By Shel Zolkewich
I’m trying to contain my joy. But it’s no use. Thermëa is the best thing to land in our city since the return of the Winnipeg Jets.
Thermëa is a Scandinavian-style spa located next to Crescent Dive Golf Course in Winnipeg’s southern reaches. The crowning glory of the spa is a collection of outdoor pools—used year round—in a circuit system that includes hot and cool environments to cleanse and relax your bones.
The spa offers a restaurant (review coming later), massages and body treatments and The Thermal Experience—unique to Winnipeg. Thermëa has a sister spa in Chelsea, Quebec. I’ve been there and knew what to expect here in Winnipeg and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. Easily one of the best—if not THE best—spa experiences I’ve ever had.
The Thermal Experience
Start with heat. The Finlandia is a dry, Finnish-style sauna clad in wood with a massive rock-topped stove dominating one corner. The temperature in here skyrockets to 80°C—what a treat when the outside temperature is below -25°C! There are three levels (the upper level is the hottest) with plenty of room to stretch out a feel the heat. Lay your towel on the wooden headrest and drift for 10 to 15 minutes.
Your other option for heat is the Vaporo Pavilion that houses two steam saunas—Vaporo Eucalyptus and Vaporo Orange—as well as the exfoliation room. Spend 10 to 15 minutes in the steam sauna then head for the exfoliation room for a self-administered scrub with your choice of eucalyptus-menthol (my favourite part of the entire experience) or lavender salt scrubs.
Now it’s time to cool down. In winter, you can do this by simply walking outside, which is necessary since each of the stations is housed in its own building. But it’s a lot more fun to use the pools. For the bravest, the Polarber waterfall and plunge pool claimed a temperature of 10°C on the day we visited, although it felt a little more like 1°C to me. Still, tons of fun to stand under a waterfall in the middle of winter—if only for two seconds.
The other option is the Temper pool that hovers around 20°C and feels a lot like lake water in early June. It takes a little getting used to after coming out of an ultra-hot sauna, but it feels great.
It’s impossible to resist the lure of the 39°C hot tub called Geser. On a frosty day, steam rises from the water’s surface creating a mystical dreamland. Your hair might freeze (so bring a toque if you’d like) but the rest of you will be toasty and relaxed. There’s also the smell of woodsmoke from small firepit dotted throughout the property. Blissful.
On warmish winter days, relax in the Flam, a roofless log cabin with a huge, roaring firepit in the centre and heaters around the perimeter. On those colder days, tuck in to the Relaxa Pavilion. Take your pick from an area with heated stone lounge chairs, a fireplace and view of the site or the darker quiet room with heated mattresses and plump pillows. This is where I had my nap. Both areas offer headphones with soothing sounds. There’s also a station for tea and cucumber water. I brought a book intending to read but mostly I drifted in that place between sleep and not-sleep, which I believe is the very point of going to the spa.
It’s recommended you repeat this cycle two or three times for maximum benefit. Expect to spend at least four hours at the spa on your first visit.
Rates & Etiquette
The fee for the Thermal Experience includes a towel, locker, use of the showers and change rooms, three outdoor pools, three saunas, the exfoliation room, the open-air log cabin firepit area and the relaxation pavilion with tea and cucumber water. It’s $45 from Monday to Thursday and $49 on weekends and holidays. Splurge and rent a plush robe for $11. Massages and body treatments are $95 and up.
You’ll receive a silicone wristband with a number on it when you check in. The number corresponds to your locker and the chip inside opens the door simply by placing the bracelet on the sensor.
Bring your sandals, a bathing suit, water bottle, a robe and toque (for winter, if you like). And when it comes to that bathing suit, leave your North American body issues at the curb and bring the skimpiest one you have to take full advantage of this treat for your body.
This is quiet time. The only time talking is permitted is in the pool. Otherwise, silence rules.
We spent almost four hours at the spa and I didn’t check my phone once. That’s because electronics and photography are out of bounds at Thermëa. I’ll admit I felt a little panicky at first, but the break is a beautiful thing.