A rule for novices heading out for their first season in the mountains – two hours on the slopes should equate to at least four hours in the spa. An agreeable ratio for a happy recovery, and one which the Kananaskis Nordic Spa, located just a short distance outside from the ski towns of Banff and Canmore, affords its visitors. This is an alpine sanctuary dedicated to hydrotherapy – with a generous nod to high-end pampering.
The spa at the Pomeroy Kananaskis Lodge has a simple mantra to describe its Scandinavian-inspired treatment: Hot. Warm. Cold. Rest. Repeat. This simple cycle is based in the wellness philosophy that this temperature fluctuation encourages blood flow, rejuvenating mind and body – worthy rewards for those willing to run the gauntlet.
But before the relaxation can begin, visitors must don a set of maple leaf tartan robes and brave the brisk temperatures of Mount Kidd and its surrounding peaks. This is a moment of sensory overload in itself, with the stunning high-altitude views and the sensation of snow on bare skin, which makes the first plunge into the heated pool a relief. It’s time to dive into the mantra and begin this thermometer-spanning cycle.
Anyone visiting the region in the winter months will become accustomed to the cold, which the Canadian Rockies happily dishes out in sub-zero spades, so it’s pleasing the spa recommends starting with their Hot treatments. A heated outdoor pool, running at a toasty 40 degrees celsius, is a gentle choice to acclimatise to. The surface of the water bubbles and broils like a cauldron, rising to meet the extreme cold front of the air. A soak of about 20 minutes here will get you started on the Nordic spa cycle. There are also a number of steam rooms and saunas to choose from which serves the purpose of raising your core temperature equally well. The Finnish Sauna is a particular treat if you prefer a dry and fragrant heat. Stick it out for long enough and you might find your worries literally evaporating from your body.
The Exfoliation Room gives visitors the option to partake in a refreshing ritual of cleansing using salts and aromatic oils. It is a truly clean feeling to embark on the process of applying the salts, sitting, and rinsing with warm water, before stepping out again into the merciless mountain air and feeling the biting breeze of the Rockies in every pore.
As an addition, if you’d like to demonstrate that this is your first time at the Kananaskis Nordic Spa, leave your robe and shoes exposed to the elements during your treatments as I did, plucking them rigidly from the newly-formed snowbank which has grown around them. You haven’t experienced freshness like a hood-full of snow after a 40 degree dip; my own improvised trial.
The Warm pool runs cooler, though still a thoroughly pleasant 38 degrees celsius. The experience is thrown into stark relief when, lulling at the edge of the pool and neck deep in the water, a burst of strong winds brings a snow flurry down on the outdoor area, causing an onset of brainfreeze for any chill-blushed faces turning into the gale. The effect quickly stiffens hair and leaves layers of crystalline ice and snow on exposed body parts. This invites a strange dichotomy, to have your head braced against the raw weather of the mountain while your body from the neck down luxuriates. It’s a weirdly empowering feeling in an environment which visibly strains against the man-made comfort to freeze anything it can. After 20 more minutes, it’s time for the Cold portion of the Nordic treatment.
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Yes, Cold. Extractor of shrieks. Still, piercing tester of machismo; the Cold plunge pool seems less popular than the bubbling, steaming and otherwise smoking attractions on offer nearby, but a necessary stop to complete the cycle and tackle the toughest section of the wellness philosophy. The water in the plunge pool has a visual and textural quality the others lack, as if its shocking temperature distorts the lights of the sun as it passes through. It’s telling that, in a place where the water, steam and smoke move and shift against the elements outside, this pool is undisturbed by the extreme nature which surrounds it.
Did I stay in the cold pool for 20 minutes like my previous dips? I did not. But I can say the eternal seconds I spent submerged under its surface were enough to give me the gist. It sounds torturous in practice, but I wore the grin-grimace the experience left me with as a badge of honour, a feature I happily observed on the faces of other guests who had tested their mettle and seen the cycle through. It’s undeniable – the system works. And were I more practiced, or a true Canadian, I would have taken a dive into a snowbank just for good measure, too.
GET THERE: Head to www.travelalberta.com/uk to book your trip. Canadian Sky (01342 889355 / www.canadiansky.co.uk) has a seven-night alternative winter holiday in Alberta from £1,349 per person on a room only basis. Departing on 5th January 2020, the price includes return Air Canada flights from London Heathrow to Calgary, as well as eight days car hire and seven nights’ accommodation. (2 nights in Kananaskis at the Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge, 2 nights in Lake Louise at Baker Creek Mountain Resort, 2 nights in Banff at Moose Hotel & Suites and 1 night in Calgary at Alt Hotel). Price based on two adults travelling and sharing accommodation.