The parking lot and drive were slippery as we scuffled to the entrance. Wet ice covered the lot and light rain was falling. Not quite the winter wonderland one hopes for on a winter get-a-way. Warmer weather and rain had dampened the day for skiing, in the midst of one of the snowiest winters I can recall. We had just arrived in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, checked into our B&B and welcomed the recommendation to visit the local spa. We would ski for the next several days; Owl’s Head, then Sutton, then on to LeMassif and Mont Saint Anne further north. A cold front was due to arrive with snow. The weather would change for the better, I hoped.
“A Tout Venant” was the name of our Victorian styled B&B in Magog http://www.atoutvenant.com. Owners Vicki and Luc St-Jacques would make our all too brief stay in the Townships a delight. Luc gave us directions to the local spa called Nordic Station.
The Nordic Station was located on Rt 122 a few miles from Luc and Vicki’s Victorian styled home. There stood a group of small wood framed cottages and a house on uneven ground, all linked by gabled and shed covered passageways and stairs, some open to the weather. The site was hilly and forested. Spa amenities were located amongst the treed grounds, all linked by meandering walks and steps.
We changed in separate locker rooms, were given flip-flops and towels and waited at the door for floor manager Jason Matthew Berard to give us the grand tour.
Walking in the light rain with just a towel and our bathing suits ( it was 38 degrees) we approach a steamy hot tub set into the ground. Raindrops fell on our heads and dripped down our faces while our bodies slowly lowered into the hot steamy water.
Fifteen minutes in the tub. That’s what was recommended to ready the body for the chilly walk down a slight incline to the cold plunge, down steps past the sauna, down more steps and a final set of wooden stairs. The last set of stairs could be raised or lowered depending upon the stream’s level and I supposed the time of year, much like a boat dock.
Most interesting was the 5 ‘ diameter hole in the ice, now 6” thick, at the bottom of the stairs. We walked a few feet out on the ice-covered stream. An aluminum ladder had been placed in the hole of the ice. Pretty basic I thought. I can’t do this, but the three women with me proceeded one by one to do the quick plunge. They were not going to show me up. I helped one friend both up and down the ladder and helped her with the stairs. We were all expected to descend the ladder. Our host stood by to assist. One step, two steps, three steps down. “And it isn’t considered a dip unless your head goes under”, Jason said. For no more than twenty seconds, that is all it took to climb in, duck and get out. Three steps down and my thighs were tingling. I felt that ten seconds more and I would have been frozen in place.
Since this was my first ice plunge, I was amazed at my body’s ability to keep itself warm. The several minutes in the hot tub had warmed us to the core. So much so that I was able to stand around the hole in the ice for quite awhile, after my ice plunge, before ascending the stairs.
The sauna was next, halfway between the stream and the main building. It felt wonderful to feel the steamy heat upon entering. For ten minutes I sat motionless and quiet looking out a large picture window down the small snow covered ravine to the meandering streambed below. This must be heaven, I thought.
With body heat regained I proceeded up towards the main building and spent ten more minutes in an aromatic eucalyptus steam room, then a quick shower
I now realized why the parking lot was full upon arrival. It was Friday and all the locals must end their work-week here “chilling out”.
I had traveled 300 plus miles to fully enjoy this unique bit of Quebec hospitality. It was my first ice plunge and definitely not my last.
Check out http://www.nordicstation.ca