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Cold Comfort

Vernon, British Columbia


Her walk has slowed to a stiff shuffle, her lashes are crusted with ice, and her voice is muffled by a surgical mask, but Amy Rosen still flashes a thumbs-up—not the sort of thing you’d expect from someone standing in a minus-110-degree freezer.

Welcome to Canada’s most unusual spa treatment: the cold sauna at the new Sparkling Hills Resort in British Columbia. “I wasn’t nervous at all until the spa director said I had to sign a waiver, have my blood pressure checked and wear a surgical mask,” says Rosen,  
40. “Then I thought, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’”

Upon arrival, visitors don gloves, a headband and socks to ward off frostbite. They are led into the first room, which is kept at a toasty minus-15 degrees. After five to 10 seconds, they are directed via intercom into two progressively colder chambers: a minus- 60-degree room for another five to 10 seconds, and then the minus-110-degree room for up to three minutes. By then, seconds feel like hours and the thumping bass you hear is your heartbeat. “It was shockingly cold,” says Rosen. “Someone can say ‘minus-a-hundred degrees,’ but you can’t understand what that means until you feel it. My elbows felt like they were on fire.” European wellness specialists claim that everything from psoriasis to arthritic pain can be eased by the treatment, which costs $40 for an introductory visit. (Like roller coasters, it’s not recommended for pregnant women or people with high blood pressure or heart trouble.)

When Rosen emerges, she’s bright pink and giddy. “Once you go the distance you’re happy you did it,” she says, noting that the after- spa buzz is incredible. “I know a lot of people who’ve gone and then chickened out,” she says. Her advice: “Just do it.”—HEATHER GREENWOOD DAVIS

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