The classic Nordic spa ritual is the thermal experience, consisting of exposure to hot, then cold, then a relaxation period. Today’s Nordic spas, especially the North American ones, have taken that foundation and merged it with unconventional twists and luxurious experiences that remain faithful to the spirit of the tradition.
Quebec’s Nordik Spa-Nature, owned by Martin Paquette and Daniel Gingras, has been expanded three times and within its spacious area awaits a veritable Nordic “adventureland” that enables the facility and its staff of 150 to serve about 375 clients per day, all of whom flock to the spa to experience “a new kind of Nordic.”
“We are taking a unique direction by developing experiences inspired by Nordic countries,” explains Marianne Trotier, account executive and representative. “Many of these experiences are nowhere to be found elsewhere in America.”
Against the stunning natural setting of Gatineau National Park, Nordik Spa-Nature guests may enjoy the Nordic bathing experience (no time limit/$45 Canadian) in a variety of ways. The spa’s seven saunas include one Finnish; two steam baths scented with eucalyptus or orange essential oil; a wooded barrel sauna made by a local artisan; a mää (built into the ground) sauna; a tuli (meditation) sauna; and the unique Panaromi (a sauna providing light- and aromatherapy), a concept invented by the spa’s owner. Six outdoor pools include the cold Nordik waterfall, temperate pool, infinity pool, cold plunge and two hot tubs.
With all of these tools at their disposal, Nordik Spa-Nature’s owners like to improvise on their theme. “We recently partnered with German sauna specialists and the European Spas Association to develop some of their concepts here in North America,” reports Trotier. One result of that partnership is the spa’s new floated bath, dubbed kallä (“source” in Finnish). The 1,200-square-foot Epsom salt bath not only provides the sensation of floating effortlessly, but it delivers relief to tense or cramped muscles, swollen or inflamed tissue, and bruised skin.
The spa has also riffed on a German experience called aufguss (“infusion”) with a 12- to 15-minute version performed by a “sauna master” (meister in German). Trotier describes: “In the Finnish sauna, we infuse essential oil mixed with water or ice on the fire stove. The sauna meister distributes the air using repeated towel movements. The scent of the client’s chosen essential oil is distributed in the sauna with the help of the towel while the humidity that the stove is evaporating raises the temperature of the sauna.” For a twist, the spa adds music and lights.
BALNEA spa, also located in Quebec, entices its guests with a myriad of ways to experience the Nordic bathing ritual. Its three saunas, two Jacuzzis, four cedar hot tubs and Turkish bath are lent additional drama via the spa’s memorable thermal waterfalls, a sweat lodge and even a relaxation room that includes an aquarium. (And unusual menu offerings like snowshoeing lessons remind visitors that this isn’t their typical spa experience!)
“Our motto is to offer an immersive, inspiring experience that will take people to another time and place,” says founder Stephanie Emond. “Our clients come here to become healthier—physically, mentally and spiritually.”
Scandinave’s Canadian chain of spas has the art of providing the Nordic experience down pat, with each location offering the required circuit of ritual equipment—and then some. The spas capture the essence of Nordic hydrotherapy through their numerous saunas, steam rooms, thermal and Nordic waterfalls, hot baths, cold plunges, solariums and outdoor fireplace.