Spa is the new apres ski: Quebec Nordic spas

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As the Canadian winter descends big and bold, spas in ski regions across the country are gearing up for the big rush – mid afternoon.

Early mornings during ski season there’s a steady parade out the door of ski resorts everywhere as guests head for the hills. Mid afternoon, they come streaming back for après ski, and for an increasing number of wellness-minded skiers, that means Spa.  Saunas, whirlpools, therapeutic baths and massages – lots of massages.

In Quebec, many skiers who are done with the slopes for the day are heading right back outside to Nordic spas, to take the waters en plein air. Yes, outside “spa-ing” even in the middle of winter. Of course, when temperatures dip below freezing you might look at this as more of an adventure activity than a spa experience; either way it’s all about health and wellness.  The practice of taking-the-waters is at least as old as Roman Times and its all about stimulating the circulation system and helping the body detox.

Three most popular Nordic spas in Quebec

Le Scandinave – Mont Tremblant

Photo provided by Le ScandinaveThe oldest and most well-known of Quebec’s outdoor spas is Le Scandinave (   Located in Mont Tremblant, Eastern Canada’s largest and most popular downhill ski region, Le Scandinave is perched on the banks of the Diable River (good for devilishly cold dips) and offers 17 treatment rooms, a collection of outdoor pools, saunas, steam rooms and hot tubs spread around a multi-terraced lot, plus various relaxation areas both indoors and out.

Start the circuit sitting in a steamy, bubbling, outdoor pool then just as you being to feel the body and mind slowly unwind it’s time to exit and immerse yourself under an ice waterfall – just for a moment, then you grab your robe make a dash along a heated walkway for one of several warm lounges to relax and bring your body temperature back to normal. Soon it will be time to do it all again – hot, to cold to temperate.

Jumping from hot to cold can also work up an appetite. Thankfully, there’s a small onsite bistro serving soups, salads and sandwiches.    

There are no accommodations at Le Scandinave, but the lovely Beauvallon Inn ( a three-minute drive away, offers a free, year-round shuttle to and from the outdoor spa.

Le Nordik, Gatineau Park

Photo provided by Le Nordik – Nature spaJust a short drive from Ottawa’s Parliament Hill, Le Nordik ( sits pretty on a rocky piece of property at the front door of Gatineau Park.

Along with four pools (2 hot tubs, 1 temperate pool, 1 cold pool), Finnish sauna, steam bath, a Nordic (read ice-cold) waterfall, and various lounge areas spread around a terraced lot, Le Nordik also holds the distinction of being one of the few “nature spas” with a licensed, all-day, pool-side restaurant. It serves a varied selection of dishes including healthier choices such as fresh fish and vegetable wraps, plus a signature platter of local artisan cheeses paired with wines. There are also more than a dozen treatment rooms for a variety of massages – no other treatments are offered, just massages and this is fairly typical of these Nordic-style spas. An onsite lodge can accommodate a group of up to 12 people.  La Nordik will be offering body treatments beginning February 1, 2010.

Ofuro Spa near Morin-Heights, Laurentians

Several hour’s drive north of Le Nordik, near the town of Morin-Heights in the Laurentians, Ofuro Spa (www.spaofuro) is a nature spa that is, as the brochure promises, “a truly zen experience.”  Wrapped in a Japanese-theme – pagoda-style architecture, Japanese art, furnishings and sculptures are everywhere – Ofuro is certainly one of Canada’s most uniquely-decorated and exotic outdoor spas.  

To the sounds of a mountain stream cascading over boulders, guests breathe in the fresh air and soak up the benefits of nature from one of several pools, from lounge chairs set out on various decks, or while snuggling in a swaying hammock. Unlike many such spas that offer only massages, Ofuro’s menu of spa services includes pedicures, facials, body wraps and scrubs. For those who want to spend the night, Ofuro offers five guest rooms. 

For lots more on Quebec Spas, go to:

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