The winter waters of the Banff Springs Hotel spa

Banff Springs Hot Springs

A soak in the Willow Stream Spa at Banff Springs Hotel is a restorative experience

Let yourself in on a Rocky Mountain
hot spring secret at the Banff Springs Hotel spa

I slip into the Willow Stream Spa at the Banff Springs Hotel in the early morning, just as the sun begins to crest the mountains outside, when every surface it touches becomes bathed in the sumptuous honeyed light for which Alberta is famous.

It’s just cold enough outside to make going to the outdoor Jacuzzi a bit of an adventure. The waters of the hot tub are misted over from the crisp alpine temperature, which has created a kind of illuminated ecosystem all its own. The air is suffused with the scents of balmy pine and fir, pungent and clear, clean to the point of having a dizzying effect. Backlit are massive Douglas firs, their branches punctured by spokes of amber sunlight. I’m illuminated in shafts of liquid gold. Against the burgeoning azure sky, all that surrounds me is still and profound.

Banff Springs Hotel Hotsprings

Snowy mountain peaks and pine forest surround the palatial hotel

Just being in this space allows me to breathe differently. There is a compelling sense of well-being that takes root as soon as you find yourself here. The snow, like soft talc, has fallen, and as the sun ascends, everything shimmers. A hawk shrieks as it arcs above me, piercing the silence. I feel a sense of stillness and wonder, of awe.

Back indoors, I begin a ritual – 20 minutes in the Kerr pool, followed by a few minutes in one of the cascade waterfalls, each a different temperature from quite cool to shockingly warm. Moving from one to the next is purely blissful, and intimate, despite the grandeur of the spa itself. The atmosphere exudes at once opulence and simplicity. The roar of the cascading waterfalls drowns out all other sound. There is a sense of repose that descends because of it.

Banff Springs Hotel Spa

Measure enjoyment by degrees in the spa’s indoor and outdoor pools

I’ve watched countless times from my lounge chair, swaddled in a lavish robe and buried under magazines, as weary and grateful visitors have lowered themselves into the mineral springs. The look is always the same — of radiant delight, as though they have discovered a great secret… and they have.

One of the best views of the entire Banff Springs Hotel is from this very spot, floating in the centre of the pool while looking upward at the great domed ceiling above. Every time I leave, I think about the next time I’ll get to rest in these waters. It can never be too soon. I feel like this spot is my secret, but then I know that every single person who has floated here has felt the same — cerulean beneath and above, hovering between two worlds, warm and well.

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