For an entire 3.5 hours, our only decisions were which pool to sit in next. I think that was probably the coolest part. Let me explain: a Nordic Spa is a form of treatment that focuses on hydrotherapy, originating in the Scandinavian countries. The concept is a circuit of pools, beginning in the hottest or in a steam room/sauna, moving to a warm one, and then a cold plunge. Then, rest. The cycle is to be repeated a few times and is said to improve skin elasticity, stimulate the immune system, soothe muscles and bones, and relax you. The process should leave you feeling similar to a workout, but much more relaxed.
So let’s take it back to the beginning and I’ll explain my honest opinion on the pros and cons of the new(ish) Nordic spa in Kananaskis, Alberta, aka, Knordic Spa 🤗. These types of spas seem to be pretty popular in places like Ontario, but Western Canada, particularly Alberta, hasn’t seen anything like it. As such, getting in is a challenge itself. There are three ways to get in:
1) Book a massage. Massages are booked on weekends months in advance, but weekdays may be a little easier. With a booking you get automatic, free entrance into the spa itself and all the pools. Basically, you can jump to the front of the line.
2) Book a hotel and spa package with the Pomeroy Hotel. This can be pretty pricey but it also lets you jump to the front of the line. But if you are staying at the hotel in general, your entrance fee is $50 instead of $70.
3) Get there early. They open at 9 am, and on a sunny yet perfectly chilly and Nordic-like Saturday in January, 9 am was not early enough. We opted for this route as we stayed in Calgary the night before and by 9 am there was already a long lineup. If you end up on the waitlist, there’s no promises for that day because people already in could stay all day if they wanted.
Now, the thing about this is that they give plenty of warning on their official Twitter and Instagram page. So the fact that you can’t just waltz in and be soaking by 9:15 shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Lots of people were surprised though, and disappointed when they let the first 40 or so people come in and then began a call-list for the rest of us with a wait time of 3-5 hours. I personally was not shocked, and I wanted the intimacy of not having a crowded space so I knew I’d have to be prepared to wait. HOWEVER, the system of letting people in was tedious and in my opinion one of the cons as it took way too long without letting people know exactly where they stood. We ended up going for a nice brunch and then reading in lobby of the Pomeroy Hotel and got the call after only 2.5 hours, so it wasn’t bad at all. Once they call, you have about 20 minutes to get there so you can’t really go too far. Let’s move to my honest pros and cons list:
– For the $70 entrance fee, you get the luxury of staying as long as you choose, in an uncrowded setting. Worth the money for me alone. You also get a beautiful robe to wear, a locker with a bracelet that has a scanner on it, flip-flops, unlimited towels, and salt for the exfoliation cabin.
– There was a nice variety of things to try, so a very full afternoon could be accomplished. There are two steam barrel saunas, two infrared saunas, two steam rooms, an exfoliation cabin, 2 hot pools, 2 warm pools, and a cold pool. There are also heated hammocks and fire pits to sit by, nap, or read by during your rest period. I may be missing something but I think that’s it.
– The women’s locker rooms were fully stocked so all you really needed to bring was your bathing suit. There was hair dryers, straighteners, razors, and products. Just a really nice touch.
– Basically, the day we had was just a pro in itself. It was a blissful afternoon, and staff encourages you to listen to your body in regards to how long to stay in each pool. Staff was courteous, available, and helpful in general. The backdrop of the Canadian Rockies made the whole experience aesthetically stunning in my opinion. The whole place was very aesthetic. I particularly loved the adorable little barrel saunas which also were very pleasant to be in. While I don’t plan to attempt to go back on a regular basis, I definitely think it’s a must-try. I think it would be amazing in the evening as well especially after a long day of hiking.
I’m going to be nit-picky here only because there is no place that is perfect and Knordic Spa seems very open to constructive criticism.
1) The method of letting people in. We did not know if we were getting in or being waitlisted and only found out after we inched to the front of the line after over an hour. Since the line extended outside, had it been an actual cold January day (which it wasn’t) we would have been very uncomfortable. It took several minutes to enter guests and explain their visit to them individually, and also took several minutes to individually tell each guest who was being waitlisted, soothe some disappointment, and suggest nearby activities. I think a staff member came and talked to a few people in line, but not us. Some people were irritated. Again, we expected this but, I do think there’s a more efficient solution. Maybe reserving your stay at the spa in general? There were people still showing up throughout the afternoon spontaneously, the disappointment in their faces when they realized it could be a 5 hour wait, if at all by then, was palpable. Some had driven quite a ways. And not everyone checks Twitter. This all being said I know they are trying to do their best at the spa.
2) I disliked the hot pool with the fountain in the center, all it did was spray bits of water into your face and if the tiniest wind came by it was even worse. Just not pleasant.
3) The temperatures of some hot pools were the same or even cooler than the warm pools?
4) The Eucalyptus steam room was so hot that it burnt our face to the point of pain and you couldn’t see your way around. I guess maybe this is some people’s cup of tea, but. The Alchemist one was much more pleasant and smelled like peppermint.
5) I think the water cups should have been reusable bottles and handed back in our lockers at the end, or people encouraged to bring their own. There were so many little plastic disposable cups and it was hard not to lose yours, thus you’d end up taking a new one each time you were thirsty which was often.
6) This is being extra picky but, I think they should have had signs explaining not just the circuit, but the health benefits as well, and maybe even the history. I got the impression that some people just viewed it as a giant hot springs and were just following the temperature circuit because they’d been told to. It would have been nice for them to understand exactly what hydrotherapy was.
7) Someone else pointed this out, being able to start a tab at the Bistro would be nice so you don’t have to go back to your locker to get your wallet when you’re hungry. To me this wasn’t a huge deal. The Bistro was a beautiful space of couches and tables and the service was excellent, with a view of the mountains out of the window. It’s a great place to get a nice drink, but there are plenty of other food options at the Pomeroy Hotel right beside.
I hope if Knordic Spa were to read this (yeah, right!) they wouldn’t be too insulted because even though my Pro’s section seems smaller, the Pro’s were huge. Initially I thought the no-cellphone rule was silly but now I understand it, not just for the privacy of others but because disconnecting and not having material possessions on you other than your robe was very freeing and made the whole atmosphere enjoyable. It truly was an amazing afternoon and we both felt soo relaxed after. I believe there are also plans for expansion, maybe even an area to do yoga in.
Well done, Knordic Spa! It’s about time Kananaskis gets its time in the lime light, it is definitely my favourite area of the Rockies.