"In 10 minutes you're going to feel really good, like a drug-free high," assures my spa practitioner, Loraine Worsnop. But it's hard to believe her when you're about to step into the coldest place on earth. Even though we Canadians frequently moan about enduring some of the most frigid temperatures on the planet, the cryotherapy lab at Sparkling Hill Resort, just outside of Vernon in the Okanagan Valley, takes the concept of being cool to another new level.
Set at minus-110 Celsius degrees (-166 Fahrenheit), North America's only Ice lab offers sought-after treatment for those suffering from arthritis, depression, or muscle and joint pain. The cold reduces inflammation that causes those conditions. During the three-minute procedure, blood moves to the core of the body to protect vital organs, and brings other fluids like waste products' lactic acid with it.
"When we move blood and lymph to core of body, it's dealt with to be eliminated and cleansed through body," explains Worsnop.
But when I popped into Canada's largest spa, freezing my ass(ets) off wasn't what I had in mind. Taking an entire wing of the resort, the 40,000-square-foot KurSpa is a European-concept spa dedicated to whole body wellness. Just how European is it? In addition to sporting seven different themed sauna and steam rooms, the KurSpa also offers a European hour in the sauna area each night from 9-10 p.m., meaning: clothing optional.
I, however, was more into visiting the on-site naturopath physician for an IV vitamin infusion (there had been a tad bit of Okanagan wine consumed the previous night), and getting slathered with Fango -- Italian volcanic ash that's mixed with water and whipped to a hot butter composition before it's applied to the body to soothe aches and pains.
Vacay.ca Gives You More Spa Vacations and Spa Deals in Canada
But there's more to Sparkling Hill than cool spa treatments. Owned by Gernot Langes Swarovski, patriarch of the famed Austrian crystal family, the only Swarovski hotel in the world is decked out with 3.5-million Austrian crystals worth $10 million.
From chandeliers fashioned to represent the surrounding lakes to crystal-infused in-room features like a starry star glittering over the bathtub, the sparkling elements provide an atmosphere of calm and serenity, not to mention a touch of glamour. And with United Airlines' new direct service to Kelowna from Los Angeles, you may just run into a few movie stars, as packages are being gifted to celebrities at film festivals around the world.
Besides a mutual love of bling, it's easy to see how A-listers would be dazzled by the property. Carved into the side of a granite cliff, the lavish resort is set on 187 acres of rugged forestland overlooking both Lake Okanagan and the Monashee Mountain range.
With more than 40 kilometres of wilderness trails to explore, nearby vineyards to tour and the 36-hole Predator Ridge golf course located beside the resort, there's no shortage of activities to keep guests amused.
You know what else makes this place great? It's super quiet. Though children are welcome at the hotel, they're not at the spa (where the pool is located), which makes for a truly relaxing stay.
But plunging into a cryotherapy sauna could never be described as relaxing. Rejuvenating, perhaps, but it's definitely not a pampering experience. Still, I felt surprisingly energetic after my three minutes of frozen hell was up. So much so that I wouldn't give this treatment the cold shoulder again. Emerging out of the frozen chamber into the modern glinting spa made everything seem crystal clear, which is what a stay at this salubrious spot is all about.
What does it cost for a spa treatment at Sparkling Hill? Not as much as you think. Read the rest of the article on Vacay.ca to learn about prices and reservations.
More Unique Luxury Spas in Western Canada
Mountain Trek, Ainsworth Spring, B.C. -- The motto of this spa in the Selkirk Mountains is "Hike Your But Off." A play on words, of course; the word "but" suggests resistance to a suggested course of action. In the present context, an example of such usage may sound something like: "I would love to exercise more, BUT I just don't have the time." Read Vacay.ca for more about one of the best hiking and spa experiences in Canada.
Harrison Hot Springs, Harrison, B.C. -- This historic spa is also close to the rumoured home of Sasquatch. Romantics love Harrison Hot Springs, and although the resort is a lot of fun for families, there's a pool reserved for adults as well, so you can enjoy some quiet time. The resort's spa also offers couples' packages that include time in a private pool followed by a menu of massages, facials, and other body treatments. Read Vacay.ca for more about this spa in B.C.'s Lower Mainland.
Willow Stream Spa, Banff, AB -- Part of the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel, this luxurious facility is modelled after the grand spas of Europe. Light cascades through the glass-domed ceiling, high above the majestic Kur mineral bath. Guests take to the waters in a centuries-old practice for 15 minutes, before dipping into three plunge pools of varying temperatures. Just don't start off with Bow Falls, unless you enjoy shocking your system (it's seemingly as chilling as those winter rapids). Read more about Willow Stream's spa experience on Vacay.ca.
Story by Jody Robbins Vacay.ca writer