Plunging into sauna city: Thunder Bay, Canada

919195869207_0_bg1_2 Nearly a year ago, I did one of the most daring (or stupid) things in my life. I sat in a sauna, where the temperature reached nearly 200 degrees, and then ran barefoot over snow and plunged through a hole in the ice into a lake.

Why? Call it the lure of the sauna.

Thunder Bay, Ontario's devoted to the Scandinavian steam room. The city has one of the largest populations of Finns outside of Helsinki, and you'll find saunas everywhere. Read the Coastal Living story here.

The snow plunge might look like a stunt, but the variation of hot and cold temperatures is believed to have health benefits. A recent study indicated that sauna visits can help stave off the common cold.

While I was in Thunder Bay, I visited a hotel sauna, a popular public sauna called Kangas', and two private saunas, which allowed me to warm up before I plopped into frigid lakes. Although Thunder Bay's popular with summer visitors driving the Circle Route around Lake Superior, few come during the chilly months. (Keep in mind, nippy Duluth, Minnesota, is south of here.)

But I found it a diverting city. There's good cross-country skiing, and Bay Street has a block of Finnish stores, selling sauna supplies, beautiful housewares, and great Finnish food like pancakes and smoked salmon.

Truth be told, no amount of carbo loading can prepare your body for a plunge into ice water. The only relief is to shoot out of the lake and sprint back to the sauna to warm up again.


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