Everyone pads softly in matching brown slippers, identical white robes cinched tightly at the waist, voices rarely raised above a hushed whisper and on each person, the same serene smile. It is the smile of people who have abandoned their faculty for critical thought to the mindless calm of serenity.

It is exactly what I want.

I eagerly trade in my snow boots and ski jacket (it is Banff after all) for the robes of the initiated and join the ranks of these beatific women (and a few guys.)

This sanctuary is not nestled in a medieval monastery in the French Alps, but it is in a castle: The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, and despite outward appearances, it is not a cult I have come to join, but to spend the day in the lap of serene luxury at the Willow Stream Spa.

The all ages pool for hotel and spa guests

The all ages pool for hotel and spa guests

This is an adult only space, but I should point out that hotel guests of all ages are free to use the beautiful 32 metre lap pool, an outdoor hot tub that is open all year, and a small splash pool just for kids. So while the kiddos can’t join mom and dad at the spa, there is still watery fun for them to have!

But back to the Willow Stream…

The spa itself has several areas, each thoughtfully planned to help their guests get the most out of their time. There is no way I could pick a favourite, but I was certainly struck by the “resting room” where you were encouraged to contemplate your time at the Willow Stream over a hot or cold drink and a small snack, while overlooking the magnificent view of the Rockies.


The resting lounge

They recommend coming at least half an hour early if you have booked a treatment in order to prepare yourself. The literature I was given suggests a warm therapy (sauna, hot tub, steam room) followed by a cool down (shower or drink of cold water) for balance.

It was time for a “Rocky Rehydration” treatment: an exfoliating dry brushing over my body followed by a rich oil. Then I was wrapped up in a cocoon of blankets to let it soak in while my neck, shoulders and feet were massaged with other various lotions. I was also treated to an acculift facial which gives you a little (sadly temporary!) facelift. An hour of heaven! I am already scheming for a return.

The Willow Stream Spa at the Banff Springs Hotel

The mineral pool, courtesy of Fairmont Hotels and Resorts

While the lounge areas and treatments are nothing short of amazing, the most unique aspect of the Willow Stream Spa in the Fairmont Banff Springs is the water therapy pools. The large mineral pool avails itself of the same minerals found at the original Banff Hot Springs, and the effects are said to help with various ailments of the skin, joints and aid in improving circulation. I liked floating around with my ears under water so I could hear the gentle music pumped through the underwater speakers while gazing up though the conical skylight over the pool. Ringing the mineral pool are three smaller plunge pools of increasing temperature, each set under a cascading waterfall. It is hard to describe the tranquility.

At the beginning of the year we published a “Bucket List” of travel destinations. Due to its proximity to my home base of Edmonton, I selected the Willow Stream Spa as a feasible alternative to spas in destinations farther afield. I am so happy I was able to cross this one off the list. It exceeded my expectations!

So, I would like to announce I have given myself over, freely and completely to the pursuit of relaxation. That serene smile on my 25 year old looking face? At least the smile is staying.

The Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is located at 405 Spray Avenue, Banff, Alberta, Canada. You can reach them at (403) 762-1772, via email, or book directly through their website.

The writer wishes to thank Fairmont and the Willow Stream Spa, of whom she was a guest.