Quebec-based firm opens year-round spa in Winnipeg

Every time I mention to someone that I’m planning a trip to Winnipeg this winter, I get the same reaction. “Why would you want to go there during the winter?” they ask. Bewilderment turns to amazement when I tell them about Thermea, a new $11 million 50,000 sq. feet Scandinavian style spa that opened last week in Winnipeg. Frankly, it hardly matters what city I am in when I’m relaxing in a sauna infused with essential oils. The whole point is to forget about the world outside.

Thermea is located right in Winnipeg adjacent to the nine-hole Crescent Drive Golf Course. Surrounded by aspen parkland, the setting is absolutely bucolic, precisely the place to be when you are due for serious stress relief. It’s the second spa opened by Quebec firm Nordik Group. Their first one located in Chelsea, Quebec, is the largest day spa in North America after a recent multi-million-dollar expansion.

The emphasis at Thermea is very much on thermotherapy, alternating between hot and cold treatments. Exposing myself to cold temperatures isn’t my kind of winter-appropriate activity, so I have to constantly remind myself of the health benefits. When your body is exposed to high temperatures, it releases endorphins that help relieve muscle pain. You heart rate also speeds up, your blood vessels dilate and your blood circulates better.

For $50, guests can make use of three outdoor pools and three saunas for the entire day. You’re free to move as you wish, but the ideal experience starts with 15 minutes in the sauna, followed by a dip in a cold pool for a few seconds. Finish by relaxing in the designated relaxation areas. Repeat twice until you have experienced all six. Two of the spas infuse fragrant essential oils – eucalyptus and orange – which calms breathing and stimulates mental activity. The highlight of the thermal experience will probably be the aptly-named Icerber & Polarer pool where the water temperature only reaches a frigid 10 degrees Celcius.

After treatment, spa-goers can tuck into a cheese board at the spa’s restaurant, or chill with a glass of wine. At the helm of the kitchen is executive chef Thomas Stuart who developed a spectacular menu that focuses on local ingredients (expect to see lots of lake fish on the menu in the summer). A good package for first-timers is the thermal experience and 60-minute massage ($125).

The words “spa” and “Winnipeg” might seem like an unlikely pairing. The prairie city probably isn’t on most people’s winter vacation radar, but for those seeking respite and mental nourishment, Winnipeg is exactly what the doctor ordered.