-110 degrees heals you at Sparkling Hill


A hammam massage at Sparkling Hill Resort is a traditional spa experience that can be enjoyed. More unusual offers include a dip in the minus-110 Celsius cold sauna.

Story by Jody Robbins
Vacay.ca Writer

VERNON, BRITISH COLUMBIA — “In 10 minutes you’re going to feel really good, like a drug-free high,” assures my spa practitioner, Loraine Worsnop. But it’s hard to believe her when you’re about to step into the coldest place on earth. Even though we Canadians frequently moan about enduring some of the most frigid temperatures on the planet, the cryotherapy lab at Sparkling Hill Resort, just outside of Vernon in the Okanagan Valley, takes the concept of being cool to another new level.

Set at minus-110 Celsius degrees (-166 Fahrenheit), North America’s only Ice lab offers sought-after treatment for those suffering from arthritis, depression, or muscle and joint pain. The cold reduces inflammation that causes those conditions. During the three-minute procedure, blood moves to the core of the body to protect vital organs, and brings other fluids like waste products’ lactic acid with it.

“When we move blood and lymph to core of body, it’s dealt with to be eliminated and cleansed through body,” explains Worsnop.

But when I popped into Canada’s largest spa, freezing my ass(ets) off wasn’t what I had in mind. Taking an entire wing of the resort, the 40,000-square-foot KurSpa is a European-concept spa dedicated to whole body wellness. Just how European is it? In addition to sporting seven different themed sauna and steam rooms, the KurSpa also offers a European hour in the sauna area each night from 9-10 pm, meaning: clothing optional.

I, however, was more into visiting the on-site naturopath physician for an IV vitamin infusion (there had been a tad bit of Okanagan wine consumed the previous night), and getting slathered with Fango — Italian volcanic ash that’s mixed with water and whipped to a hot butter composition before it’s applied to the body to soothe aches and pains.

Swarovski Crystals Abound at Sparkling Hill

But there’s more to Sparkling Hill than cool spa treatments. Owned by Gernot Langes Swarovski, patriarch of the famed Austrian crystal family, the only Swarovski hotel in the world is decked out with 3.5 million Austrian crystals worth $10 million.

From chandeliers fashioned to represent the surrounding lakes to crystal-infused in-room features like a starry star glittering over the bathtub, the sparkling elements provide an atmosphere of calm and serenity, not to mention a touch of glamour. And with United Airlines’ new direct service to Kelowna from Los Angeles, you may just run into a few movie stars, as packages are being gifted to celebrities at film festivals around the world.

Besides a mutual love of bling, it’s easy to see how A-listers would be dazzled by the property. Carved into the side of a granite cliff, the lavish resort is set on 187 acres of rugged forestland overlooking both Lake Okanagan and the Monashee Mountain range.

With more than 40 kilometres of wilderness trails to explore, nearby vineyards to tour and the 36-hole Predator Ridge golf course located beside the resort, there’s no shortage of activities to keep guests amused.

You know what else makes this place great? It’s super quiet. Though children are welcome at the hotel, they’re not at the spa (where the pool is located), which makes for a truly relaxing stay.

But plunging into a cryotherapy sauna could never be described as relaxing. Rejuvenating, perhaps, but it’s definitely not a pampering experience. Still, I felt surprisingly energetic after my three minutes of frozen hell was up. So much so that I wouldn’t give this treatment the cold shoulder again. Emerging out of the frozen chamber into the modern glinting spa made everything seem crystal clear, which is what a stay at this salubrious spot is all about.


More About Sparkling Hill Resort

Location: 888 Sparkling Place, Vernon, BC (see map below)
Rates: 149 guest rooms range from $210 to $510 per night based on room type and seasonal availability. Three penthouse suites start at $800 per night in low season to $1,200, based on seasonal variability. All guest room rates include access to KurSpa amenities, as well as complimentary full breakfast, valet parking, and wireless Internet.
KurSpa Rates: The cold sauna experience, including the cryotherapy treatment, has an introductory rate of $45 and a 10-treatment rate that costs $300. The intravenous vitamin infusion starts at $100 for 45 minutes. There are numerous other packages available. View the spa menu on the property’s website at www.sparklinghill.com.

Note: Photo courtesy of Sparkling Hill Resort


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Jody Robbins is a travel and lifestyles writer. Contributing to the Calgary Herald, Today’s Parent and Up! magazine, she divides her time between Calgary and Canmore. She is also the Family Travel Columnist for Vacay.ca and the Alberta Regional Chair for the Vacay.ca Top 50 Restaurants in Canada, which earned 2.5 million Twitter impressions in its first month for the #Vacay50 hashtag campaign. Jody is active on Twitter (@Jody_Robbins) and maintains her own blog (Travels with Baggage), where you can keep up with all of her latest adventures. When not travelling with her precocious children (one daughter, one husband and one dog), this wannabe foodie can usually be found chowing down at the latest hotspots before attempting to work it all off on the trails.

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