Sauna: A MN Tradition with Scandinavian Roots

With the sub zero temperatures at Lake of the Woods this past week reaching a chilly -37 degrees for an air temp, many are repeating the phrase, “Making good Baudette -37 degrees, January 30, 2019ice”!  It surely is making good ice that will ensure our ice fishing through March and into April.  For many, this blast of cold air gets them thinking about a Scandinavian tradition that runs quite deep in Minnesota, taking a sauna.

The sauna knowsmoke saunan in the western world today originates from Northern Europe. In Finland, there are built-in saunas in almost every house.  The oldest known saunas in Finland were made from pits dug in a slope in the ground and primarily used as dwellings in winter. The sauna featured a fireplace where stones were heated to a high temperature. Water was thrown on the hot stones to produce steam and to give a sensation of increased heat. This would raise the temperature so high that people could take off their clothes.

The first Finnish saunas are what nowadays are called savusaunas, or smoke saunas.  These differed from present-day saunas in that they were heated by heating a pile of rocks called kiuas by burning large amounts of wood about 6 to 8 hours, and then letting the smoke out before enjoying the löyly, or sauna heat. A properly heated “savusauna” gives heat up to 12 hours.

Saunas of course have evolved.  The traditional saunas now efficiently heat rocks in which water is poured on to add steam.  These are still extremely popular, but like most things in life, things keep progressing.Infrared sauna, Hanks Hauser

Another popular form of sauna is the infared sauna.  This form of sauna has benefits such as low heat up time, detoxification, relaxation, low energy use, and family friendly as they don’t have the hot rocks of traditional saunas.

Henry Gruber is owner of Hanks Hauser and has been in the sauna business for 37 years.  He has also been instrumental in helping Lake of the Woods with the upcoming 2019 World Ploughing Contest August 30 – September 1, 2019 as both he and hisOutdoor Sauna, Hanks Hauser family have deep roots into ploughing.  Gruber was actually a world competitor and has attended competitions around the world.

Gruber speaks of the benefits of both types of saunas, but does talk about how the infrared saunas are more popular for a few reasons.  “The infrared sauna is becoming so popular because like a piece of furniture as small as 3′ x 3′, one can actually watch TV while taking a sauna.  In addition, they can run on 110 volts which is already in the home and are less expensive.”

Saunas are used all times of the year for their many benefits, but during a cold spell, seem to gain some popularity.

Why do people love saunas?  There are many reasons but here are ten of the top.

  1.  Relaxes muscles and soothes aches and pains in muscles and joints
  2. Relieves stress
  3. Induces a deeper sleep
  4. Recreational and social benefits
  5. Flushes toxins
  6. Cleans skin
  7. Improves cardiovascular performance
  8. Burns calories
  9. Fights illness and relieves congestion
  10. Feel good

Whether you are a traditionalist and prefer the traditional sauna with rocks and steam, or you are of the new technology that is convenient and less expensive called infrared, the saunas of today are still alive and well.  You don’t even have to travel to Finland to enjoy them!


Click Here to return to the Lake of the Woods Tourism website.

Click Here for a list of Lake of the Woods Lodging.

Click Here to check out the 2019 World Ploughing Contest

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