Sparkling Hill Resort
A Spa’s “Minus” that’s a “Plus”
What was I thinking? -110 Celsius …and me, chilled even when others are sweating? But Cryotherapy Cold Sauna treatment is said to spike up the body’s immune system – can’t argue with that benefit, plus being that this is the first such sauna in North America, my propensity for unusual experiences wins out. Europeans have utilized Cryotherapy Cold Saunas for years, a prescribed therapy by physicians for joint and muscle inflammation from such diseases as arthritis and for sports injuries. Even those without these ailments partake in it for its rejuvenating effect. This treatment was initially developed in Japan in 1978 and later perfected by Polish doctors. The Cold Sauna I am about to experience at Sparkling Hill Resort (opened 2010 in Vernon, BC) was designed and manufactured in Germany.
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My husband Rick is along for support. Kevin, the technician, takes my blood pressure to see if I’m good to go. He explains, “There are three chambers, the first two are at -15C and -65C, which serve to introduce you to the cold, although the real purpose is to reduce air exchange between this waiting room and the therapeutic -110C chamber.” He continues with the physiology of it all. “The abrupt extreme dry cold triggers adrenaline and endorphin rushes, and you inhale almost twice the amount of oxygen per breath. Surface blood vessels shrink for increased blood flow to the inner core, which in turn improves joint and muscle function.”
Kevin hands me a light surgical mask to cover my nose and lips, a headband for my ears and thick gloves to protect against frost-bite in these places most likely to succumb. My toes and feet are protected by my socks and running shoes donned earlier for this “event”. Not too flattering a get-up with my only other apparel – a bathing suit, as the more skin exposed the better. Kevin, in light-weight cotton scrubs and the same extremity coverings, will accompany me into the Cold Sauna.
Amy, Kevin’s assistant will count down the minutes once we enter the -110C chamber, three minutes being the maximum and “my” goal in this Polar environ (or more accurately “outer-space” environ, as the coldest temperature recorded on earth is -88C in Siberia).
“Ready?” says Kevin. I nod affirmatively. He opens the door and we proceed into the first chamber, -15C. Hmmm, not bad, I can stand this. We quickly pass through a second door – whoosh, icy fingers grab at me. Before my natural reflex to shiver sets in, Kevin immediately opens the last door. I am overcome with an alien sensation, my exposed skin pinches like being jabbed by miniscule needles. Kevin reminds me to role my shoulders to avoid tensing (which he says might be painful) and we move our hands, flex our fingers and walk in a circle to keep muscles moving. I hear Amy’s voice call out, “One-and-a-half minutes.” I became aware of Bob Marley’s, “Don’t worry, be happy”, and Kevin singing along which has me chuckling and joining in. My skin now feels solid… then like it’s not there at all! “Two-and-a-half minutes,” affirms Amy. We keep shuffling. “Five, four, three, two, one,” Amy counts down and the full three minutes are up! Kevin back-tracks us through the chambers and unlatches the door to glorious warmth.
Wow! My endorphins are doing somersaults and back-flips. “Where’s the nearest marathon,” I grin at Rick, “I feel I could run one.” Those who are treating an ailment with this method normally book ten sessions, and it is decided with the technician how many per day.
Alas, my marathon feistiness petered out within a half-hour. In our toasty robes, Rick and I head for the tea-room to leisurely sip herbal brews while reading and watching the variegated patterns of sunshine on the Monashee Mountains. I can hardly believe a mere 24 hours has passed since we began our “spa-stay-gift” from our children and grandchildren. In the aurora-borealis ambiance of over 3 million Swarovski crystals throughout the facility (hence the Sparkling in the Resort’s name), we did well covering both leisure and fitness. Bouncing back and forth between a series of spa treats, we walked “water paths” that alternate between cold and warm to aid good circulation, soaked in the hot tub with powerful tension-relieving jets, then Rick’s favourite of laps in the salt-water pool until our skin had the appearance of crunched paper.
After a relaxing resort restaurant supper of scallops in apple lime salad, Sockeye Salmon served with a mix of buttery spinach, endive and hazelnuts, and vanilla-sauce-drizzled apple strudel, we relished an evening in the steam rooms. Then a glass of wine back in our room under the milky-way of a crystal-studded ceiling lulled us into a heavenly sleep.
Our time ran out before trying out the hiking trails overlooking Lake Okanagan – but we’ll be back….and for sure our return will include the Cryotherapy Cold Sauna, with Rick’s directive to “book for two”.
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