The building on the southwest corner of Broadway and Second Street has housed a plethora of businesses. Some remember it as Spooky’s, others as Dempseys and still others as The Eagle Bar.
But its latest transformation may be its most dramatic yet as the building welcomes its newest occupant — Higher Elevation Healing Arts School.
School owner Audrey Carson launched her program two years ago in Edwards. She noted that there hadn’t been a massage therapy program in the area for six years and there was pent-up demand for the service.
“We decided we wanted to be in Eagle because it is more central to our student body,” said Carson.
Hand in Hand
Higher Elevation Healing Arts Schools offers professional massage training for people who are just entering the profession as well as continuing education for seasoned professionals. As an actual school, Higher Elevation is certified through the Colorado Department of Higher Education Division of Private Occupational Schools.
“There was a lot of steps in the process, but they are probably the best state agency I have ever worked with,” said Carson. To date, the school has seen three graduating classes for a total of 24 students.
By the time they graduate from the Higher Elevations program, students will have completed more than 620 hours of training. Students can earn their degree in as soon as 10 months with an average total tuition expense of $8,000. What’s more, Carson said there are top local job prospects for them once they finish.
“I think we have more spas here than anyplace in the country, per square mile,” she said.
Because of the nature of this area’s tourism draw — active recreation and adventure travel — Carson said massage therapy services follow hand in hand. She said her strong ties to local spa operations means that prospective employers often contact her searching for massage therapists. She also notes, however that to complete the Higher Elevations program, students have to complete a rigorous curriculum that involves lots of hands-on training.
“Its kind of like they have had their first job by the time they graduate,” said Carson.
“Massage therapy is a growing field with growing pay,” said Carson
According to official labor department statistics, the field is expected to grow by three percent over the next 10 years and the average annual salary for a full time massage therapist is $43,000.
“With only 10 months of training, that’s a pretty good investment,” said Carson.
In general, she said her average student is searching for a flexible and fulfilling career.
“It’ also great because you get to work independently and it’s a pretty low-stress career,” she added. “Most of the people come in because they are ready for a change.”
Carson herself enrolled in massage therapy school 10 years ago because she wasn’t sure what she wanted to study. “But I loved it so much, I didn’t want to change careers,” she said. After working at high-end spas including the local Westin, she decided she wanted to open her own school to help others start out in the profession.
“We have one of our students move directly to Hawaii after graduation. You can pretty much open up shop and have a career anywhere.”
Students and professionals
The menu of massage therapy services available at Higher Elevations includes in-home options as well as on-site services. Both “professional” and “student” massage rates are offered, but the student rates are markedly less expensive. For example, a 90-minute student massage is priced at $50 while the graduate rate is $90 and the instructor rate is $125. Student and professional series rates are also available.
Carson noted that just because a student is performing a massage, the client isn’t getting an inferior service.
“I think the students try a bit harder than even a professional,” she said. “I like to say that our students are professionals in training.”
At the new Eagle location, part of the building is plainly classroom, with regular tables, massage tables and large dry-erase human skeleton posters set up for students.
“What makes our program a little different from others is we only serve a maximum of 10 students per class,” said Carson.
But away from the classroom area are three private therapy rooms.
“The school is trying to recreate a spa atmosphere as much as possible,” said Carson.
The Eagle site is open by appointed only. To learn more about the Higher Elevation Healing Arts School or to check out the services available on site visit massageschoolcolorado.com.