Vancover Sun Article Highlight Pagosa Hot Springs
At Pagosa Springs, it’s swimsuit weather even in the cold
PAGOSA SPRINGS, Colo. — Our walk to the hot springs in -10 C mountain air was short. But in bathing suits, flip-flops and our resort’s ubiquitous cream-coloured robes, my ankles had never been so cold. Rachael said, “Brrrrrrrr!” Or maybe it was “Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!” I was too cold to hear clearly.
When we finally arrived at the Springs Resort and Spa’s 23 pools, we were too shivery to browse; we lowered ourselves into the first steaming cauldron we found -40 C.
Sounded hot but sure beat -10 C. I went first, the heat overtaking me inch by inch.
“How is it?” Rachael asked.
It was difficult to say. When goose bumps meet 40 C, a clash goes down — a skin-tingling, head-swirling clash. I replied either, “Ahhhhhhhh!” or “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” I was too delirious to know for sure.
Rachael wasted no time joining me in pool and sentiment.
“Amaaaaaaaaaaazing,” she said.
It was nearing midnight, and all was quiet. We leaned back in the billowing steam and blinked at the sights: the handsome stone pathways and waterfalls laced through the modern pools; the snow-banked San Juan River streaming below; a brilliantly starry Western sky.
For the next hour we moved quietly among the small, modern pools, our steaming skin no longer needing robes: from 44 C (we lasted three minutes) to 37 C degrees (child’s play) to a delightful 42 C compromise. Winter never felt so good.
We headed back to our room, skin flush and robes around us once more. At nine the next morning, we headed back to the pools. I stopped by the resort lobby on the way to inquire about hot-spring theory. The woman at the reception desk said, “Listen to your body. Usually we suggest going from cooler to warmer.”
Thirty or so people, including several children, were spread across the pools this time, but there was little loud chatter and no squealing from the youngsters. Warm waters made moods mellow.
We moved from pool to pool, always entering slowly: the feet, the knees, the waist, the ribs, the neck. An unspoken code seemed to urge a degree of privacy among soakers, but we inevitably soaked with strangers. We met people from western Massachusetts; Baton Rouge, La.; and, in a 42 C pool affording views of Pagosa Springs’ quiet Western main street, a 73-year-old retired air force pilot from Albuquerque, N.M.
“I’ll tell you, boy, this is good for what ails you,” he said. “I have a neuropathy in both hands; they’re numb with tingling at the fingertips. But when I went home last night, neither hand hurt.”
For generations — since the Ute American Indians lived on the land — the springs have been said to have healing powers ( “Pagosah” is Ute for “healing waters”). The sulphur, chlorides and magnesium have been said to cure everything from arthritis to paralysis. Whether it’s true I don’t know. But it feels good.
If your image of Pagosa Springs is yet another Colorado burg of yuppie comfort, get rid of it.
IF YOU GO
Getting There: Part of Pagosa Springs’ charm is its isolation. The closest major airports are in Albuquerque (340 km) and Denver (434 km).
There are three places to soak in town:
1: The Springs Resort & Spa (800-225-0934, pagosahotsprings.com)is the largest and most developed facility in town, which also offers 300 clean and comfortable rooms that range from $179 to $260 (depending on size of room and season), plus tax.
2: Overlook Hot Springs (970-264-4040, overlookhotsprings.com)is a much smaller operation popular with locals for being affordable, serving alcohol and having rooftop pools that offer fine mountain views.
3: Healing Waters Resort and Spa (800-832-5523, pshotsprings.com)is the oldest facility in town and hasn’t been well maintained. But it is a less expensive option, ranging from $75 to $150 (depending on room size and season), plus tax. Guests soak for free; nonguest passes are available.