My first negative spa review. Sigh.
Here are some things I expected to see at my first visit to Scandinave Spa Whistler: mist rising from the hot tubs in the cold winter air, the glorious Rocky Mountains in the background, snow falling softly from pine trees, my friend’s happy-scared face in a polar plunge pool in sub-zero weather, my skin-so-soft from a day of soaking. And I did see those things.
I did not expect to see employees wearing jackets emblazoned with the word “SILENCE” patrolling the grounds… Read on to see how not-at-all-relaxing that is.
Just looking for the facts? Click here for Scandinave Whistler prices, location, etc.
This review of Scandinave Spa Whistler is part of the series 100 Baths, my search for the world’s best spas and public bathing rituals.
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The Scandinave spa chain promotes peace and quiet in general Their philosophy is “silence is golden.” I’ve had the pleasure of soaking at other Scandinave locations in downtown Montreal and Ontario’s Blue Mountain, and consider myself a fan of their digital detox strategies. I’ve had more than one spa day ruined by cackling bachelorette parties, so I’m all for staff keeping volumes down.
But when is silence not golden? I’d say when it’s enforced by spa staff who have more in common with club bouncers than relaxation specialists.
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The Scandinave Whistler Silence Police were everywhere.
My friend and I had come to Scandinave Whistler for the hot tubs and the cold plunges, to lounge in front of firepits and stretch out in Finnish-inspired solariums. And the views of course, the gorgeous mountain views. Both of us were very much seeking a chill natural environment to detox from Zoom meeting fatigue. And we both knew of the “quiet please” rules.
But why do staff have to be dressed like security guards? I found it weird to be surrounded by so many of them, all stern looks and shushing fingers.
We were deep in relax mode when we got our first admonition. I think I was quietly asking my friend if she was ready to leave the hot tub for a cold plunge and then there it was, in my peripheral vision, the Silence Police giving me the shush.
I know a few hand gestures of my own, but kept them to myself as we silently went about our business of trying to chill out. It wasn’t easy though, because anytime anyone around us whispered, they too got policed. Frankly, the shushing was much more distracting than any guests.
Closed pools = more crowds
We visited during pandemic restrictions, and so capacity was apparently reduced. But it didn’t feel that way. Some facilities were closed for maintenance, so the remaining areas were quite crowded.
We never did find a spot to ourselves. This is quite different from my experiences at other Scandinave spas, where there’s always a corner or a hammock where you can be alone, or with your person. Here, we just kept ending up beside what I privately referred to as The Unhappy Couple (she was trying to cuddle but he just wanted to read his sci-fi book – even in the pools.)
I suppose that’s one upside to the total silence policy: it’s a perfect outing for couples that don’t actually like talking to each other.
I love a good solarium room, and Scandinave Whistler’s have incredible views. But they weren’t that warm. And it was in here where we found ourselves most challenged by the silence policy.
When it comes to instrumental “spa music” I can take it or leave it. But there’s only so much pan flute this woman can handle, apparently. I found it impossible to zone out in the solarium where the only sound was an extended track of “relaxing” pan flute solos. I leaned over to my friend and whispered, “I think that’s quite enough pan flute, would you agree?”
It turns out we were both thinking the same thing were both about to let out a verboten laugh. Before we could have an inappropriate outburst, we gathered our things and went outside. Where we had a very good laugh together – security be damned – and then decided we were done for the day.
What else sucked about Scandinave Whistler?
I started to review public baths and spas to encourage others to enjoy the bliss and benefits of hydrotherapy. And I plan to focus on unique and inspiring places that are worth your time and money. But sometimes you have to call out a negative experience.
The price for the bath experience here is higher than at any other Scandinave spa in Canada. I get it. Whistler is a world famous ski resort town. And paying a Rocky Mountain View Tax seems fair. But in that case, I would expect more premium services.
Like, there are no water stations throughout the grounds, or places to grab a dry towel without going back to reception. They could swap out a few Silence Police for actual helpful hands. The only nice touch was eucalyptus-scented surgical masks. I wanted more of this.
I have no doubt this will continue to be a popular destination for visitors to the area. You should definitely check it out if you’re OK with their monastery-level silence rules. But for me, one of the main reasons I travelled to Whistler at all (since I don’t ski) was to come here. And I’m sad to say I don’t recommend you do that.
Know Before You Go
My last visit was November 2021. Info updated January 2024. Always check the spa’s official website for the latest updates.
Where: A five-minute drive from Whistler village, up in the hills (aka, I wouldn’t walk it). If arriving after dark, it’s not clearly lit or signed. Once you’ve hit the parking lot and there’s nowhere else to go, you’re in the right spot.
When: 10am to 9pm daily. Rain or shine.
What to bring: Swimsuit and sandals. Robe is included with Thermal Reservations, but you only get one though so once it’s wet and/or frozen you’re also wet and frozen. These robes do not have any pockets so if you need a water bottle, glasses, etc. you’ll be carrying those. Towels are provided. Sandals are optional and available for sale but not rent. Leave cameras, phones, tablets, etc behind as they are prohibited.
How Much: A reserved spot for bathing starts at $145 and goes as high as $180 during peak season. Walk-in spots (if available) are cheaper but you have to pay extra charge for the robe rental. Check here for any promotions.
Want more spa inspiration? Lonely Planet’s Wellness Escapes is a lovely hardcover filled with eye candy photos of hot springs, saunas, spas and other wellness resorts from around the world. These are expensive and often remote destinations, but even if you never get there, you can use this as a starting point for researching dream trips.