I have written on Winnipeg before in my cross-Canada posts, but it might be a good time to go into a little more detail about spas in Winnipeg. One should not read into this post as Winnipeg being a major spa destination, but there are some things worth noting. Nordik in Chelsea, QB is just days away from their “Thermea” grand opening in Winnipeg. I was very, very grateful for the announcement of their ‘soft opening’, considering that the spa was set to open while I was still living in Winnipeg about 2 years ago now. I was also very grateful considering that after our first day in Winnipeg of -1 degree, the temperature plumetted to the more seasonal -30’s and -40’s, definitely calling for some thourough spa warming.
Firstly I must say that Winnipeg is really lucky to be among the first western Canadian Cities to acquire a Quebec-style bathing spa. The owners must have just loved the idea of building a luxury spa in one of the coldest cities in the world. The review that I give the spa should be taken with a grain of salt just because I believe that Thermea still has some kinks to work out before their grand opening which I’m sure they will.
Thermea has all the features of Nordik at the beginning of it’s life – outdoor hot pool, outdoor temperature pool, outdoor cold dunk and waterfall, indoor sauna, steam room and rest areas. So if you have been to the Chelsea location this one will look very familiar. There is one amazing addition – the salt scrub/exfoliation.
This is a great idea. Free of cost, clients can steam up and then come out to a small grotto where they can scrub lavender or mint-menthol salt for a nice exfoliation. The rinse is conveniently located right there in the grotto.
But, as I mentioned, there are some of the details that still need to be worked out. Though the sauna is beautiful (and they will be doing Aufgusses), when I was there the temperature dipped to 72 degrees. Though western Canada may like a cooler sauna temperatures, in my opinion a sauna is almost not worth going into if less than 80 degrees. In cold Winnipeg it will be important to get this temperature right.
Another small detail that must be tended to is how the spa will actually deal with the sometimes deadly temperatures in Winnipeg. The first day that I went to the spa, it was only -1 degree. But after 4 days of -27 degrees, it would seem that the waterfall was not functioning, ice was building up on pool entrances and even with the padded handles there was still a risk of skin sticking to icy spots. The wind is also a huge factor in Winnipeg and so though it really make the outdoor hot pool foggy, it make it far less enjoyable to be outside after a sweat. This brings me to the roofless lodge.
Though it is a very nice centerpiece, blocks the wind, and has a fireplace, this log cabin with no roof did not prove to be a conducive place to relax. It was difficult even at -1 degree to spend more than 1 minute there. This makes me wonder how much use the outdoor rest areas will actually get in the wintertime. Perhaps there is a different purpose for the lodge, but hopefully there will be enough rest room inside.
The last little mention is how surprised I was that Thermea decided to design quite dark. The entire wet thermal suite is finished in dark siding and the sauna is also dimly lit with no panoramic windows. This represents a move away from the ‘natural lighting’ standard for spas. This is especially surprising in a place like Winnipeg, where winter daylight is at a premium for a good 6 months of the year.
However, there is a lot to be excited about. As I mentioned the Aufgusses will be great and there will finally be a outdoor bathing spa experience in Winnipeg – lucky bums!
Themea arrives as a sort of competition to TEN spa which has dominated the Winnipeg spa scene for many years. TEN is a luxury day spa, famous for its hamam and provides excellence in skin, hand and foot care. Other than Oasis spa (which I wrote about in a previous post for Canada), TEN is really the only other bathing spa in Winnipeg. To an unskilled eye it might appear that these two spas will be in direct competition, and if so it will only be for the hearts of Winnipegers. But in terms of function I see them as quite different.
TEN is a traditional day spa whose centerpiece is the hamam. (Apologies for no photos of the hamam – see TEN’s website.) And the experience can be quite lovely. Beginning with a steam and salt scrub the client then moves to a huge heated marble slab for rinsing – which is actually really lovely. The short head and foot message follows. Then for the gommage and stretching massage. The whole experience is quite nice, quite expensive, and often difficult to get a appointment for.
But what sets this spa apart is that it is full service, including a great thermal suite (complete with a salt brine spray steam room and experience shower with eucalyptus spray and mint mist), complementary food and tea service, and a luxury change room. Though it is small, if you can be in the change room alone, TEN spa’s change room is probably the nicest in Canada.
In comparison, luxury change rooms is not part of the Thermea offerings. And so if you really want luxury, with beautiful showers, all the extras you need, and complimentary munchies, then stick to TEN. But if you are a hard core bathing spa enthusiast, you will be at Thermea at least once a week.
Whatever makes the winter more enjoyable…