Getting Hot & Cold At Canada’s Nordic Spas (Win!)

March 21, 2022

Health and wellness are having a bit of a re-brand, and their PR people are doing a great job. Self-care hashtags dominate our social feeds and (perhaps accelerated by the pandemic?) people have reclaimed their need for balance and well-being. Mindfulness practices, breathwork, holistic modalities and the most tailored of digital fitness options have been on a steep and steady incline for the past few years—not to mention celery juice and slugging trending on TikTok.

Certainly, wellness and its adjacent industries are growing fast, answering the demand of an equally growing (and curious) community from everyday individuals to total devotees; things once reserved for celebs or simply seen as “hippie dippy” are entering the mainstream of our wellness consciousness, and where and how we spend our time is getting a total makeover. Case in point: Nordic sauna rituals, with a focus on a hot-cold-relax-repeat ritual, are coming in hot, and to a city near you, with no less than three new openings of such facilities across the country in recent months, including Ritual Nordic Spa in downtown Victoria, B.C. According to Ritual founder Marci Hotsenpiller, the opportunity to create a unique urban sauna experience where none existed was a no-brainer—and a personal matter.

“I started doing cold plunges in the ocean but missed the heat of a sauna nearby to go with it,” Hotsenpiller says. “I also knew a lot of women in Victoria who would drive hours just to visit a day spa with a steam room and a pool. The lightbulb went on when I heard about smaller, modern, urban sauna houses and bathhouses being built in cities like Venice Beach, Portland, Brooklyn and even Calgary. I also noticed how quickly people were getting into cold plunge as a recovery practice for sports or dance. It went from being freaky—standing in the ocean or a bucket of ice water—to being an accepted thing. So, designing a modern space that had hot saunas, a cold plunge, a steam room, massage and a café became my mission.”

The motivation was similar for Eric Harkonen, whose Vettä Nordic Spa arrived to the highlands of Horseshoe Valley in early 2022, not far from the Ontario outpost of the famous Scandinave Spa. Harkonen, who has a passion for Finland, his Finnish heritage and the Finnish experience, says, “I realized people need this in our society, that recharging, rejuvenating, connection. And being that there was only one other Nordic spa in Ontario at that time, I was intrigued. It’s an amazing opportunity, and it’s so needed, especially since Covid.”

The traditional Nordic sauna ritual involves a circuit of hot and cold followed by rest. At Scandinave, with four Canadian locations, the experience of the rejuvenating Scandinavian baths is bolstered with various options for your own ritual, including a eucalyptus steam, Finnish wood-burning or dry sauna, cold plunge and Nordic waterfalls, and ending with relaxation by a fire pit or solarium. “The cycle of hot-cold-relax is proven to both energize and rest the body, while actively promoting the release of endorphins, also known as the wellbeing hormones,” explains Michelle Leroux, sales and marketing manager at Scandinave Whistler. “A cycle of hot-cold-relax soothes tired muscles, eliminate toxins and helps to improve circulation.”

While the use of heat for moments of Zen and elimination of toxins is the part most are familiar with, taking the plunge into icy cold water is the activity that’s capturing attention, and testing our sensory limits. Equipped with myriad health benefits, exposing the body to extreme cold temperatures is said to promote better sleep, increase metabolism, reduce inflammation and test mental strength, connecting body and mind (just ask Iceman Wim Hof, whose method of breathing and cold therapy has gone viral).

Toronto’s latest wellness must-do, Othership, presents itself as a vessel for such transformation, inviting us to “explore our extra-sensory faculties through the practicality and potency of the elements”—read, the fire of sauna to untangle stress and discover a deep body and brain link, and the water of the ice bath to drop in. Through a practice to enhance focus and harness the power of breath, Othership co-founder Myles Farmer wants his guests to achieve a state of flow and deep connection amongst the uncomfortable, as well as offer a social alternative to going to a bar Friday night. To that end, two-hour evening social sessions where the music gets turned up, and friends new and old can mingle in the custom 50 person sauna are on offer. “Getting out of your comfort zone, getting off your phone and into the freezing ice water bath for a two-minute plunge, with new friends breathing along with you” is the transformative experience they speak of.

Leroux agrees that, beyond the obvious physical benefits, sauna culture helps to prioritize self-care in a more social and cerebral way. “I think we will see more people embrace regular massage and prioritize time spent disconnecting from their always connected digital lives for their mental wellbeing,” she says. “Because [Scandinave] combines a silent experience that is tech free we are addressing mental wellness as well as physical wellness. The constant ‘on’ state that we live in as well as the barrage of news and information leads me to believe that practices that allow people to tune out of external chatter and tune into their inner selves through silence, meditation and breathwork will become more and more mainstream.” —Lauren Walker-Lee

Win! A Scandinave Spa Whistler Prize Pack!

Congrats Aja L. of Vancouver, BC, who winner will receive a 60-minute Swedish Massage and baths package for themselves and a friend at Scandinave Whistler! Please note: if you are the winner, you will receive a DM (direct message) in Instagram directly from Please be wary of fake accounts, which often use similar handles with an extra or missing letter, number or symbol. We will never ask for a payment or for your credit card number, and we will never ask you to click through a link. If you are unsure whether you have been contacted, via Instagram, by us or a fake account, email us before responding.


  1. Cally

    March 22nd, 2022 at 9:36 am

    to embrace the spring season, I will be getting out more to start biking again!

    My IG is @yogacally

  2. Natalie V

    March 22nd, 2022 at 10:02 am

    I love getting outside in spring and enjoying the trees with leaves, the flowers and just the lovely (if not rare) sun! @natalievana on IG

  3. Kristin Campbell

    March 22nd, 2022 at 11:13 am

    I love taking morning
    walks, listening to the birds sing 🥰

    @mrs.soupy87 on IG

  4. elizabeth kecki

    March 22nd, 2022 at 12:01 pm

    Earthing and exploring Mother Nature! 💚🌱🌿💚🌱🌿💚🌱🌿

  5. So La

    March 22nd, 2022 at 2:04 pm

    Plant flowers. @farting_frog

  6. Jen Sibs

    March 22nd, 2022 at 4:36 pm

    plant lots of food


  7. Christina

    March 22nd, 2022 at 5:47 pm

    Spring cleaning!

  8. Kendra

    March 22nd, 2022 at 6:27 pm

    To embrace the spring season, I kayak, hike, any outdoor activities.

  9. Kendra

    March 22nd, 2022 at 6:28 pm

    To embrace the spring season, I kayak, hike, any outdoor activities.

    IG is @kendraruhland

  10. Paula

    March 22nd, 2022 at 6:44 pm

    Plant my veggies and flowers! @paustachio

  11. Amber olak

    March 22nd, 2022 at 7:25 pm

    Go for walks and look at the Cherry blossoms


  12. Ranaa

    March 22nd, 2022 at 7:32 pm

    Spring cleaning and sell my clothes to Mine & Yours preloved designer boutique- @ranaa_p_

  13. Shen

    March 22nd, 2022 at 8:40 pm

    I look forward to hiking this Spring!

  14. Amber olak

    March 22nd, 2022 at 10:00 pm

    The Cherry blossoms.


  15. Katherine

    March 23rd, 2022 at 12:31 am

    I love getting out for daily walks and going to the beach. 🌻🍃🌊


  16. Talwinder Mangat

    March 23rd, 2022 at 5:10 am

    Go for a run


  17. Tabby72

    March 23rd, 2022 at 6:27 am

    I’m going to get out gardening! @tabby_1972

  18. Marley

    March 23rd, 2022 at 11:02 am

    Take a cold plunge to welcome spring and say goodbye to winter. 🥶👌🏼


  19. Gloria

    March 23rd, 2022 at 11:52 am

    Love the cherry blossoms minus the pollen allergies 🌸🌸

  20. Vishal Thind

    March 23rd, 2022 at 1:29 pm

    Beach walks and catching sunsets at Crescent Beach 🌅

  21. Vishal

    March 23rd, 2022 at 1:33 pm

    Beach walks and catching sunsets at Crescent Beach 🌅@vishal_thind

  22. Saba Aziz

    March 23rd, 2022 at 3:07 pm

    We go on long hikes and bike rides to enjoy the blooming flowers!

  23. Tammy Klym-Wolfe

    March 23rd, 2022 at 4:46 pm

    Take time to not just smell but PLANT flowers! Liked all on IG tklymwolfe

  24. John Leung

    March 23rd, 2022 at 6:32 pm

    Looking forward to planting our garden for the year’s harvest of organic veggies!


  25. Aindrea Elizabeth

    March 23rd, 2022 at 11:48 pm

    Get outside for walks and open the windows and clean the house.


  26. Apukin

    March 24th, 2022 at 3:22 am

    To embrace this spring season I’m going to spend more time outside and take long walks

  27. Angie Parker

    March 24th, 2022 at 7:28 am

    @Ang3line – to start spring off, we’re heading to our friends place, which is off grid, and enjoying the outdoors!

  28. Carina Styner

    March 24th, 2022 at 10:05 pm

    I love going for long walks 🚶‍♀️ @castyner

  29. Eileen @604girl

    March 27th, 2022 at 6:26 pm

    Going to see the cherry blossoms bloom around the city.

  30. Xu Li

    March 28th, 2022 at 7:01 pm

    Plant in my garden @liangliangcanada

  31. Michelle cox

    March 29th, 2022 at 8:35 pm

    We go out for more early evening walks to take advantage of the longer daylight!


  32. Jenn T

    March 30th, 2022 at 12:09 am

    Go out and enjoy the cherry blossoms


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