It’s an exciting time in the world of heat-bathing! People in Canada are getting into it! There are many places where a sauna makes sense in Canada but Alberta has to be one of the best! It’s cold, it’s beautiful and there are a lot of people looking for entertainment.
On my most recent trip to Alberta I had a few new places to check out: The Cave (Cochrane), The Kananaskis Nordic Spa and, I just learned of a brand new banya in Edmonton, Hot Stones Sauna. I wasn’t able to make it to Hot Stones but I will add it to this review later in the year.
First Kananaskis – what a great idea. This is one of the most beautiful parts of the Rocky Mountains – if not Canada. Makes sense to plunk a outdoor, nordic-style spa amongst the coldest and most beautiful mountains Canada has to offer.
1 hour drive away from Calgary – it’s yours. This really is Alberta’s first nordic-style spa. And it was a cold day when I visited – low temperature warnings and all. Which made it really surprising that there were no real places to rest inside. Though the pools and saunas were nice – not having an indoor rest area really changed the way that one experiences this kind of spa. It felt rushed. But I have heard that they will be opening up phase two sometime this year, even so the basics do need to be there.
I’m curious as to why in their hydro-cycle they added a warm section, but I will say that even though it was so cold outside – the cold dunk was actually a nice enough temperature to actually get in! So I think that whatever the temperature was ended up working.
I know that new places have their kinks to work out but there were some major oversights. No indoor rest area is huge. Some of the sauna’s had already seen quite a bit of wear. Everyone got the same coloured bathrobe. No place to put water bottles. Only so-so customer service. Recommending a cooling, mentholated scrub at the end of your visits (it was just cold!) Lack of effective landscaping. Not taking enough advantage of the mountain views. Not so clean change rooms. These were all things that I’m sure they will work out in the following months.
But there was one thing that really got me thinking – the sociality of this spa. It was in many ways great that people can chat and go in groups to catch up. But it was also pretty disruptive. I know that there was a space in the back for a quieter experience – but that is not where there steamrooms and saunas are.
So I guess without any regulation on volumes or disrupptions just be aware that this spa is full-on socializing and therefore a little loud (and not just the screams when someone jumps into the cold dunk – but that happens too).
I’m happy that this option now exists in Alberta and look forward to it’s maturation!
In contrast, The Cave in Cochrane, (just outside of Calgary), paid great homage to the wonderful indoor spas of Europe. There was no lack of detail in this small private place!
Every part of the design of this place had been touched by a human hand – whether it was the special sauna elf carving in the dry sauna or the tile work in the steam rooms – the detail was amazing. The Cave was obviously created by someone who not only loves sweating but understands the flow of people in that kind of space.
The Kneipp Walk – the barrel dunk – the steam room tiles – the ice maker – they were all just a testament to the bells and whistles one would find in Germany or Scandinavia etc.
One the more unique features was the salt steam room. It had an amazing odor to it and it just felt wonderful to be in there. I can’t quite put my finger on it and of course it did not photograph at, but maybe I’ll leave that for you to discover!
In fact it was so impressive that there was a slightly different scent in each place. It was a very nice experience and I congratulate the owners in their work and obvious love of heat-bathing!
That being said my one concern was really that the 2 hour time slot allowed is really not enough to full appreciate this cozy spa. I would have liked to be able to take advantage of the three little rest areas – but there was just too much sweating to do!
I will definitely always go back to The Cave! What a gem for Cochrane! A little place but big in so many ways!