By Lindsey Smith & Sara Laux
The idea of an outdoor spa getaway in Canada is generally reserved for the warmer months. But with the Nordic spa experience becoming so popular (intense heat followed by brief exposure to extreme cold is said to relieve stress, help eliminate toxins and improve circulation), it turns out the below-freezing temperatures are good for more than just making snowmen. We connected with the locals to find the best winter-friendly spa destinations across the country.
Banff Springs Willow Stream Spa, Alberta
The Fairmont Banff Springs hotel is as close to a castle in the Rockies as you’re going to get, so go ahead and pretend you’re Canuck royalty. Ski, skate, snowshoe or dogsled, then follow up all that cold-weather fun with the warmth of the hotel’s outdoor hot pool. If you don’t feel like soaking outside, the hotel spa’s palatial indoor mineral pool will soothe sore muscles, and their rich hydrating massages will rejuvenate winter-weary skin.
Bonus: Three waterfalls add to the summery warmth of the spa, helping you forget about winter.
Hills Health Ranch, British Columbia
Cross-country ski on more than 150 kilometres of machine-groomed trails, try your hand at dog sledding, or hit the hills for downhill skiing and snowboarding. Don’t feel like going outside? Take a fitness class indoors, or take a swim. Once you’re done with being active, slow down with a massage or facial incorporating the Hills’ special therapeutic rosehip oil.
Bonus: Rack ‘em up in the hotel’s adults-only 1871-era saloon, complete with an oak pool table and wingback chairs.
Balnea Thermal Reserve, Quebec
Saunas, a sweat lodge, whirlpools, and a Turkish-style bath all combine at Balnea to make you forget there’s such thing as snow. Sure, you can take a plunge into the cooler pools, or wander around Balnea’s private lake, but a four-handed massage is even nicer.
Bonus: If all that sweating works up an appetite, check out Balnea’s on-site restaurant, which features several vegetarian and gluten-free meal options.
Kingfisher Oceanside Resort Pacific Mist Spa, British Columbia
Ah, the west coast—where it’s almost possible to ignore winter altogether unless you’re actually skiing. The Pacific Mist Spa features an hour-long “hydrotherapy path,” which takes guests through a series of ocean-inspired water features, including a massaging waterfall, mineral massage pools, a steam cave, and tidal baths with sea-salt scrubs.
Bonus: Tap into your inner mermaid with a Pacific ocean seaweed bath followed by a saltwater bath.
Temple Gardens Hotel and Spa, Saskatchewan
Soak away the woes of winter in Canada’s largest geothermal mineral water pool, located on the rooftop of the Temple Gardens Hotel in Moose Jaw. Drawn from an ancient seabed more than 1,350 metres below the surface of the earth, the waters in the rooftop indoor-outdoor pool are naturally warm and soothing.
Bonus: Get a great stretch with an aquatic yoga class in the mineral pool.
Polar Bear’s Club, Quebec
The name alone conjures the idea of subzero temperatures. This Nordic spa in the Laurentians, 45 minutes from Montreal, features outdoor hot tubs, steam rooms and saunas, relaxation rooms, massage therapy, and—you guessed it—access to the nearby Rivière à Simon for a polar bear plunge. Wooden boardwalks connect the different areas of the spa and give the property a Japanese feel. “The rushing river and the giant snowflakes … très romantique,” says Carrie MacPherson, an editor from Montreal.
Bonus: Stay overnight in the nearby villa if you’re with four or more people.
La Source Bains Nordiques, Quebec
Another Nordic spa, La Source Bains Nordiques, with its modern Scandinavian architecture, is nestled in the mountains in Rawdon, the Lanaudière region of Quebec. It features outdoor hot tubs; a dry sauna and steam room; relaxation rooms, including one that’s pitch black; massage therapy; and a choice of cold plunges that includes Nordic waterfall, cold pool, or a roll in the snow.
Bonus: Make it an adventure weekend and book a dog sled tour through the spa.
Scandinave Spa, Ontario
A few minutes from Collingwood and Blue Mountain resort, two hours north of Toronto, the Scandinave Spa is popular among the après-ski crowd. It includes a Finnish sauna, eucalyptus steam room, hot and cold waterfalls, hot tubs, a cold plunge, relaxation rooms, and massage therapy. Lisa Ng, a blogger from Toronto says, “It’s a wonderful place to enjoy the beauty of winter and the outdoors from the comfort of a hot tub. There’s nothing like snowflakes falling into your hair as your body soaks up every bit of warmth.”
Bonus: Stay over during the week to take advantage of package deals with neighbouring accommodations.
Ste-Anne’s Spa, Ontario
For a change of pace, Ste-Anne’s Spa sits on 400 acres in Grafton and has a rustic cottage-like feel. If the idea of outdoor hot tubs in flip flops in the middle of winter just isn’t your thing, try a staycation at Ste-Anne’s. Choose from a variety of exotic spa services, such as the milk and sesame stone wrap, opt for breakfast in bed, and indulge in a four-course dinner (vegan and gluten-free options available).
Bonus: Hang out with the horses at Ste-Anne’s Farm.
Halcyon Hot Springs and Spa, British Columbia
Overlooking Arrow Lake and the Monashee mountain range, between Nakusp and Revelstoke, Halcyon’s claim to fame is its hot springs. Pools spread out over an upper and lower outdoor deck feature warm and hot pools, a cold plunge, and a seasonal mineral pool kept at a balmy 0˚C. The accommodations are cottage style, and some have fireplaces. Others feature a full kitchen, but the Kingfisher restaurant sources local produce and has a tasty menu.
Bonus: Cell phone reception is not available on the resort.