It’s an old cliché, but we did save the best part of our trip for last with a visit to the renowned Scandinave Spa in Blue Mountains, Ontario. The brochure boasted pictures of outdoor baths and waterfalls, complete with steam rising from the water. Not a place to get a facial or a mani-pedi, this is truly a Scandinavian spa, in which submersion in extreme temperatures works to detoxify the body. On one of the coldest days of the year—feeling like-27°C on a windy day—it took all our courage to go through with it.
Spa facilities that make you say AHHH
A 5-minute drive from where we were staying at the the Westin hotel in the Village of Blue Mountain, tucked behind a small forest of tall pine trees lies the award-winning Scandinave Spa. A long walk across a bridge led to the open and welcoming atmosphere of the reception building matched only by the staff checked us in and guided us through the process. Windows fill the wall looking out over the baths, allowing guests having tea or lunch at the small bistro to enjoy the view. Spa products and boutique Canadian items are also available for purchase. The building’s atmosphere is a pleasant mix of rustic meets European.
The outdoor spa consists of a Finnish sauna (dry sauna), a Norwegian steam bath, thermal and Nordic waterfalls, three hot baths, three cold baths, three relaxation solariums, and an outdoor patio with an outdoor fireplace for outdoor relaxation in the warmer months. A few indoor relaxation centres are scattered throughout the property, so they are only a short walk from the cooler baths. A massage pavilion contains 15 massage rooms for some extra care. The baths, waterfalls, and relaxation pavilions are linked by quaint bridges, adding to the serenity and mystical landscape.
What to bring to Scandinave Spa
While it’s best to come prepared, sandals, robes, and water are available for rental and purchase. Each guest receives 2 complimentary towels and a locker key. Soap, shampoo, and conditioner, and the spa’s several signature lotions are provided in the change rooms. I didn’t bring my flip-flops on this trip and I forgot to ask for some, which meant I had to bear the stinging cold stone as I ran from bath to bath in the frigid cold temperatures. Bring your own plastic or steel water bottles; no glass allowed. Fountains are available for refills both in the main building and at various stations in the baths area. Hair dryers and other toiletries are also available. Of course, you’ll also need your swimsuit.
Another thing you need to bring is your inside voice. This spa’s focus is on rest and relaxation, so it’s best to simply enjoy the silence and allow your body and mind to unwind.
How it works
After changing into your swimsuit, grab your robe or towel and your flip-flops and head out to the bathing area. A sign near the door reminds you of the cycle:
- Your choice of hot: hot bath, eucalyptus steam room, or dry sauna for 15–20 minutes
- Your choice of cold: Cold bath, waterfall, or roll in the snow for 2 seconds to 2 minutes
- Relaxation area for 15 minutes.
- Repeat as many times as you like.
On a cold day, the cold dip is hard to do, but it is important to do the cycle as recommended for the full benefits. The relaxation areas are kept a few degrees cooler than room temperature. Windows allow the sun to heat up the space on a sunny day, and make for a beautiful view from any of the tiered seats in the centre. Magazines, including local magazines such as Escarpment Magazine, Mountain Life, and Blue Magazine (Blue Mountain’s own magazine) are provided to help to pass the time. Next, you choose your hot area and the cycle begins again. In winter, it’s best to plan out your full cycle first before heading out to minimize exposure. The steam rising from the hot baths creates a mystical atmosphere, making you feel like you’re in a far-away land.
The Scandinavian tradition of the hot baths, cold plunges, and saunas has long been established. Popular in Europe, the saunas and hot baths are reported to open skin pores and stimulate the sweat glands to encourage detoxification. The cold water dips are supposed to rinse the toxins and close the pores again. It also increases your heart rate. Time in the relaxation room brings the body back to a natural state. I don’t know if there is any scientific evidence to back up these claims, but I certainly felt like it worked, and I was refreshed and calm, yet energized for the whole day.
At $50 per person, the experience sounds expensive. However, visitors usually stay for 3 or 4 hours (though you can stay as long as you like) cycling through the hot and cold baths, which struck me as a great way to spend an entire morning or afternoon. The spa is open from 10 am to 9 pm daily, with a capacity of 120 to 150 people. No reservation is necessary, but visiting at off-peak hours is recommended if you don’t want to wait. The eucalyptus steam room was out of order when we visited, but guests were given a voucher for a free return visit so they could access the full facilities. I wish we had booked more time to enjoy the Scandinave experience so we could get in one or two more cycles. I highly recommend the Scandinave Spa experience to anyone, especially after a long day of blazing the trails with the snowshoes or hitting the slopes of Blue Mountain.
Note: We were guests of Scandinave Spa and Blue Mountain Resorts . The opinions expressed, positive and/or negative, are entirely that of the author and are not a reflection of the compensation received.