Along the Sea-to-Sky in British Columbia’s Squamish Valley you can find AIKA—a private wilderness spa experience. Tucked within the coastal rainforest with the serene sound of fresh running water flowing from the surrounding mountains, AIKA provides an opportunity to safely and privately immerse in hot and cold water therapy, involving a wood-fired sauna and hot tub, cold plunge tubs, outdoor fire, and a rest and relaxation space. AIKA offers two beautiful locations to experience this ancient practice, AIKA Squamish Valley and AIKA Squamish Creekside. At AIKA Squamish Creekside, guests have the opportunity to soak in a GOODLAND Wood Burning Hot Tub as a Forest Bathing experience.
AIKA was created by Emily and Tristan: proponents of hot and cold therapy, believers in the importance of pause, and friends of GOODLAND. In this most recent installment of A Place to Pause, we were excited to speak with Tristan to learn more about how AIKA got started and their vision of hot and cold water therapy.
What’s the story behind AIKA? How did it get started?
AIKA was founded in 2020 by my wife Emily and I. Our vision is to inspire individuals in their personal health and wellness journey by providing an opportunity to safely and privately immerse in traditional hot and cold therapy.
We both lived and worked in Sweden for two years before moving to Squamish and founding AIKA. During our time in Scandinavia we fell in love with Nordic sauna culture. We would frequently sauna on an island in the archipelago off the West Coast of Sweden and plunge directly into the frigid ocean. This became part of our weekly routine, and we looked forward to it as a way to connect with friends, cleanse the mind and body, and celebrate the end of the work week.
We traveled extensively around Scandinavia and visited every public and private sauna experience that we could find. Upon returning to Canada, we felt access to these types of facilities was limited. So, we took the initiative to design and build our own.
AIKA is a Finnish word that means “spending time.” We chose to name our brand AIKA to honour the deep roots of traditional Nordic sauna culture and represent our core values of spending time on wellness, making meaningful connections, and the practice of mindfulness.
Why hot and cold water therapy?
Hot and cold therapy is an ancient wellness ritual that has been practiced for thousands of years all over the world. It helps improve mental and physical health, enhances nervous system flexibility (improving our ability to manage stress), and serves as a healthy social lubricant helping people connect, relax, and celebrate without drugs or alcohol.
We started AIKA to share the benefits of this ancient wellness ritual with others in order to help elevate the well-being of our community.
Describe a moment of pause at AIKA. What does it feel, taste, smell, like?
A moment of pause at AIKA that I love is during the rest phase of the AIKA cycle—the intentional time spent finding balance after the exhilaration of the hot and cold immersion. You sit down in a beautiful wooden chair in the midst of the coastal rainforest around the warm fire, with a fresh mountain creek flowing beside you. You feel a natural high coursing through your body which brings enhanced clarity of thought and vision. Your senses are heightened yet your mind and body are relaxed. You feel human again, disconnected from technology, and connected to nature. You feel comfortable and totally at ease surrounded by your people while wearing nothing but a bathing suit or towel and wrapped in a fresh warm robe.
This space and time evokes the truest most authentic version of yourself. The scent and sounds of the fresh breeze, the mountain creek flowing through the coastal rainforest, and the wood fire awakens your senses. You take a sip of warm herbal tea and nourish your body with a few delicious bites from the charcuterie board. You find rest and connection as you relax deeper and it feels so good. There is no timeline for how long you should choose to stay in this moment, for you know that when the time is right, you will enter back into the hot sauna to begin your next repetition of the AIKA cycle and do it all over again. This is the perfect moment for pause.
Why did you choose to include a Wood Burning Hot Tub as part of the AIKA experience?
The GOODLAND Wood Burning Hot Tub elevates the AIKA experience by allowing us to offer another ancient healing modality called Forest Bathing at our AIKA Squamish Creekside wilderness spa. Forest bathing is the practice of absorbing the atmosphere of the forest which in turn serves to bridge the gap between our world and the natural world. The GOODLAND Wood Burning Hot Tub, allows our guests to forest bathe in the truest most literal sense enabling them to spend an extended period of time absorbing the atmosphere of the forest fully immersed in healing waters beside the fresh mountain creek.
The word "spa" means "healing waters," and that is exactly what the GOODLAND Wood Burning Hot Tub provides.
We offer this element as an add-on to the AIKA experience, which our guests can select with intention while booking. It is truly one of the most incredible and unique wellness experiences you can imagine and we highly recommend it for our guests visiting AIKA Squamish Creekside. The offering is made possible by the time and dedication put forward by the AIKA team which is also what makes it so special.
You suggest the AIKA Cycle—moving through phases of hot, cold, and rest. Where does the Wood Burning Hot Tub fit into this?
We encourage our guests to immerse in the Wood Burning Hot Tub during the rest phase of the AIKA Cycle, while they are finding balance between the exhilaration of the hot and cold immersion. We don’t intend for the time spent in the hot water to be a substitute for the heat of the sauna. Instead, we try to keep the temperature around 95-100 F so people can stay in a state of homeostasis and enjoy it as part of the rest phase before returning to the sauna. Of course, the Wood Burning Hot Tub can get much hotter, but we only allow it to do so upon request.
One thing we suggest to our guests while Forest Bathing at AIKA is a simple mindfulness practice intended to help clear the mind. We suggest that if there is a recurring thought, emotion, or feeling in your mind that is not serving you well, take a deep breath in, and envision putting it into the nearby creek. Breathe out and release it allowing the water to wash it away, helping to cleanse and restore balance within. When you emerge, you will do so feeling lighter mentally, physically, and spiritually.