New geothermal hot springs to open soon near Whitehorse

Steamy water surrounded by snow
Eclipse Nordic Hot Springs in Whitehorse. (Garry Umbrich)

There’s nothing quite as magical as a soak in a hot spring on a cold winter’s day.

But for Alaskans living in the upper Lynn Canal area, the closest hot spring is near Whitehorse, the capital city of Canada’s Yukon Territory, and it’s been closed for more than a year. 

Now, a new facility with a new name is on track to open in February to replace the old Takhini Hot Springs. The water will still be heated by geothermal activity, but that’s about the only thing that will stay the same, said Garry Umbrich, owner of Eclipse Nordic Hot Springs.

“We removed the old building, it was demolished,” he said. “And so we have an entirely 100% new facility.”

tiled pool surrounded by boudlers
Flagstones and boulders bring a more natural look to the hot springs. (Garry Umbrich)

He said there will be four soaking pools to choose from, but only three will be in use during the winter.

“It’s not shaped like a swimming pool. And it’s not very deep, so you can’t actually swim in it,” he said. “It’s a series of soaking pools, and they are done in the Japanese style. So if you’ve ever heard of an Onsen Pool, that’s kind of what we’ve built.”

The bottoms of the pools are covered in flagstones that allow for a variety of sitting positions and the pools will be rimmed by large boulders giving them a more natural feel, he said.

“We took concepts from a little bit around the world. So, you know, we have tried to bring in a little bit of Liard Hot Springs, which is on the Alaska Highway, by having a wooden boardwalk that you walk on, on your way to walk to the facility, after you park,” he said. “We try and keep a lot of a forest nice and close to the pool, to give you that feeling of being out in nature.”

In addition to the pools there are multiple saunas, steam rooms, lounge chairs, fire pits, walking trails, and benches in the woods. The facility will also have a new restaurant with what Umbrich calls “spa-fusion food.”

“There’ll be a soup of the day,” he said. “There’ll be probably a few different kinds of sandwich — meat, vegetarian, and fish. There’ll be some fancier spa types of things like charcuterie plates, or cheese plates, and pickles and olive plates.”

They are trying to get a beer and wine license, but that’s still in the works. Umbrich said there are currently groomed cross-country ski trails open and he expects the campground to re-open in the spring, though the old hostel has been converted into two Airbnb suites.

Admission prices will start at around $25 for non-peak times, and climb up to around $50 for the busiest hours. And that doesn’t last for the whole weekend or even the entire day. If you leave the facility to go back to camp and grab a nap or go have dinner, you’ll have to pay again for another soak.

Umbrich said the project has run about $6 million. 

Originally, the new hot springs complex was supposed to be open last winter, but Umbrich said the coronavirus pandemic has caused many delays. 

And for Alaskans, a visit to the new hot springs facility will require some planning in advance as Canada’s Yukon Territory has implemented sweeping COVID-19 mitigation practices, including proof of vaccination and test results. Masks are also required in indoor public places and in some outdoor places, including inside of public saunas and steam rooms.

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