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The perfect winter pick-me-up: the Scandinavian spa circuit of hot soaks, cold dips and saunas

From top: Scandinave Spa, Thermëa and Sibéria Spa.

Thank Meik Wiking and his 2016 bestselling lifestyle guide The Little Book of Hygge for making it official: Scandinavians are experts at making the most of winter. And while Wiking's advice to eat Danishes by candlelight may soothe the soul on a cold night, an afternoon spent at Nordic bath elevates winter wellness to its full potential.

The Scandinavian tradition of hot soaks, cold dips and Finnish saunas involves three key steps: warming the body to open pores; a plunge into cold water to rinse the toxins from the skin and close pores; and rest, time spent returning to body to its regular state. When repeated three to four times over a few hours, benefits include stress reduction, invigorated spirits and, of course, relaxation. In fact, a 25-year study by the University of Eastern Finland found that regular sauna can reduce the risk of hypertension.

Hopping into an icy pool or even a mound of snow may be the exact opposite of what you want to do midwinter, but it's the most important part of the sequence, says Mylisa Henderson, co-owner of Scandinave Spa in the Blue Mountains, Ont. The Scandinave is an oasis of saunas, steam baths, waterfalls and massages nestled in 25 acres of forest. "Even if it's a quick two- to 10-second rinse, you're closing up the pores, rinsing off those negative toxins and effectively jump-starting your heart, creating this kind of shock effect, which in turn makes the heart pump your blood quickly," she says. "It creates this internal heat – which is the endorphins. That's the energy. That's the whole experience." And you can always reward yourself Scandi-style with a cup of mulled wine afterward.

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WHAT TO TRY

Views of the Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, make this water spa a great destination to experience this Nordic tradition. Scandinave Spa Blue Mountain, $60 through scandinave.com.

Thermëa blends the benefits of thermotherapy, massage and nature into its rustic wellness spas in Winnipeg, and Chelsea, Que. A new location in Whitby, Ont., is opening in 2019. Thermëa Thermal Experience, from $48 through thermea.ca.

Take your cold plunge in the Rivière Jaune before resting in a Siberian yurt at this Nordic water spa, just a 20-minute drive north of Quebec City. Sibéria Spa, $47, through siberiastationspa.com.

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