It starts with an itch. You may feel a general sense of unease accompanied by a sore throat, wooziness, or headache. You scratch, only to discover a bumpy, red rash has developed under your armpits, around your belly button, and in areas typically hidden by your swimsuit. There’s no denying you’ve been infected. The diagnosis? Hot tub folliculitis, a particularly hard-to-kill type of bacteria that flourishes in warm, wet areas.
While hot tub rash can’t exactly be traced back to skiing, it’s highly likely when you consider skiers have been seeking out new and creative ways to soak their bones in hot water for thousands of years.
The first mention of the Japanese onsen dates as far back as 759 AD, where it was believed that elder bathers infused their wisdom into the natural hot waters for younger bathers to absorb.
A similar exchange of information happens in present-day Jacuzzis the world over, where skiers flock post – or mid – après to smartly debate the ideal ratio of soak-time to beers. The Surgeon General recommends never using a hot tub while (or after) consuming alcohol, but El General has obviously never hopped the fence of the St. Regis Aspen in an effort to prolong the use of his knees with a soak in the healing waters.
Perhaps we should, instead, be discussing why the male to female ratio in the tub almost always trends 7:1 in favor of the lads. Or if any skier has ever dared to dip before their ski day begins. (Can it be done?)
Whatever the hour, a good soak can certainly loosen up tired muscles, ease the tension, and be an ideal place to meet that nice couple vacationing from Ohio. But the real reason skiing and hot tubbing are so tightly wound is because, in their purest form, both are designed for pleasure and leisure. It’s no wonder that while packing for a ski trip, the first thing that goes in is not your skis, boots, or goggles, but a bikini or nice pair of trunks that likely still have the familiar leftover odor of chlorine from the last trip.
Consider the frequency and popularity of hot pools throughout ski country. Idaho itself has nearly 150 hot springs, many of which you can ski to. There’s Strawberry in Steamboat; Ojo Caliente near Taos; Scandinave in Whistler; and a plethora of natural springs outside of Mammoth that belong in the show-not-tell category. If it’s clothing optional, such as Orvis Hot Springs in Ridgway, Colorado, your ski day can be topped off by stirring the soup with naked cowboys and hairy hippies. Consider it your civic duty to drop your drawers, as nothing bridges social divisions quite like a soothing soak on your bare derriere in a group setting.
Similarly, nothing satisfies the end of a powder day quite like dipping your angry toes into a chlorinated vat of hot, steamy H20. Just do us a favor: Be a pal and shower beforehand.
The Best-of-the-Best Ski Soaks:
Hakuginso Onsen, Japan
Located at the base of Mount Tokachi on the powder island of Hokkaido, Hakuginso offers amazing touring and skiing directly outside dorm-style lodging and the onsen of your Japanese dreams.
At this little area that rocks outside the Engadine Valley, a wood-fired hot tub sits at the top of a tram at 9,800 feet. Soak in between pow laps while taking in views of the Piz Bernina.
Warm Springs, Ketchum, Idaho
Rip a few groomers on Upper College, grab a pint at Apple’s Bar and Grill, and head west into the mountains. Bring beers for the nice neighbors and Sun Valley locals.
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