A Hot Soak on a Cold Day

Whether it’s finding a way to get the kids out of the house when it’s -20°C, or letting tightened shoulders drop down from ear-level, the outdoor pools at the Takhini Hot Springs offer comfort even in the frigid temperatures of winter.

For people like Kathryn Westberg, the winter is actually her favourite time to plunge into the hot springs.

Westberg has been dipping into the healing waters of the Takhini Hot Springs for more than 20 years. Her first visits were as a young child with her parents, who would take her and her three siblings.

“They would take us out to play with each other, and whoever else was there at the time,” she says. “In the winter we would get out and roll around in the snow and then run right back in the water really quickly.”

Now, with two young boys of her own, Westberg takes them out to the hot springs every now and then — and more so in the winter. For her it’s about relaxing and enjoying time with family, and so any physical health benefits such as soaking up the calcium, magnesium, iron and other minerals in the hot springs are just an added bonus.

“I’m so used to seeing the pool in the summertime with floating bugs — it’s never going to be a health place for me,” she says. “Not in my head anyway. When I go it’s for the hot jets, and in the wintertime it’s beautiful.

“The change room is cold, and the floor is freezing too, and you go down that big hallway to the pool and there’s ice everywhere and you can see your breath, and you’ve go to be careful not to slip. You know the pool’s coming and it’s going to be hot, but it still seems to take forever to get there. Then there’s the really great burn when you stick your feet in the water. You go underneath the curtain and all of a sudden you’re in the hot springs. That’s one of the best things about going in the winter time.”

For other regular patrons of the hot springs, spending time in the hot water is more about nourishing the body than simple relaxation.

Vasco Sequeira has been soaking it up ever since he first moved to Whitehorse from Montreal three years ago, and physical health is his specialty.

Sequeira works as a registered massage therapist in Whitehorse, and doesn’t hesitate to tell his clients about the potential benefits of the hot springs.

“Hot springs and massage go together,” he says. “There’s nothing better than receiving a good massage and going into the water afterwards – or before.”

Acknowledging the general relaxation of the hot pool, Sequeira also touts specific physical benefits of a long soak in the springs.

“First of all it decompress the spine,” he says. “We’re subjected to gravity all day long and during your work, depending on what kind of work you do, you put yourself in different postures that can create imbalances. Plus, the residue you see in the water is all the metals – the good metals – that will go into your skin and actually nourish it. You have beautiful skin when you go to the hot springs.

“But you have to stay there more than half an hour. I find that when you get to 30 to 45 minutes that’s when your skin starts to soak up the minerals and you feel the other benefits. Just getting there and staying 15 minutes doesn’t work.”

Staying in the water for too long has its disadvantages as well, however.

“It puts a lot of minerals in, but sucks the water out,” says Sequeira. “So the best thing to do afterwards is actually go home, take a shower, and then put on a lotion or whatever you have to moisturize the skin. It dries a lot.

“I prefer to go on a day when I don’t have too much to do. When you’re all relaxed you don’t want to be doing a hundred million things afterwards.”

The next few months are a good time to go for a soak if you like to maximize your own square footage of pool space. June, July, and August account for half of the Takhini Hot Springs’ entire year’s revenue. But in recent years an increased interest in winter visits has allowed the springs to open seven days per week instead of only three.

Other improvements are in the works, too. Garry Umbrich, Takhini Hot Springs president, says three to four smaller, hotter, and more natural looking pools may soon replace the existing pool.

“The existing concrete swimming pool was built in the 70s and it’s sort of at the end of its life,” he says. “The new pools that we will build will be in the Japanese onsen style – that’s a pool that looks very natural, a little bit like Liard hot springs.”

They also plan to introduce a cold plunge pool — so not everyone will have to roll around in the snow for the desired effect — as well as a sauna and steam room.

But in the meantime, Umbrich continues to enjoy the current pool like everyone else.

“I’m probably first in, usually at 6 or 7 in the morning,” he says. “I enjoy going in early, when no one else is around and it’s pitch dark.”

The Takhini Hot Springs is located 30 minutes north of Whitehorse. Their website has directions: www.TakhiniHotSprings.com. It is open from 4 p.m. to at least 10 p.m. Monday to Friday, and noon to 10 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. The hot springs stay open until 2 a.m. on the on the first and third Saturday of every month so adults can stay late and look for northern lights. Children are not allowed in the pool after dark.

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