01 MAY 2012: Blue Mountain has always been a popular winter and summer playground for kids and adults alike, conveniently located only about two hours northwest of Toronto. In the winter skiers and snowboarders beckon while in the summer the cyclists and beachgoers gravitate to nearby Wasaga Beach and Collingwood. For the past few years more spa enthusiasts or those who just need a retreat visit the Scandinave Spa Blue Mountain.

This Scandinave Spa opened in Blue Mountain in December 2006. It is the first franchise-operated Scandinave Spa with other similar operations located in Old Montreal, Mont Tremblant and Whistler, British Columbia.

I have been and written about the one in Mont Tremblant located just outside the ski village there. Similarly Scandinave Spa Blue Mountain is within 10 minutes of the Blue Mountain village resort area and the town of Collingwood.

With franchise style operations one gets the sameness without really any surprises but also the consistency. If you have been to any of the other Scandinave spas you will see a very similar look, layout and procedural process.

This spa is situated off the main road to Blue Mountain on 25 acres of Birch filled woodland. It won’t wow you with the scenery – hard to compete with Whistler Mountain and scenery when you are at such low elevation. Or during my visit to the Mont Tremblant Scandinave Spa last year about 10 deer could be seen outside the reception floor to ceiling window. No such luck this time. It may look a bit more scenic during the summer and fall periods when the leaves are on the trees and flowers in bloom.

But that’s not your primary reason for coming – it’s to relax and escape at least for a few hours the stresses of the day.

Scandinave Spa’s philosophy is unpretentious in its approach and makes it easy for the novice or first-time spa goer. One can immediately feel comfortable and at ease navigating through the relaxation and bath process.

After checking in at the spacious and outdoor woodland motif reception area you are given a locker key and fresh towels. Tip – save a few dollars and bring your own sandals and robe. They do have them but will charge extra.

The price is currently $48 per person and you visit stay for the day (they have no overnight accommodation but you can stay in nearby Collingwood or the various resorts at the Blue Mountain village). It is open every day from 10am to 9pm. Go on “Unwind Wednesdays” and the fee drops to $38.00 per person.

Facilities include a Finnish sauna, Norwegian steam bath, thermal and Nordic waterfalls, three hot baths at different temperatures, three cold plunges at varying temperatures, three solariums, outdoor relaxation areas, hammocks and outdoor fireplaces.

There are 13 massage rooms but you need to make reservations ahead of time for any massage treatments. Prices begin at $121 for treatments. This is one area I think there is room for improvement. The treatments offered are pretty basic – Swedish massage, hot stone therapy and sports massage. They really could use a healthy dose of inspiration in terms of offering a greater variety of treatments from wraps, massages techniques, reflexology and hydrotherapy. Why not utilize the local ingredients from the area and vegetation to come up with more innovative treatments.

Treatments aside they do deliver in providing an informal and welcoming atmosphere to spa novices and veterans. It’s easy to do get familiar quickly with the layout and do a circuit of hot baths, sauna, and steam bath followed by a cold plunge. Do this routine a few times and I guarantee your body and mind will feel like a big stress-free jelly roll. Roll off to sleep on the hammocks set up outside or just slink into the many chairs around the spa bath areas.

One can feel just as comfortable coming to Scandinave Spa alone or with a friend or a loved one. I wouldn’t recommend it maybe with a group of friends as the spa does try to maintain a no-talking zone in the bath, relaxation and sauna/steam bath areas.

The spa has a very gender-neutral feel and rustic look – so men will feel very comfortable and feel they don’t have to compromise any of their manliness. A frilly place this is not.

Your appetite won’t be left out with a bistro on the spa grounds and special packages starting at $55 per person which include the all-day access fee and food at the bistro.

The Blue Mountain area does attract large crowds and at times the Scandinave Spa Blue Mountain can become too crowded. They control the amount of people coming in during the day and don’t like to exceed 120-150 people. It's not very relaxing if you are in a group of 20 people jammed together in a hot bath or sauna. It defeats the purpose – to escape and have some much needed down time.

If you can avoid the weekends this spa is best visited during the week when it is generally quieter –Tuesday through Thursday are the best days to visit.

Scandinave Spa in its short six years of operation has already garnered many accolades and awards including SpaFinder Inc. 2011 Reader’s Choice “Best for Affordability” award and Top 50 Spas in America in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

The Spa does have an award winning formula – provide the elements of nature, a comfortable gender neutral unpretentious environment, a range of quality bath experiences and affordability.

Escape the blues of the city and daily stresses to the blues-free but nature and revitalized zone of the Scandinave Spa Blue Mountain.

For further info: www.scandinaveblue.com

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Chris Ryall

An industry insider with strong, outspoken opinions that readers enjoy, whether they agree, or take issue with his point of view.

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