Adventure and Relaxation – a parents dream! Part One.

Imagine, standing on a ski lift similar to a moving sidewalk and around you is the magic of large, fluffy white snowflakes gently drifting. The sky is awash in misty grays with streaks of blue. Your white ski helmet is covered with snow and it is cold out. You know it is cold because the bite of the wind on your uncovered cheeks. However, the rest of you is pleasantly warm snuggled into ski pants and jacket. Around you are other people, all on skis and snowboards, enjoying the winter wonderland and joy of skiing on such a wonderful day.

It is fairly silent with the freshly fallen snow insulating most of the noise except for the occasional “swoosh” of a nearby skier who has come close to the lift you are riding. Around you are hills and mountains peppered with trees lifting their branches as a child would to catch a snowflake. Then you hear it, “DAAAADDDDYYYYYYY!!!” It is the screech of a child’s voice from the bottom of a nearby hill. Again, “DADDDDDYY!!” echoes and you look behind you to see a fairly young child on skis stomping his two feet the best he can, fairly mad that his Dad has not yet reached the bottom of the hill. The person behind you (that you cannot really see as you cannot move on the lift) starts chuckling and then another and before you know it, a line of people are all laughing so hard at this little spitfire watching as his Dad skis down the hill his hands and poles raised in the air in apparent exasperation as the child continues to yell. Wiping a tear from my eye with a thick waterproof mitten I casually say to no one in particular, “and that is why our children are at home.”

Thus starts our adult weekend away skiing at Blue Mountain in Collingwood.

Ski Weekend

Ski Weekend

In general I enjoy taking my children with us to new places. I also enjoy a night or two away to recharge and sleep. Mr. L and I do not get away very often but when the opportunity arose with friends to go on a spa and ski weekend, we could not turn it down. Over the years I have found that getting away once in a while really helps Mr. L and I catch-up as a couple. Being parents to three or more, you more often than not are outnumbered and generally exhausted. Most days Mr. L and I manage to have a brief conversation before he escapes to our make-shift at-home gym while I write, play catch-up on everything and prepare for the next day. By the time we are both done our respective activities, one of us are dozing or in bed trying to re-charge our batteries. We have tried at home date nights and movie nights but as parents to young kids, oftentimes we are interrupted by someone in need of a hot water bottle, glass of water or who is not feeling well. We try to fit date nights in when we can. So, a night or two away is a delicious treat and indulgence that we fit in not too often (as our youngest is only two years old) but often enough that we have come to rely on them to help “save our sanity.” We look at these opportunities as a chance to relax and try new things together. This time it was skiing.

We are fortunate to live near some very nice but not too intimidating ski hills. A very popular resort town is simply called, Blue Mountain located in Collingwood, Ontario. A four-season resort town  in Northern Ontario, it has grown over the past ten years into a very pleasant weekend destination for singles, couples and families.

Mr. L is not a winter sports enthusiast. He weathers winter like an animal in hibernation, happy to stay indoors and very rarely participating in winter activities. He has yet to build a snowman, does not see why a winter walk is a good idea and counts the days until the weather is back up to a pleasant 15 degrees celsius. This year we took the kids tobogganing for the first time and he enjoyed it. Building on this momentum, when a ski weekend was suggested complete with lessons for all of us he reluctantly agreed caught up in the enthusiasm of the other three participants. He bought ski gear and hiding his nervousness concentrated on the other things he could enjoy like the restaurants, couples massage at a nearby spa and adult only time.

Arriving last Friday, our first planned activity was snowmobiling through Blue Mountain Activities. The bitter winds coming off the coldest couple of weeks this winter season, we were very appreciative of the snow mobile suits and zipped ourselves in after checking in and receiving mandatory helmets. Although delayed due to mechanical issues, the  hour ride was pleasant for first time snowmobilers and Mr. L (in the driver’s seat) managed on the well utilized path following the lead snow mobile. Although pleasant, next time I will take my own vehicle to avoid the jerky turns and bumps a back seat passenger endures! Our friends had done this activity a couple of years before and expressed disappointment the route wasn’t through the hills that had amazing views. The snow-covered fields though practical for less experienced drivers, was a little boring after the first thirty minutes and lower lying areas were awash in mud puddles from a recent thaw.

On the snowmobile!

On the snowmobile!

After snowmobiling, we drove a short distance to the Scandinave Spa. A series of hot and cold pools, this nordic day spa is popular for its water therapies. We had booked couples massages and arrived early, as recommended, to enjoy the full benefit of the therapeutic waters. Dusk was descending as we arrived and the steam from the hot pools floated lazily across the outdoor spa grounds. Wooden huts peppered the area and the silence was very welcome after the loudness of the snow mobile engines.

Scandinave Spa

Scandinave Spa

The reception was timely and friendly inquiring if we had come directly from snowmobiling. When asked how he guessed, he slyly smiled and said, “There is a certain aroma people carry after an hour of snowmobiling.”

Turning to each other we shrugged and then a certain odour became apparent. Gasoline fumes permeated off the four of us and seemed etched into every fold of our clothes. Grabbing our towels and robes, we headed to the large change rooms to disrobe, air out our clothes and get into the pools.

The water therapies at the Spa are  “widely recognized for their energizing and relaxing properties, there are many benefits associated with baths and hydrotherapy. In addition to cleaning the body, they improve blood circulation and promote the release of endorphins, known as the “well-being hormones.” More specifically, endorphins can help improve one’s physical condition and enable attainment of a better quality of life.” (Directly from the Scandinave Spa)

We were instructed to hit a heat source (hot pool, steam room or sauna), followed by a cold immersion and then a rest period in one of their relaxing rooms.

After finding hooks and disrobing we hurriedly got into the first hot pool. Chatting together, we were soon warned by the manager our voices were carrying and as the spa was for relaxation and silence we needed to significantly lower our voices. Glaring at Mr. L (who has a naturally loud way of speaking), we resorted to whispers or simply floating in the warm waters watching as dusk quickly turned to night. The only sounds were very low whispers of those people we could glimpse in between the constant patches of fog and steam rising from the water and the soothing hum of the waterfalls. Trying to follow the spa etiquette closely, we all decided to take the full experience of the spa and attempt the cold plunge. Interestingly, one is not too cold first coming out of a hot pool on a freezing evening, until your toes hit the coldest water making you wonder if it is possible to get hypothermia when in this water for even a minute. As you continue to immerse yourself, your body is in shock. Fighting my body’s initial flight response away from the icy dip, I pushed myself into the pool waist deep breathing deeply, splashed my face and arms and quickly grabbed my robe and slippers muttering obscenities under my breath in the quietest way possible. Careful not to run or allow my teeth chatter to bother another patron, we headed into one of the relaxation rooms.

The relaxation rooms were warm with rows of comfortable muskoka chairs. Encased by large  windows one could rest while looking out into the woods or simply drift into sleep. These heated rooms allow a rest period and let your body absorb the benefit of the hot/cold therapy.  After a period of rest, you repeat the cycle trying to ignore the frozen bath robes and towels as you move from a heat source (hot pool, sauna or eucalyptus steam room) to the cold immersion to a rest period. After our third cycle, it was time for our massages. Heading to the massage rooms, we all relished in the warm beds with heating pads and drifted off for a nap under the expert hands of our therapists.

Overall the Scandinave Spa was a very enjoyable experience and we will definitely return. One can only imagine the magical effect a place like this can have in aiding in relaxation and rest to its patrons. It certainly was a restful way to end a busy day. Next time, I may recommend (during the winter months anyway), a heating rack for people with robes. An icy and wet robe is not conducive to relaxation or warmth in the cold Ontario winters!