My husband and I stayed at the Essex for 2 nights the weekend before Christmas on a Groupon deal. I was very impressed with the grounds upon arriving and throughout our stay, very beautiful. The front desk was pleasant and we checked in with no issues. We had our dog with us so we were placed on the third floor of the main building, furthest away from the elevator. This was kind of annoying. I would think we'd have easy private access on the first floor near a door. We did have a back stairwell right by our room, so we'd walk down the three flights to go out, but you could not get back in. We'd have to walk all the way around back to the main entrance to the elevator. Not a huge deal, just a little inconvenient.
The room itself was decent. Clean, bright, roomy. We had a fireplace, but it really gave off no heat, more for ambiance. The worst part was the AC/Heat unit. It sounded like a jet engine! They need to seriously update those units. And, as everyone else complained about, it was hard to get a comfortable temperature since you cannot adjust the thermostat under 68.
We ate at the Tavern for lunch, and I had the best turkey sandwich of my LIFE! Amazing. Then we had dinner at Amuse. I have to be honest...not great for a "culinary resort." I am somewhat of a foodie, so I get the concepts, but the chicken I had was very salty and not impressive. My husband's meal was also lacking. I would not eat there again...the Tavern was so much better!
We did not take a cooking class, but did indulge in the spa. I would highly recommend the spa! Beautiful facilities, the outdoor hot tub in the snow was so relaxing, and I had one of the best facials ever. My husband had a scalp massage after skiing and was in heaven.
Overall, this place is ok, but not 4-5 stars. It needs a few updates here and there. The restaurant should be sooo much better than it is. It has promise, but it's not as awesome as they advertise it to be.