Sept. 27 — the date that Los Angeles experienced record heat. Temperatures, which hit 113 degrees downtown, also topped 100 at Calamigos Ranch in Malibu, where the resort is located.
The unexpected heat wave was just one of the grand-opening snarls, including telephones that didn't work; a broken generator; a smattering of air-conditioning units that only blew hot air; a cabin overrun by ants; and the lack of privacy shades on windows. Several guests left early.
"We struggled," said Renee Jarvis, the resort's marketing director. "As with any opening, there's always a feeling of 'I wish we had one more week to get ready.'"
The Malibu location is the second resort to build itself around "The Biggest Loser" theme, loosely fashioned after the weight-loss TV reality show; the first is in Utah. While rustic, the Malibu resort offers amenities such as the newest fitness equipment, a pool and an array of salon services, including massage, makeup and manicures. The 80 guests dine on fewer than 1,500 calories per day and attend lectures on health and nutrition.
Guests are also expected to be active several hours a day, from early morning through the afternoon. That requirement made the scorching opener all the more painful.
The first workout of the day was an early morning hike. And many — including me, there to observe the doings — were unprepared for the skyrocketing temperatures that were to come. Even though we were advised to bring water, along with sunscreen and hats, we quickly drained our bottles on the hot, dusty trails. Some guests complained about a seeming lack of guides on the hike and a lack of water as a courtesy at the finish.
Another guest would have appreciated a warning about local wildlife.
Laurie Chambers of Los Gatos said she found herself with another guest on a hike, no guide in sight, unsure which fork in the road to take, when she heard what sounded at first like a sprinkler going off. Then she realized it was a rattlesnake.
Although Chambers didn't actually see the snake, "No question about it, it was a rattlesnake," she said. The two women backed away and waited for about 20 anxious minutes for someone to show up and guide them back to the waiting vans. When Chambers returned to the resort, she packed her bags and left, less than 24 hours after she arrived.
"It was just one thing after another," said Chambers, who said she first checked into a cabin without working air conditioning and was then moved to one without running water.
Jarvis said four guests left the ranch shortly after checking in.
"It just breaks our heart to have this rough start," she said, but added that by Thursday of opening week, things were running smoothly and "we're doing really great now." She said she did not believe hiking conditions were unsafe.
Some other guests said they arrived at the resort expecting a few opening-week problems.
“Those first few days were hard because of the heat and some other things, but I’m glad I stayed,” said Angela Wilson of Houston, who booked a two-week stay as a 50th birthday present for herself. She said she already felt stronger, thanks to the intense fitness regimen.
A husband-and-wife couple who spent a week at the resort said the outstanding service, classes and hikes more than made up for the hiccups. They lost about 11 pounds total, and said they are already planning a return trip. (They declined to speak on the record because they didn’t tell anyone except immediate family that they were going to the resort.)
Each Saturday night, there is a graduation ceremony for those departing the next morning and a weigh-in. During the first week, individual weight loss totals ranged from 2 to 12 pounds, resort guests said.
As for the food: Dinner one night included a strawberry and spinach salad and a tasty Southwestern salad with chicken and black beans, served in a whole wheat tortilla “bowl,” and a chocolate pudding dessert. All for about 500 calories. In between meals, guests get access to a fruit and a salad bar, but no other food is available. Even the gift shop is bereft of snacks. And coffee lovers take note: Caffeine is banned.
So hopefully you'll drop a few pounds during your stay even as you drop some cash: $2,295 per week and up, depending on the type of room. Spa services are extra.
Info: The Biggest Loser Resort at Fitness Ridge Malibu, 277 Latigo Canyon Road
Malibu, CA 90265; (888) 870-2639
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