I have been excited for Thermëa's opening since I first heard about them last winter, and I was absolutely thrilled when general manager Frederic Jenni invited me down for a tour. The moment I walked into the building and saw the massive windows overlooking the pools and huts in the centre courtyard, I knew I was in for a special treat.
Thermëa uses relaxation techniques from the Nordic region. Each guest is welcomed to cycle through three modes: hot, with a choice between a Finnish sauna and scented steam rooms; cold, in either a temperate pool (21 degrees Celsius) or a cold pool (10 degrees Celsius); and relaxation, in a hot tub, the relaxation rooms or one of the outdoor social relaxation areas. The adrenaline produced by moving from hot to extreme cold gives you a rush that is converted into endorphins when you move into relaxation. Frederic described it as a "runners high without running the marathon," and I have to agree.
A few days after my tour with Frederic, my friend Carly and I tried out the entire thermal experience. On this particular evening, Winnipeg was under an extreme weather warning with the windchill bringing temperatures to the minus 40 region, so we definitely experienced the cold side of things :)
We began by relaxing in the dry sauna for fifteen minutes. Next, we approached the 10 degree pool thinking 10 degrees didn't sound that cold, but be warned, it's exceptionally cold. The first time we literally screamed and I felt as if the breath had been sucked from my lungs. We plunged in, all the way under, and then quickly scrambled out and practically ran to relax in the hot tub. After some recovery and conversation there, we headed over to the scented steam rooms to begin the cycle again. The eucalyptus smelled wonderful and healing. We headed back to the 10 degree cold pool, determined not to scream. This time, I was able to appreciate the pounding of my heart and the absolute feeling of exhilaration after I emerged from the pool. We walked for the hot tub and then to the outdoor relaxation area to cozy up by the fire and chat. Afterwards, we spent time in the orange scented steam room. I felt so relaxed and I was able to breath in so deeply. It felt like the end of a strenuous hot yoga session, but without any sore muscles. We spent a few minutes exfoliating our skin with scented salts and then went back to steam up and get nice and warm before heading for the cold. Going back to the cold pool for a final time was still shocking, but gave me such a rush. We decided to take a dip in the hot tub for a few minutes before heading to the relaxation rooms. Once there, we laid on warm mats and listened to music. Carly read. I felt so completely calm and unwound. We decided to give the temperate pool (eleven degrees warmer than the cold pool) a try. This was still certainly cold, but was more refreshing than shocking, like when you take a swim in a cool lake in the early summer. After one final dip in the hot tub, we spent more time in the relaxation area, lying on warm stone and just soaking up the benefits of the whole experience.
On the drive home I felt totally relaxed, alert and a little hungry. And boy did a sleep well that night.
A few quick facts about ThermëaThe spa officially opens with full services on January 15th (although they've had a soft open for the thermal experience since December 20th), and they will be adding more social and relaxation areas in the woods in the summer, including hammocks and hanging chairs out in the trees.
Bring a bathing suit, water bottle (no glass), rubber or plastic sandals and a robe, although all of these items can be purchased and/or rented from reception.
Leave yourself a minimum of two hours for the entire experience (we took three) so that you can really try everything out. Thermëa recommends cycling through the hot, cold and relaxation three times for maximum benefits (they'll give you a colour coded map at reception), but the whole program is self guided so you can figure out what you like best.
If you're able, definitely try the cold pool - the shot of adrenalin is worth the shocking cold, but keep in mind that you can use the temperate pool as a more gentle back up. Thermëa also recommends some other milder alternatives, like standing under the cold waterfall instead of immersing yourself completely in the cold pool, or in winter, simply walking between the pavilions will lower your body temperature.
You can try out the thermal experience without a reservation, but if you want to add a massage or body treatments, Thermëa recommends reserving two weeks in advance to avoid disappointment.
The thermal experience is only 45$ from Monday to Thursday, which to my mind is a very reasonable price considering the quality of services and facilities together with the true uniqueness of the entire experience. (The price is 49$ if you wish to visit from Friday to Sunday).
Take note of the wooden art and furniture throughout the main building, treatment areas and restaurant; it was made by local artist Jamie Kucey, of Inaka Custom Furniture and Art, and features a lot of reclaimed wood from Manitoba.
Have any of you had a chance to try out Thermëa yet? I'd definitely recommend it and would not hesitate to say that it's the best spa experience I've had so far.