Review: International Sauna – Germany, Berlin – Vabali Spa

After Norway, Finland, Turkey and Iceland, it was about time Toronto Sauna hit the baths in Germany.

There are a host of different regional baths worldwide – Korean and Japanese spas, Russian, Turkish Hammams, Finish – and the Germans have there own special sauna-ways as well.

First and foremost, almost all Germans saunas are coed and naked.  Young and old parade around drinking dark beers, eating delicious foods and baking themselves to a crisp in saunas that turn up the heat en masse.

Second, they all have a reputation for being huge and lavish.

We hit up Vabali Spa in Berlin to see what all the fuss was about.

Vabali is huge, overwhelming and perfect.  Located about a 10 minute work from Berlin’s main railway station (HfB) its a sauna paradise with about 10 different saunas, 2 – 3 main pools, dozens of different lounge areas, a full bar and restaurant service and staff trained to squeeze every last ounce of sweat from your core.

Prices vary by the amount of time you spend there from 20.50€ for a 2 hour jot with 35.50€ being an all day pass.  They are open from 9am to midnight.

The entrance is expansive and ceremonial.  You walk down a long entrance pavilion that feels like you’re about to enter a poorer-version of the palace of the Last Emperor of China. It’s a little hokey (it’s based on Indonesian Balinese architecture), but it’s so big that they’ve obviously thrown a lot of money around…and this is just the entrance.

Like a classic Russian place you get an electronic bracelet for your locker and ordering food, drinks, etc., towels and a bathrobe and in you go.

Here at Toronto Sauna we often start to judge a sauna place by it’s change rooms.  In that light, we had good feelings about Vabali – there were lockers galore, everything was clean, lots of space and while everything was co-ed, they siphoned off a room for women who wanted some privacy.  A nice and necessary touch.

After the change rooms you are thrust into a confusing labyrinth of rooms and hallways. While we at first thought that Vabali was guilty of Elmwood-disease, the amazing part of it is that a map or service staff wouldn’t really help.  As you can see from the map above, Vabali is just so big that there’s no easy way not to get lost in the expansive sprawl of lounge rooms, sauna offshoots, amenity rooms and other places we didn’t even get to in the 4 hours we spent. The place is 20,000 square metres.

There are nice showers, bathrooms, water filling stations, a fireplace reading library, lounge beds recliners, fountains, pools, grassy knolls…they have it all.

The saunas range too: indoor aromatherapy, panorama, women-only, herbal, organic lounge, steam rooms, Russian…we’re not making any of this up.

Additionally, in between a full service restaurant stacked with booze and delicious food, you can also hit up cold-fresh lap pools, warm lounging pools, hot-tubs, cool pools, shower and bucket areas, etc.  The bathrooms are also plentiful and clean.

Probably the most overwhelming nature of the saunas are the Infusions.

There’s an actual schedule were they will rotate through the various saunas providing a special ceremonial herbal infusion to a particular sauna.  Here’s an example of their Mon – Thurs ‘schedule’:

10.00 AM     Green Tea
11.00 AM     Sandalwood Peeling
11.00 AM     Singing Bowl Infusion
11.30 PM     Wenik Infusion
12.00 PM     Honey Infusion

…and on and on it goes until 11pm.

The infusions are part ceremony, part educational lecture and part endurance test.  A young skin-taught man or woman enters, bucket in hand strolling through like a sauna-priest ready to bless any and all. They put the bucket down and start explaining the nature of the herbal infusion, it’s history and effects on the body (this was mostly translated by a German member of TS). Anywhere from 30 to 60 people are jammed into these saunas that range from large to small, and everyone has the appearance of a giddy school-child patiently waiting with excited anticipation.

They then start slowly pouring herbal-infused water over the rocks smashing a wave of lovely scented boiling-hot steam over one’s body.  They then grab a towel and waft the hot steam over everyone section by section in some kind of Game-of-Thrones-esque water dance.  Then they do it again.  And then again.  And just when you feel the need to run screaming out of place and gasp for cold air, the ceremony is over, they open the doors and people stand and applaud as if they just saw Neil Patrick Harris’ opening to the Tony’s.

In addition to the nice gender dynamics of the space, everything is at a ground level grade with many ramps and some accessible bathrooms.  Berlin is big on infrastructure, and disability accessibility but they don’t really outline how accessible the space is in their FAQ and one of us didn’t know any German to be able to ask.  You’d have to email in advance to find out about accessibility of all kinds, but there’s enough space and amenities that you’d likely find something that works.

Overall, Vabali is a Berlin wonderland with any and everything you can ask for: people, food, drinks, over-the-top amenities and a sense of culture.

And everyone is naked!

Overall Rating (Out of 5): 5/5

Cleanliness: 5/5

Facilities: 5/5

Cost:  2hour, 4 hour and all day passes. 20.50€ for 2 hour;  35.50€ being an all day pass

Coed: yup.  Though there are a few women only areas.

Queer or Straight: any

Facilities: 20,000 square meters: lounging areas, 8 saunas, steam room, women’s-only sauna, numerous pools, numerous shower areas, hot tub, cool pool, full restaurant, full bar, outdoor lounging areas, fireplace library, coed and women’s only change areas.

Saunas = less dementia

Our good friends in Finland have done it again!

One of my favourite books on coffee was a collection of academic studies on the effects of coffee – almost all were done in Norway which is one of the highest (and stable) coffee-drinking nations on earth per capita.

So of course a study on sauna-usage would come from Finland.

The study, from the University of Eastern Finland, was published this month and found that “In a 20-year follow-up, men taking a sauna 4-7 times a week were 66% less likely to be diagnosed with dementia than those taking a sauna once a week. The association between sauna bathing and dementia risk has not been previously investigated.”

The bad news: like most academic studies, the work is narrow, so they haven’t done similar work on women, though there’s a chance that this could already be in the works as gender politics in the Nordic countries are usually better than most others.

Also – how many of our readers to 4 – 7 saunas a day?  Seriously.

You can read an abstract of the study here:


Apocalyptic Hipster Sauna

True, a floating sauna on a lake sounds like a marvellous idea, even if it took a $25K kickstarter campaign to make it happen.  Having a middle of the lake sauna, with a gigantic cool pool to jump into sounds like a dream and the engineering and conceputal work is impressive.

Still, when an article boasts that: “Rising sea levels and a shortage of development sites are leading to a surge of interest in floating buildings, with proposals ranging from mass housing on London’s canals to entire amphibious cities in China,” maybe infrastructural “hacks” are less important that the elimination of our species.

The concept, called WA Sauna, after Washington State, is a work from goCstudio, a firm founded in 2012 by Jon Gentry and Aimée O’Carroll.

The sauna weighs approximately 4,500 pounds, is typically moored at Lake Union in Seattle and is available for two- to three-hour trips around the 580-acre freshwater lake when the designers trot it out.

It is also one sexy sauna.


Hat Tip: DOJ

UPDATE Quebec Sauna -Montreal – Sauna Oasis

TS went back to Oasis in Montreal.  It was 4am on a Saturday.   Place was jam packed, line up out the door and things got pretty real, pretty fast.

You can read our previous review.  Things were not super good under old management.  But gay men demand the best and when they do so, renovations happen.

Gone are the dank downstairs J/O rooms.  So too are the sketchy downstairs lockers.   Things are now on one floor and the up and up.

While multiple floors have their benefits from staples like Toronto’s Oasis Aqualounge or Spa Excess, Sauna Oasis employs the Steamworks system of one floor with a massive layout.  It’s got the normal panorama of single rooms, but the facilities have improved mightily.

Coming in, you can see the whole layout – rooms and lockers to the right; facilities to the left.  Things seem like they’ve gotten small, but the space works a lot better.

While previously they had good showers, the hot tub and sauna were too small and felt old and run down.  Things have now been upgraded.

The whirlpool is bigger and better.  Spacious, clean and with good jets. There’s a nice J/O room next to the jacuzzi that’s semi public but feels intimate and most importantly clean.

The showers still kick ass and have a great layout – big and spacious but things feel packed when you get enough boys in there.

They’ve added a steam room.  True it’s a full blown orgy in there with a dozen to 20 men all linking up every 1 – 2 minutes in crazy group sex positions and then falling apart immediately again, only to have another 3 – 6 guys start up again, but they actually turn on the steam.  They unfortunately don’t blast it, but enough to feel a good heat and create a dense fog of confusion.

The gem is the sauna.  Piping hot, intimate and clean.  Hot boys getting their groove on galore, but they can’t stay in for long due to the heat!

The space is mostly a sex zone, but it’s men.  You don’t get the loud crying out or spontaneous grouping in weird zones.  Guys get down to brass tax in the rooms and saunas, but that’s about it.

Other than that the space somehow manages to create a little space for guys to chat.  It’s mostly sex looks and banging and blowing, but some dudes are still willing to strike up a conversation about football, US politics or staff infections.

For trans guys, I would call ahead.  Should be fine as it’s the village, but we don’t know the scene in Montreal.  Disabled folks will love the new layout more than the last one, but there are steps in the front.  They might have an accessible entrance though.  Again, you’ll have to call ahead to double check.

$24; open for 24 hours and you get to bang your brains out in the heart of the gay village.  It’s been there the whole time, but thankfully, on a aesthetic scale, Sauna Oasis is finally back.

Overall Rating: 3/5

Cleanliness: 4/5

Facility grading: 3/5

Cost: $24

Gender: 100% gay male, fuck-a-thon

Facilities: sauna, steam, lockers, whirlpool, rooms, J/O rooms, porno, porno, porno

Toronto Sauna – Kew Beach (temporary)

With our number of saunas left to review being reduced to a few holdouts in the burbs and a plethora of condo saunas dotted throughout the City, the fine folks at TS have to sometimes scrape the bottom of the sauna barrel.  Thankfully, this is what that looks like for us:

Kew Beach is in Toronto’s East end and home to a higher-income crowd, that gets by on niche coffee shops, restaurants and a boardwalk thats home to dog walkers galore.  During the summer, the place is teaming with beach-bums, volleyball-ers and those that just love to walk the length of the boardwalk.

During the winter on the other hand, the place occasionally looks like it North of the Wall in Game of Thrones.

Thankfully, some lovely international students realized that what better way to break up the cold than a nice, well-built sauna.

Part of the 2016 Winter Stations Design Competition, the sauna “installation” was built into a life guard station.  The program is set up to “celebrate Toronto’s winter waterfront landscape.”

From their website:

This year we are expecting to include up to thirteen lifeguard stands across Balmy, Kew and Ashbridges Bay beaches located in the heart of the Beach community, south of Queen Street East, between Woodbine and Victoria Park Avenues. These utilitarian structures are to be used as the armature for temporary installations which will need to be able to withstand the rigours of Toronto winter weather. The exhibition is to run February 15, 2016 until March 20, 2016.

And withstand they did!  With Claire Furnley and James Fox as the design team, the sauna was built from timber, incorporating tiered seating for three with a twin insulating polycarbonate wall.  To add a nice finishing touch solar powered lights illuminated the sauna at night.

We’ll be frank, when folks from TS got inside the sauna was room temperature and it took a good solid hour of burning soggy wood in the stove to get the temperature to something resembling hot.  But few things on earth beat a cozy sauna on a beach at night, running as long as the fire takes to burn out.

Sauna’s tend to be places to clean up and relax the mind.  But the construction team was able to bring an artistic element that none of us had really dwelled on: “First they freeze, in the snowy icy landscape, then they thaw in the hot sauna.  The freeze-thaw process that we have in mind is one for the people.  Members of the community can take part in this exhilarating process or observe in awe.”

We mostly just tried to get our sweat on, but did spend a few moments mediating on the freeze-thaw process.  But then we spent more time thinking about that fact that we were in a sauna. In February. On a beach.  It was absolutely awesome.

True, at the end of the day (literally) the sauna probably could have used someone akin to a ‘keeper of the fire’ to keep the thing piping hot.  And accessibility was non-existent…some of the other installations installed ramps for folks in wheelchairs to be able to at least get close.  Also, the place could have gone real sketchy in the middle of the night.

But all that aside, A nice warm spot to ‘thaw’ was just what the doctor ordered for a cold, cold night on the beaches.

Try as we might, we still can’t figure out who won the competition, but we know who we would vote for.

Rating (Out of 5): 2/5

Cleanliness: 0/5

Facilities: 1/5

Cost: Free

Coed: yup

Queer or Straight: It’s a free sauna on a beach

Facilities: 1 lukewarm sauna, wood, a beach

Review: Toronto Sauna – Oasis Aqualounge – UPDATED!

Let’s start by saying, right off the bat: you will more than likely have a good time at Oasis Aqualounge.

We get it, you might feel a little nervous about a host of things – your body image, how people will interact, safety, etc. – but (barring catastrophe or bad luck) you’ll probably leave with a smile.

In 5 years (this month!) since opening, it’s developed a good reputation, so a number of us from Toronto Sauna hit the road to see what all the fuss was about.

Look: we were all going for different reasons. Some of us were going to experience a hedonistic, sexualized cornucopia of delights; some of us were interested in adding a little sexiness to the daily rigamarole.

And some of us were going for a damn fine sauna, steam, jacuzzi and outdoor pool.

This is the key success of Oasis: odds are, you’re going to find something there that you like.

Located on the same block as Spa Excess, Oasis Aqualounge is tucked away from the bussle of Carlton St. right next to a mostly residential block of houses near Toronto’s main queer strip, Church – Wellesley.

The entrance seems pretty faux-grand with torch lights and a formidable entrance, but once you walk in, things get pretty calm and relaxing pretty fast.  You’re not hit with public sex right off the bat, but instead feel like you’re lined up to get in any club.  You eventually get to the inner doorperson, fill out some basic “member club” information (it has to be a members club to operate – don’t worry, very safe), pay the entrance fee, get your locker key and in ya go.

The building (a gerrymandered victorian era mansion) and complex have a 280 person capacity, are pretty elaborate and DEAR GOD are they loaded with Toronto history.  The whole shebang was built for businessman William Wilkens in 1887 and it was one of the locations of the infamous Toronto Bathhouse raids in the 1980’s.  From their Blog:

On Feb 5th, 1981 a massive police raid was carried our at four bathhouses, resulting in the largest mass arrest (286 men arrested) in Canada since the War Measures Act.   Beginning at 11pm on Feb 5th, 150 police men simultaneously raided the Oasis Aqua Lounge (Then, the Club Baths, the Romans II Health and Recreation Spa, the Richmond St. Health Emporium and the Barracks.

Arrests in this number weren’t seen again until the G20 Summit.

They have a number of theme nights (some every week, some on annual or seasonal basis) and the placed is packed for the popular “Genesis Fetish Nights”, Valentines and New Years (you can check their online calendar for specific and upcoming dates). A crew of us ended up entering on the weekly themed Saturday “Couples Night”, with the seasonal theme of Octoberfest (not really sure what was going on with that one).

First impression, it feels more like you’re walking into one of those weird basement parties from your late teens…partially because it obviously used to be the basement of the mansion.

You’ll still find a lot of action down here right off the bat.  If you’re needing some inebriation, there’s the first of two bars and a small dancefloor/Dj area replete with blacklight, whitewall, a stripper pole and pornography blasting away on a TV screen.

A lot of people were gathered here when we arrived and left, which makes sense…and it’s really helpful for new folks when they arrive.  Ideally, if you’ve got some butterflies in your stomach, you want to scope things out for a bit and maybe knock back a few drinks, so it’s a good place to do it.

The crowd downstairs is is varied: some people were post-coital-naked, some were fully clothed and mingling, some were wearing towels, others were enjoying the thrill of making out/grinding in public, and others were getting their dance on.

If you’re ready to rock or wanna dive right in from there, you might be a little confused where to go.  Many of the kick ass facilities are on the ground floor, but the change room is one floor up.

When you get up to the second floor, you can immediately hit the locker room and two of several theme rooms.  The co-ed locker room is poorly designed but gets the job done and thankfully you get unlimited towels.  Normally this is where everyone dons their evening attire, be it your birthday suit, sexy lingerie, towels galore or the shabby rags that you walked in with.

At this stage, you’re probably ready to use the bathroom from nerves or booze and have no idea where that it.  If you’re ready to hit the spa, there’s two in the basement level near the jacuzzi.  If you’ve got heels or shoes, I’d recommend the three stalls on the third floor through what looks like a fire door.

Notes: if you are worried about anonymity, don’t use visa or debit; you can’t wear heels on the sex couches/futons; remember to bring sandals if thats your jam; you can have sex ANYWHERE in the club (except for the hottub) so expect see sex anywhere in the club.

From here here you can take a stroll the complex.  There’s 4 floors total in Oasis Aqualounge and 3 of them are jammed packed with fun stuff.  The fourth floor had a “private playroom” and we didn’t really know what that was about so we stayed away.

In addition to the locker room, the second floor has a ballroom-themed room with a mini stage.  Like most theme rooms in Oasis, half of it is also dominated by beds/couches where people are usually sitting/having-sex on depending on what’s going on at any given moment.  They often do shows, presentations, workshops, events, etc in the theme rooms, so the night we were there, they had had a couples competition with prizes!

Also on this floor you’ll find a dungeon.

As dungeons go, it’s definitely got a lot of different equipment, so it feels more like a multi-purpose playroom – fuck swings, binding crosses, rack tables, nurse beds, church pews, etc.

Like the ballroom, presentations/workshops galore on kink, BDSM, happen here.  While we were there a couple were giving a workshop/exhibition on spanking with LOTS of CONTINUOUS audience participation and oddles of onlookers.  If you’re looking for some kinky sub/dom action, this is probably your best bet.

More notes: the sexy areas/fuck spaces are all clean.  The towel bill must be through the roof, but everyone seemed to be exceptionally good at putting towels down before getting it on and cleaning up after themselves.  The staff are on the ball as well.

The third floor is where the bulk of the sexy action happens.  Up here you’ve got another bar/stripper-pole combo, with seats next to a massive long couch for having sex while watching pornography.  Continuing clockwise you have a ridiculous “back of the van” theme room AKA the Shagg’in Wagon…we wish we were kidding.  Comfy, but hilarious and tacky as hell. Continuing further you get the first of three large “couch rooms” were the bulk of the group sex was happening; mostly couples all having sex in the same room on the night we were there.  One of the rooms has a curtain you could pull for some limited privacy.

This of course brings us to the main reason why people go to Oasis: the sex.

Most people probably want to know the following: what’s it like? Will people dislike me because I’m fat? Will I have annoying guys or couples right in my grill trying to have sex with me? Will I be tripping over people having sex with gross bodily fluid flying through the air?

The reality: Oasis is pretty chill.  No one cares that you’re there.

Don’t get me wrong, people are probably pretty jazzed about having sex in public/in front of you, but the majority of people we saw are there for themselves and totally content to have you do your thing while they do there’s.

There’s a lot of reasons for this and it’s interesting how Oasis has set it up this way, but here’s what’s important: it works.

There are some draw backs – we didn’t see a huge queer component and the perennial “annoyingly loud, white, obnoxious drunk guy” made a predictable appearance; but for the most part, everyone had a good time.

While we were at Oasis, dozens of couples went through and we saw many, many sex acts; a few couples joined each other, some just watched, etc.  Many people just went off to their area and had sex.  Some folks made a big, loud, sexy show of it; others tried to get a little privacy or came to watch.  From talking to a number of folks, there didn’t seem to be a lot of people who ‘met’ at the club; a number of them met before through internet kink/swinger sites or through being partners.  We were able to talk to a number of patrons and everyone was very relaxed and sociable without being leery and creepy.

Sight-lines in Oasis are key.  A lot of the folks we saw were acting like they were in a porno; part of the thrill I guess.  People who watch tend not to crowd others, but will look from the next room or across the hall.  This gives the effect of having eyes on you, without feeling like people are at your back (unless that’s what you’re into I guess).

Some of us found the sex to be very straight-orientated/hetero- normative and had drinks.  Others had a giggle at the campiness and the awkwardness of watching people have sex.  Some of us enjoyed the hell out of the experience of sitting between two couples giving each other blowjobs or the sound of 4 people orgasming within 30 seconds of each other.  Some of us danced and made out with people.  The point is, it was pretty chill and there was something for everyone…

…especially those of us looking for a sauna.

Putting aside the flim-flam, sex-club business, we’re happy to report that the sauna at Oasis is kick-ass.  Located on the first floor, the sauna is the last of a straight line of pretty sweet spa facilities.  It’s doesn’t exactly have the best layout, but they’ve done nicely with the space constraints.

The sauna is big, nice and hot, but not so overbearing that you couldn’t have sex in it.  Granted it was probably the least-sexy experience for those who wanted to have sex in the sauna to see a few of us sweating like mad, but if you’ve got a good hot bake going, you might as well use it.  If could easily cram in 20 people, but I doubt you ever get more than 2 -4 people in there.

Right before the sauna you come to possibly the most poorly designed shower area in existence – though sexy as hell when you have 4 -5 people crammed in there trying to clean up or cool down.

Beyond this was the “out of service” steam room. I won’t lie: the steam room looks like it’s been that way for a looooong time.  They lose points.

Continuing past some washrooms, you eventually hit the hot tub.  Good layout, no sex (City bylaws), and you can get a pretty decent soak/boil.

Past this is the gem of Oasis Aqualounge: the aqua.  A big, heated outdoor pool, is just what the doctor ordered.  You can fuck your brains out on the patio during the summer or spend some hot, relaxing time with a drink in the pool outside during the winter.  We really enjoyed the pool.

While you’ll likely enjoy yourself at Oasis, there are issues.  On price, it’s pretty costly: $80 on weekends for couples or $20 for women and trans/genderqueer folks.  True, that’s in line with a place like Sanduney, but it means men are looking at a $60 hit.

That said, how funny/cute/a-sad-statement-on-masculinity is their FAQ on explaining why this is necessary?

The management at Oasis believe strongly in gender equality, sexual freedom, everyone’s right to marry who they choose, etc.  so it pains us to have policies that differentiate between men and women, and different kinds of couples, when it comes to pricing and access to the club. But it seems to be an unavoidable reality of hetero-sexually focused sex clubs. If our policies were that men and women were charged the same price, and that single men had free access to all areas of the club at all times, it would destroy the pleasant atmosphere at the club for many women, and ultimately satisfy nobody. Unfortunately, we have seen this occur many times, it seems unavoidable.

They have the equivalent of movie-Tuesdays though: $5 (!) for students on Mondays and $50 on Thurs – Sat for daytime couples. Free for ladies on Tues/Wed.

For queer folks, as mentioned above, they consider themselves to be “hetero-focused”, so expect a lot of straight couples.  That said, they seem to have queer-positive policies so I imagine any queer couples (male or female) would be more than able to go have as much fun as possible and be a real crowd pleaser.

The big downer for Oasis and where they lose the most points is with the buildings total lack of wheelchair accessibility.  It’s a former mansion and has nothing but stairs, so not exactly their fault.  An elevator (or complete teardown) would be needed to make the place accessible.  They acknowledged this while being interviewed and online and said that had tried to find an accessible space before opening, which might not be easy for a bathhouse. They understand the issue, at least.  They also said they held a “Deliciously Disabled” theme night that went well, though wheelchair users might disagree.

UPDATE! TS got the following email from Oasis’s Director of Marketing:

While it is true that Oasis is not wheel chair accessible, we organized a sex-positive event, similar to events at Oasis, at an off-site location. #DeliciouslyDisabled was not held at Oasis, at the review seems to indicate. In addition, the event was sold out and the demographic included many folks in mobility devices (the max amount, due to the layout of the venue). Everyone who attended seemed to have a great time, varying in their experience, as is the case with Oasis and other sex clubs, in general.

Overall, Oasis Aqualounge is both everything that you’d hope for and probably not what you expect when you think of sex clubs on TV.  It feels really normal when you’re inside and is really a no-pressure place.  Their website and professional atmosphere help create a feeling of community and positivity – they obviously believe in a philosophical and practical sex-positivity and creating a clean, respectful and safe environment.  The space reminds us a lot of the Continental baths in New York.

If you’re not into sex, you can grab a drink, dance a bit, swim naked and quietly giggle at people getting off around you.

If you are, you can watch or do all kinds of fun things in a host of areas.  We saw a lot of hot sex and kinky sex acts.

And most importantly, if you’re into a good bake and boil, they have an admirable sauna, jacuzzi and pool.

Now someone just has to fix the damn steam room.


Rating (Out of 5): 4/5

Cleanliness: 5/5

Facilities: 3/5

Cost: All over the map, ranging from free to $80 depending on the day and your gender.  See their price card here

Coed: all facilities, including the bathrooms are coed and gender neutral

Queer or Straight: Straight-orientated, but anyone is welcome and anything goes

Facilities: sauna,  shower area, jacuzzi, heated outdoor pool, large patio, multiple dark/fuck spaces, multiple theme rooms, dungeon, locker room, fully licensed bar, private playroom

Review: Ontario Sauna – Scandinave Spa – Blue Mountain

Be vewy vewy quiet. #shhh

And if you think that’s just an ironic hashtag, you’d be wrong.

We’ve spoke of the infamous quiet zones in Scandinave spa before.  While we were in Quebec at the time, we can assure you that Scandinave Spa Blue Mountain, maintains this annoying facade with the fervour of its Chelsea, Quebec brethren.

Scandinave actually has other locations including Whistler and Downtown Montreal, with rumours of a Winnipeg location for years.  Here’s how they roll.

With a capacity of 150 and in the thick of touristy cottage country about 1-2 hours drive from Toronto, expect line-ups, great views of the ski-hills and a lovely spa complex nustled in the woods.

While this location has been open since around 2006/2007, if you’ve ever been to a Scandinave spa before, you know what you’re getting into:  a lavishly laid out sauna complex with hot and cold pools, quiet rooms to chill and relax and piping hot saunas and stream rooms.

If you’re not used to getting your ass pampered, its going to come as a bit of a shock.  You enter and sign in in their registration area which also houses the changerooms in lower floors and the bistro/dining areas on top.

The changerooms are first class: lots of shower areas, bathrooms, lockerspace to spread out when you’re cooling off and dressing and a clean environment.

Heading out, you’re immediately able to see what the place has in store.  Right in front you’ll see hot pools and waterfalls on your left and cold pools/waterfalls on your right.  The ‘waterfall’ isn’t just some cheesy effect – you get a damn fine upper and lower back massage with those puppys along with some sensory depravation if you’ve really got the sauna bends.

Walk up another level and you’ve got more hot pools and most of the housed facilities.

The facilities are immaculately maintained, not a hint of mould or bad maintenance.  The steam room is like a circular space ship housed in a round, sheet-metal building, with tons of room just blasting thick eucalyptus-infused steam.  If you don’t have allergies, eucalyptus is an amazing cure-all that is a fungacide, a disinfectant and, amazingly, an expellent (it brings crap up and out of your lungs).  The same building also houses a water station, cool down shower and large relaxation room (there are 3 of these at the spa all under bright red roofs).

To the left of the steam complex is the sauna attached to another relaxation space.  The sauna is big and hot.  Not boiling hot, but enough for you to get your sweat on.  Lots of space to spread out or find some room to sit.

To the left of this, is a series of relaxation areas (where you can talk!) including muskoka chair sreas, fire pits and hammocks galore.  If you swing back to the far, back right you’ll find another relaxation area, another fire put, more hammocks and muskoka chairs and a final heated pool for all your heated pool needs.

While that might sound like a lot, compared to the Chelsea location, Scandinave Blue Mountain, felt like the little brother to a chain that has brighter stars.  Still, though it may lack the salt-water floating pool and panoramic pool, it has a lot going for it.

First of all, though there’s actually a sign that says “#shhhh” (we kid you not), folks at Blue Mountain were a LOT less hard ass about noise volume compared to the Chelsea location.  Not that it turned into a convention, but lots of people were able to talk at normal volume without being shhh’d (I mean #shhhd).  We get it, they try to foster a relaxing environment for everyone…but still, not being able to talk to your friends isn’t exactly relaxing.

Secondly, though they have less, economical design is key to a tightknit experience.  While other Scandinave Spas, feel like a ‘crisis of choice’ due to the number of facilities, you know what you’re getting at Blue Mountain and you stick to it…you don’t end up trying saunas just to say you tried them.

That said, Blue Mountain did leave a little to be desired.  The restaurant did not hit a home run with the food.  The pumpkin-bacon soup was somehow flavourless (not sure how to do that with those ingredients) and the sandwiches looked like they came out of an airport tray.  Still, the prices were quite reasonable (they could easily shaft you with airport prices but don’t), and there were a lot of tasty salads we didn’t get to try.

Also, the placed seemed to be an accessibility nightmare, so folks in wheelchairs beware (though they might be able to make accommodations that we’re unaware of).

Queer coupes should have no probs at Scandinave – they are professional and staff seemed very well trained.

Although you might expect entry fees in the $100 neighbourhood, Scandinave offers a very reasonable $55 entry rate.  It’s totally worth it for what you get.

All in all, Scandinave spa at Blue Mountain gets a solid rating.  Just someone has to get rid of those #shhhh signs.  I mean seriously, who does that?


Rating: 4/5

Facilities: 4/5

Cleanliness: 5/5

Cost: $55 entry ($45 on Wednesdays)

Queer/straight: both, no hanky panky allowed

Facilities: 3 heated pools, 2 cold pools, 3 relaxations chambers, sauna, steam room, 2 fire pits, shower and changeroom, restaurant