Two Canadian spas take it to the next level
Sibéria Station Spa follows very close to the original concept of a Scandinavian spa: hot, cold and rest until profound relaxation is reached.
“It’s the principal of thermotherapy,” says Amélie Gagnon, Director of Operations. “It reduces stress, eliminates toxins, relaxes muscles, improves quality of sleep, and strengthens the immune system.” A 10 to 15-minute drive from Quebec City, Sibéria Station is nestled in a forested area that feels like it is far removed from city life, with the convenience of being just on its outskirts. “Our primary goal is to make sure that every guest comes to relax in a calm environment surrounded by nature,” Gagnon says.
The owners Michel Carrier and Julie Panneton moved home to Quebec City from Montreal and decided to create a spa “where guests could come to sit back and relax and get away from their worries,” the directrice des operations says. The spa started very small, she says, opening in 2005 with just five employees. Over a decade later Sibéria Station has grown to a staff of 125 and at 60,000 square-feet, it is the largest spa east of Quebec City.
A focal point of the spa is Sibéria Café, built from the bones of an old chapel with the sloping shape of a Swiss chalet. Behind the cafe is the main spa building where the reception desk, changerooms and treatment rooms are located. In the winter, massage therapy treatments are done indoors, up to 14 per hour; in the summer that number rises to 18 massages an hour because of the spa’s outdoor treatment cabins, located in the woods along the banks of the Rivière Jaune.
As you’d expect of a Nordic spa, Sibéria Station’s busiest season is winter and most of its amenities are outdoors. “Outside, we have eight heated pools, a dry Finnish sauna, an infrared sauna, a eucalyptus and orange steam bath, three cold waterfalls and a few resting areas outdoors and indoors,” Gagnon says.
The bath, which was renovated in 2015, reaches temperatures of 50 C, but a cold waterfall and a bucket help guests stay refreshed. It is a favourite spot for spa guests and something they asked for specifically, Gagnon says.
Sibéria Station stays in close contact with its guests through its membership program, which resembles a gym membership. There are three-month, six-month and one year packages available, she says, where members “can come every day if they want to.” Members always have a bathrobe and towels waiting for them and they get a discount on massages and for a plus one if they decide to bring a guest. “We have 150 people who have a membership card here,” says Gagnon. “They come here very often and we ask them what they like and what we can improve.” Usually, the spa is restricted to clients who are 18 years of age or older, but during the summer Sibéria Station opens its doors to families with young children so that they too can have the Nordic spa experience. “It’s one of the unique features that we have,” Gagnon says. “During Spring Break we had almost 200 families every morning.”
Aside from its outdoor pools and saunas, Sibéria Station focuses on one particular spa service: massage. “We don’t have a special signature spa treatment,” Gagnon says. “However, we are proud to have a team of 65 massage therapists who are all certified by the Fédération québécoise des massothérapeutes. We hire only therapists who come from FQM. All the Sibéria Station therapists are under the supervision of Michel Van Waeyenberge, an internationally renowned massage therapist and owner of Centre L’Attitude in Quebec City. Waeyenberge works closely with the massage therapists to constantly upgrade and refine their skills. “We are one of the only spas who can offer 12 different massages,” Gagnon says proudly. “People come here and they can receive a hammam massage, sports massage, Lomi-Atsu massage, Lomi-Lomi massage…” The list is extensive.
Sibéria Station is unique among spas in that it does not push any particular spa products. Massage therapists are all freelancers and bring their own supplies with them. “They have to provide their own oil or gel, it has to be hypoallergenic and have no smell,” Gagnon explains. “We don’t carry a specific brand. We don’t want to push guests to buy; we are not that kind of spa.” All the guests seem happy with that arrangement, she says.
The most important thing for Sibéria Station, Gagnon says, is that guests have a healthy, tranquil experience. “We are attentive to all our guests and we are reaching out to them to ask them what they would love to have, how we can improve. It’s always our mission to make sure our guests are happy.”
Spa Facts: Sibéria Station Spa
Size: 60,000 square-feet
Number of treatment rooms: 14 (winter) / 18 (summer)
Number of staff: 125