Chilling at Sparkling Hill in Vernon, British Columbia

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Lounge at Kur Spa at Sparking Hill Resort in Vernon, BCNorth America’s first Cold Sauna is the Signature Teatment at Sparkling Hill Resort’s Kur Spa. Opening weekend of the Sparkling Hill Resort ( in Vernon, B.C.  the buzz was as much about the Cold Sauna as it was about the estimated three million Swarovski crystals that decorate the hotel.

The Cold Sauna, the first of its kind in North America, is the signature (and somewhat controversial) treatment at the resort’s Kur Spa.

Kur Spa at Sparking Hill Resort in Vernon, British Columbia

Wellness manager Tinus Pieterson gave us a test run in the three-chamber treatment area that looks very much like a very large walk in freezer. Each wood-lined chamber – set at progressively lower degrees of cold (-60 degrees to -110 or colder) – is big enough to accommodate three to four people.

Crystals display at Kur SpaThere’s been a lot of talk and a lot of controversy about the therapeutic effects of deep cold therapy – also called cryotherapy and Pieterson aknowledges that it’s “not a magic cure, but mainly used to assist with recovery” from conditions such as musculoskelatal issues, depression and fatique. He says people will begin to see benefits beginning at around 10 sessions.

The standard sessions are three-minutes but Pieterson introduces it to us with what he calls an “appetizer” – about one minute and 10 seconds in the deep freeze.

The experience takes one beyond bitter cold. Think walking inside a wooden box, many times colder than a meat freezer and just hanging out for a while.

Today, those who are up to the challenge, are going for the full three minutes. I’m a bit nervous about it. It is colder inside that third chamber than I could have possibly imagined. Our group of about a dozen gather in the sauna’s designated reception area talking among ourselves, trying to decide who among us is ready to give it a shot. Finally, three brave souls decided to go for it.

Dress is most unusual for a spa treatment: head band to cover the ears, sugical mask, gloves, socks and running shoes and a bathing suit. No fashion statement here. The ears, nose, mouth and extremities are being protected, while the maximum amount of skin is being exposed. We need to take off all jewelry so no metal is in contact with the skin.

Igloo Sauna at Kur Spa, Sparking Hill ResortSo, inside the first air-tight chamber we go, quickly closing the door behind us, into the second and then the third where we stay for the full three minutes at -110 degrees C. The air in here seems crisp enough to break. Our breathing creates a slight fogginess.

We’re told to keep move around slowly, wiggle our fingers and toes, talking/singing to make the time go more quickly. To try to take our minds off the cold, we start talking about yesterday’s wine tasting tour. We keep moving slowly, taking tiny steps around the small space, wiggling fingers and toes. At the two-minute mark my fingers begin to tingle like the sharp pain of frostbite. My bare legs begin to ache with cold. And, then it’s over. The spa attendant, watching us through the one small window gives us the sign and we very quickly move out, one chamber at a time making sure to close each door quickly so the cold does not escape.

My skin is rosy pink. I’m shivering and I feel a little shaky. Exhausted, yet also stimulated. I wrap myself in my spa robe but all I really want to do is jump into one of several steam rooms or warm saunas located just down the hall. But we’re told that it’s best to just relax and bring the body back to normal temperature before heading to a hot environment.

Within the hour I’m warming up in a fitness class and all physical evidence (goosebumps, shivering, tingling) of having spent three minutes in -110 degrees have disappeared.  Each session is $40 or 10 sessions for $300.

Looking to book a spa getaway? Check out the Trip Builder where you can request a quote local travel agents who are waiting to offer you custom prices on your trip.

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