Step inside Eclipse Nordic Hot Springs, the Yukon’s new relaxation facility with heated pools, saunas, yoga and more
Eclipse Nordic Hot Springs finally opened this winter, after around a decade in the making, though a good chunk of that process was more planning than making and, more specifically, trying to reach an agreement with the government to sidestep some of their public pool laws, which effectively forbid public swimming areas from looking anything like how a hot springs pool should look, requiring depth markers, blue tiles and rectangular shapes, according to Eclipse manager Andrew Umbrich.
“We started construction about four years ago, and Covid slowed everything down,” Umbrich recalled. “But we were finally able to open in May 2022. And then, a week after we reopened, we had a chimney fire and it closed down half our facility for almost seven months. Wow. Then it was just in mid-December that everything opened. January was the first regular month I’ve had operating this business.”
Umbrich told What’s Up Yukon that between himself and his parents, they have been to over 30 countries and hundreds of hot springs and spas along the way. During the planning stages of the new facility, the family set about cherry-picking all the best practices from around the world and brought them into their vision for Eclipse.
“I lived in Iceland for two years while I did my masters, and I went to every single hot spring there,” said Umbrich. “I spent well over a month in Japan, going to all the hot springs there. And we discovered through all our research that Japan has consistently, without comparison, pretty much the most beautiful hot springs pools in the world.”
Umbrich emphasized the fact that Eclipse is not simply a renovated Takhini Hot Springs. He said some people still believe it is and he wants to make the distinction that this is a completely different and new facility that looks nothing like the hot springs pool Yukoners are used to. It makes sense for a hot springs facility to be housed in the Yukon, as the territory is in a unique position, as Umbrich explained.
“We’re very fortunate to have natural hot springs within a 30-minute drive of an international airport; that almost doesn’t exist anywhere in the world,” he said. “Now, we’re the only public, accessible hot springs in the Yukon. If you go to Japan, though, because it’s such a volcanic country, you dig 1,000 metres anywhere and you’ll get hot water.
“And then in Iceland, most of the pools you’re going to aren’t actually natural hot springs pools. They have so much geothermal energy generated from hot water that they just preheat and reheat pools and inject minerals into them. A lot of people think they’re in natural hot springs pools and, really, they’re just in heated water with minerals to stimulate hot springs. They have a lot of natural hot spring pools in Iceland, but none of them are big facilities. And none of them are regulated.”
Of course, it’s impossible to talk about the hot springs in the Yukon without talking about the Hair Freezing Contest. Something of Umbrich’s baby, he has run the contest since 2011. Each year, the prizes have been increasing in value. What started at $150 for one winner is now six prizes of $2,000, and the contest even has international sponsors.
“We’ve been included in the Guinness Book of World Records,” said Umbrich. “Every winter, I do 150 to 300 interviews about the contest on [the] internet, radio, magazines, TV shows, everywhere.”
The contest now includes prizes for categories of Best Male, Best Female, Best Group, Nongshim’s People’s Choice, Tim Horton’s Most Creative, and Best Frozen Facial Hair sponsored by Air North. The contest runs every day when it is minus 20 degrees or colder outside.
“One of the guys who won Best Male, in 2020, had everything from his belly button up frozen,” Umbrich said. “So, at minus thirty, he probably spent a good half hour to forty-five minutes to get all of that frozen. And then I’ve had other women who, with their hair, spend probably a couple hours sculpting it for sure.”
To learn more about Eclipse Nordic Hot Springs and the Hair Freezing Contest, head over to eclipsenordichotsprings.ca.