In the zone


You know how  I raved about Balnea, the Nordic-style spa in the Quebec’s Eastern Townships, well here’s another. The Zonespa, in St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, near Mt. Ste. Anne and about a 20 minute drive east of Quebec City, is a surefire way to relax after a day skiing at either Mt. Ste. Anne or Le Massif.

Although much smaller and less fancy than Balnea, the services are similar. It pampers guests with massages, facials and body treatments, and  it has a steam room, sauna, relaxation room, and hot tubs, but as a Nordic-style spa, it’s built on the therapeutic premise of alternating warm and cold treatments with rest. Again, that’s easy in summer, but in winter, when temperatures are in the single digits and snow is falling, embracing this ritual requires a good dose of fortitude.

It begins comfortably enough with 15-20 minutes of wet or dry heat, perhaps in the Finnish sauna, steam bath or outdoor hot pool or whirlpool. This warms the body and stimulates sweating. That’s followed by a system-shocking, gasp-producing 30- to 60-second cold immersion to increase both heartbeat and blood pressure and close the pores. This is accomplished by an invigorating roll in the snow or with a bracing shower, either indoors or accompanied by a plunge in an outdoor cold-water pool. It’s all worth it for the deep relaxation that occurs during the final stage of the cycle, a 15-minute rest in the solarium, a yurt or by an outdoor fireplace, during which the body returns to its normal rhythms. Then repeat, and repeat again over a three-hour period. Add on a one-hour massage for the ultimate meltdown.

The spa’s Café Tivoli serves pizzas, sandwiches and salads as well as pastries, smoothies and even beer, wine and espressos–just in case the cold isn’t stimulating enough.

Do make reservations. It’s a very popular spa-t (sorry, couldn’t resist).