Alaska’s First Nordic Spa Experience Now Fully Open in Girdwood

by Lisa Truesdale

After spending the day skiing the slopes at Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, Alaska, the last thing you might think you need is a plunge in a freezing-cold pool. Yet after you discover the resort’s new Nordic spa, you’ll think again.

Alyeska Nordic Spa

Photo courtesy Alyeska Nordic Spa.

“Hot, cold, rest, repeat” is the mantra at the outdoor spa nestled against the mountain. It’s modeled after Nordic-style spas that promote a hydrotherapy cycle of alternating between hot and cold water. The practice is meant to be invigorating, yet some people also find it quite relaxing, as it helps reduce stress and promotes better sleep.

Hot water (or a visit to the sauna) is said to help reduce blood pressure, plus enhance blood flow to the skin and muscles, which can help ease post-ski soreness. The cold stage is also said to stimulate blood pressure, producing white blood cells, which in turn can help flush out toxins. The expected result is fully relaxed muscles along with a feeling of rejuvenation – and it certainly worked for me.

After each self-guided hot/cold cycle in the shared pools (be prepared to meet people from all over the world), you’re encouraged to sit and relax in your spa-provided robe, towel and sandals. This allows your body to stabilize and prepare for the next cycle. Then, when you’re ready, you do it again. Each hot/cold cycle builds upon the previous one for even more benefits. 

“It gets easier as you go,” I heard more than one person say during my recent visit. Thankfully, that’s true. I’m a big baby when it comes to dunking myself in cold water, yet I actually did start to enjoy the full-body tingling I experienced in the cold pools. (Of course, I was always grateful when it was time for one of the hot ones instead.) My reward for completing three cycles was a trip to the Rainforest Steam Room, featuring steam that’s infused with your choice of essential oils, like citrus, wintergreen or lavender.

The views from Alyeska Nordic Spa are stunning; you’re surrounded by mountains, and you can see some of the resort’s slopes from many of the plunge pools, along with the resort itself. And don’t miss the spa’s forest loop, where the barrel saunas and wooden hot tubs are. It’s a bit more intimate back there, since the tubs only hold a few people. It’s surrounded by trees, and so peaceful that I never wanted to leave. 

After I showered and got dressed, my final treat was a visit to the on-site Two Trees Bistro to refuel. I loved the Roasted Vegetable Flatbread, with a base of house-made hummus, plus lots of olives and capers. I paired it with a glass of Prosecco, because why not? But I also had my eye on the Blueberry Brie Grilled Cheese, which I plan on ordering next time, since it sounds so decadent and so delicious. The mostly wellness-focused menu also includes all-day breakfast entrees, such as Wellness Frittata and Avocado Toast, plus cheese boards, salads and a few desserts.

Anyone is welcome at the spa (if they’re over 18). You don’t have to spend the day skiing or be a resort guest to enjoy the facilities. Day passes are available, and you can add on a massage for an additional fee. Best of all, the spa is open until 9 p.m. most days—the experience is especially magical in the twilight, and as a bonus, reduced rates are available after 5 p.m.

Girdwood is a cute little mountain town, and easy to get to from Anchorage. It’s about a 45-minute scenic drive, southeast on the Seward Highway, along the coast of the Turnagin Arm. (But don’t let the word “highway” fool you. It’s just two lanes for much for the way.) You might even spot some whales—there are several pull-outs along the route where you can just park and stare out over the water for a bit.

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A long-time contributor to Travel to Wellness, Lisa Truesdale is a Colorado-based writer and frequent contributor to this site. She writes for a number of publications on topics including travel and tourism, health and wellness, food and drink, and home and garden.