In the Great Canadian Winter, you will likely find me wearing as many layers as there are degrees below freezing and sitting dangerously close to a fireplace/heat source. You will generally not find me seeking out creative ways to spend more time in sub-zero temperatures, like taking a cold plunge outdoors in Ontario. That all changed when I visited Kingston in March and stayed at the stunning Frontenac Club Hotel.
After checking into the 175-year-old heritage building (originally Upper Canada's first bank), we headed to one of the boutique hotel's 20 rooms. With exposed limestone, a very cozy king bed and a fireplace, there was really no reason to leave the comfort of our quarters (although, there are a lot of fun things to do in Kingston).
However, upon checking out the view, I noticed something intriguing. There in the courtyard, sat two barrel saunas, a roaring fire, and two metal vessels packed with more ice than a mint julep. I had to know more.
Cold plunge, Kington: The premise
Upon closer inspection — and after some inquiries made to the Frontenac Club's helpful staff — I learned that this was a collaboration with Stoked Sauna and Co. Their 75-minute Stoked & Chill sessions guide guests through the natural Nordic practice of sauna bathing on the Frontenac Club's back patio. Start by heating things up in the barrel sauna for around 15 minutes.
Then chillax (literally) outside next to the firepits, or (if you dare) take a cold plunge in one of the ice baths to get your blood pumping. The idea is that by performing this cycle three times, you'll get a rush of endorphins, reduce swelling and generally increase the zen vibes all around — once you've stepped out of the freezing cold ice bath, one presumes?
Cold plunge, Kington: The experience
So, how did I fare? Despite not loving the cold, I am nothing if not competitive. After learning that others in the group would be taking part in the cold plunge, I decided to dive right in. After my first sesh in the sauna, I was sweaty and felt semi-ready for a cool down. Throwing my towel onto a pile of logs and stepping out of my slippers, I quickly disrobed (minus the toque) and stepped in before I could change my mind.
View on Instagram
Wow. The sensation, even with just one foot inside the ice bath, is unlike anything I've ever felt before. This isn't shower-taking-a-while-to-warm-up levels of cold — we're talking, icy stabs of not-quite pain, but spasmy discomfort. It felt a lot like pins and needles, and a little like I'd been hollowed out inside. My mind was centred and clear, though, such was my laser focus on the cold plunge, I can't boast any epiphany beyond "I am very cold."
The time flew by surprisingly quickly, and before I knew it, I'd been submerged for a full minute. I was able to push myself to do a whole two minutes, but by my third cold plunge, the sharp pangs inflicted all over my legs and feet were too much to bear for more than a few seconds. And, heck, I'd already beaten my previous time, what did I have to prove?
Cold plunge, Kington: The verdict
Dried off, warmed up and changed, we decided to toast to our successful cold plunge with a drink at The Bank, the charming lounge and gastro bar on the lower level of the Frontenac Club. Despite imbibing expertly crafted martinis at the bar, the floaty feeling we experienced post-plunge was more akin to having taken an edible. On a blissful cloud of relaxation, we sipped and barely spoke, utterly mellowed out. Afterwards, I climbed onto my dreamy mattress and sunk into one of the most peaceful and uninterrupted nights of sleep I've had in years.
There's nothing quite like trundling upstairs for a snooze immediately after your Nordic sauna session, and Kingston Tourism has several Rest + Relax packages, plus inspiration for fun things to do in Kingston. Check out the Frontenac Club + Stoke & Chill Sauna combo, which gives you a night of accommodation, a Stoked & Chill guided sauna experience, plus $50 dining credit at the Bank Gastrobar and more.
Originally slated to open until April 2, Stoked Sauna Co. will now run until the end of April. Make the plunge now and book your spot.