Locally made, cedar barrel saunas combine health benefits with backyard luxury.
Heat therapy isn’t a new concept to those living on the West Coast, but the idea of having your own private cedar barrel sauna may be.
Saunas have been used for eons around the globe to support athletes, soothe injuries and offer health benefits like improving blood flow, increasing metabolism and even enhancing skin tone.
One local company has made its business from perfecting the art of creating therapeutic sanctuaries, right from the edge of our own coastal forest.
Forest Cooperage, located in Sooke, crafts hot tubs, soaker tubs, cisterns and saunas from locally sourced western red cedar. With customizable options that can fit two to eight people, their saunas are built to make attractive additions to any landscape.
“Think of being here on a cold, rainy November day and just being able to go into your own sauna and put the steam on,” says company president Lorne Atherton, a full-time firefighter in Victoria who bought Forest Cooperage in 2019.
Clients from as far away as Europe and Asia seek out these saunas constructed from Vancouver Island materials, from the wood to the steel. The saunas come in a range of options, from classic wood burning (cue the ritualistic wood chopping and lighting the fire) to electric and even Wi-Fi-controlled from your phone. It’s a long way from the days of heading to a rec centre for a steam.
“There’s nothing quite like being on the chairlift [at a ski hill] and realizing you’re going to be home in 30 minutes,” says Atherton, “so you press a button on your phone to get the sauna going and it’s ready when you get there.”
Aside from health benefits, cedar barrel saunas can extend the life of lakeside living — think hopping in for a cold plunge after a hot steam. They also offer an attractive place to disconnect from devices and reconnect with friends.
“Going into a sauna is like exercise. It can raise your heart rate, lower blood pressure; it’s great for aches and pains. It keeps you going as you get older, especially if you mountain bike or ski,” says Atherton. “But it’s also a great time out. When you’re in the sauna, you’re not doing anything else and it’s a good gathering place.”