Spas: A prairie oasis

One of Canada’s newest and best-kept secrets is tucked away in the most unlikely location: the prairie city of Moose Jaw, an hour’s drive west of Regina in the southern reaches of Saskatchewan. Opened in 1996, the Temple Gardens Mineral Spa boasts one of the largest pools of hot mineral springs in the country.

The Temple Gardens first achieved stardom when radio personality Peter Gzowski broadcast his last “Morningside” program from its hotel lobby in May 1997. Its popularity has soared since, and today as many as 15,000 visitors a month head for Moose Jaw to “take the waters.”

The cavernous indoor hot pool is clearly the focal point of the place. It is the size of a small hockey rink, with lofty ceilings and large cathedral windows.

The water is a soothing 41 C with underwater shelves to sit on and jets of water to massage your back. When you tire of the indoors, glide through a narrow passageway to a smaller hot pool outside to view the sunset or the stars. “It’s especially magical when it’s snowing,” one regular visitor notes.

The spa section offers everything from massage and facials to pedicures and seaweed wraps. After each treatment, you rex in the lounge with a plate of fresh fruit.

The hotel features 181 rooms, half of them added in 2002. A few rooms enjoy the luxury of a private mineral whirlpool. The popular bridal suite has a sitting room, a six-foot circular whirlpool, a two-sided fireplace and a full-size bar.

Founder’s dream – town’s gain
Deb Thorne, the dynamic 50-year-old founder and general manager of the Temple Gardens, seized upon the idea of tapping into the mineral spring and turning it into a world-class spa. She wooed politicians, businesses and the local citizenry on board, raised the necessary funds and opened the Temple Gardens in 1996. Thorne named the establishment after a popular ’20s dance hall down the street. A small casino, also with a flapper theme, was built last year.

A happy by-product of the spa’s success is the revitalization of this once-dying town. Galleries and boutiques, shops and restaurants are springing up every week. A cultural centre is under construction, and there are two golf courses nearby. And the award-winning Tunnels of Moose Jaw, built during Prohibition, offers two theatrical tours, which are packing in the tourists.

And no one is happier than Deb Thorne. “It’s the amazing prairie spirit that made all this happen,” she says. “We are like the early pioneers. We accepted a challenge, we worked like crazy and we made it happen. I want to cry with joy when I see so many people coming here, having such a good time and leaving with smiles on their faces.”