Braving the Cold Sauna at Vernon’s Sparkling Hill Resort

Most saunas work by making you sweat. Sparkling Hill Resort's cold sauna will freeze whatever ails you

Lori Henry goes into the deep-freeze: Sparkling Hill Resort’s -110-degree cold sauna

Most saunas work by making you sweat. Sparkling Hill Resort’s cold sauna, on the other hand, will freeze whatever ails you.

The refrigerator door closed with a foreboding bang behind me and I stopped dead in my tracks: nothing could have prepared me for the -110°C temperature.

Yes, I had willingly walked into the -110°C cold sauna, the talking piece of the new Sparkling Hill Resort on the outskirts of Vernon in the Okanagan Valley. 

Health and Wellness the Focus at Sparkling Hill Resort

The hotel is more than a cold sauna: the spa is split into the “pampering” side and the “health” side, offering more than 100 treatments to ailing bodies.

Seven glorious steam rooms and saunas each have a different theme, scent and temperature.

The Swarovski name is swathed all over the building, with $10 million spent on Swarvoski Crystal Elements, from teeny tiny sparkles on guest room drawers to the 300 kg (661 lb) crystal chandelier hanging from the lobby. All of this on 72 hectares (177 acres) of pastoral land.

A Cold Sauna at -110°C

Yet, no one can stop talking about the cold sauna, the only one in North America that reaches -110°C. And I was standing in it, wearing a pair of shorts and a tank top to expose as much of my skin as possible. (For those worrying about my sanity, I did sport a pair of gloves, socks, running shoes, and an ear warmer, all supplied by the thoughtful spa.)

Tinus Pietersen, spa manager, was my guardian for the two minutes and 10 seconds during which I was in the cold, reminding me to keep moving and distracting me with meaningless information and off-key singing.

It worked, too, as the severe temperature worked its way into my system and pretty much kick-started my entire body. I was thinking about the delicious gnocchi at the resort restaurant and the beauty of dancing villagers in South Africa. Hey, whatever works.

Cryotherapy Does Not Involve Tears

The therapeutic practice of a cold sauna is called Cryotherapy. By entering into a -110°C temperature for up to three minutes (there are two pre-chambers that you quickly pass through, one at -15°C, the next at -60°C), conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic pain and inflammation are said to be improved.

Heck, they use it at the Olympic rehabilitation centre in Spala, Poland, to treat professional athletes, so who am I to refuse its effectiveness?

“With this system, you address the whole body,” Pietersen has been assuring me. “If you come to our place, whatever the case, you’re going to go away much more alive.”

I think I might have.

After getting over the initial giddiness when I walked out of the sauna, I monitored closely what effects the treatment would have on me. Nothing profound, but I did feel completely refreshed and energetic.

Think of those days when you come inside with a pink nose and a jolt of oomph, then times that by 110. Talk about invigorating. In fact, I went in for a second go-round, this time for the full three minutes.

Lori Henry is a travel and lifestyle writer based in Vancouver. She is currently writing a book about dancing her way across Canada.