With Apologies to Monty Python: "SPA, spa, spa, spa . . . "
Spas are big business around here: They're the most popular new features at hotels, especially in the Mont-Tremblant area, where people are looking for other things to do (and new ways to pamper themselves) beyond dropping a lot of money on skiing.
At some hotels, innkeepers might say they have a "spa" on-site when what they've got is an outdoor hot tub. What we're talking about here, though, is a complex that features therapeutic services -- particularly, ones that involve water.
The spa industry has some clear definitions of what constitutes a spa. In the province of Québec, Spas Relais Santé (www.spasrelaissante.com) distinguishes between day spas, which offer massages and estétique services such as facials and pedicures; destination spas, which often involve overnight stays and healthy cuisine; and Nordic spas, which are built around a natural water source, and include outdoor and indoor spaces.
If you've never experienced a European-style Nordic spa before, set aside 3 hours for a visit to Le Scandinave Spa, 4280 Montée Ryan, Mont-Tremblant (tel. 888/537-2263 or 819/425-5524; www.scandinave.com). It's a rustic-chic complex of small buildings among evergreen trees on the Diable River shore. For C$45, visitors (18 and older only) have run of the facility. Options include outdoor hot tubs designed to look like natural pools (one is set under a man-made waterfall); a Norwegian steam bath thick with eucalyptus; indoor relaxation areas with supercomfortable, low-slung chairs; and the river itself, which the heartiest of folk dip into even on frigid days. (A heat lamp keeps a small square of river open, even through the iciest part of winter.) The idea is to move from hot to cold to hot, which supposedly purges toxins and invigorates your skin. Bathing suits are required, and men and women share all spaces except the changing rooms. Massages and yoga classes are options for extra fees. Couples, mothers and daughters, groups of friends, and people on their own all come to "take the waters." The spa is year-round, and few activities are more relaxing than being in a warm outdoor pool as snow falls, the sun sets, and the temperature plummets. (That stroll back to the locker room is another story.)
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.