Soaking it all in: how a trip to your favorite hot springs helps you recover faster

Winter sports are a different beast. Temperatures are normally below freezing, deep snow is often present and the short days require some serious rallying for big ventures. Oftentimes, we get back to the car feeling stiff and numb, the chill of winter visible in our rosy cheeks and frozen fingertips. After a long day of traversing snowscapes and wandering through frosted woods, what better way to warm up and relax than with a dip in warm, soothing waters?

Hot springs are an excellent option for unwinding after a day spent skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, ice climbing or any other winter sport you prefer. The water emits a welcoming cloud of steam on a chilly evening, an invitation to soak our tired bodies in the healing pools. So what is it about hot springs that help improve muscle recovery and relaxation?

BRING THE HEAT

The end of another epic day finds you achy and sore, your body exhausted from your favorite winter activities. When we work our muscles to the point of exhaustion, our cells begin to run out of oxygen. This results in anaerobic respiration, which is the process responsible for producing lactic acid. Lactic acid is our body’s defense mechanism for working our muscles too hard. Our movements become slower, and our bodies stiff. Sitting in hot water increases blood flow, which helps our bodies speed up the processing of lactic acid buildup. 

Another valuable practice at hot springs is contrast bathing — alternating between hot and cold water. This abrupt change in temperatures causes our blood vessels to open and constrict, which assists our cardiovascular system in reducing muscle fatigue, soreness and swelling. Not to mention, the practice of contrast bathing is extremely invigorating. 

springs resort and spa winter sports recovery pagosa springs
The Springs Resort & Spa offers 24 geothermal hot spring fed pools with varying temperatures, and is conveniently located near the wild and vast Wolf Creek backcountry. Photo courtesy of The Springs Resort & Spa.
MAGIC IN MINERALS

Hot springs are chock full of minerals, with mineral content varying based on the location of the hot spring. Thanks in part to the temperature of hot springs water, there is a high concentration of dissolved minerals. Common minerals found in hot springs include calcium, chloride, iron, magnesium, potassium, silica and sulphate.

“Specifically for our water, we’re very noticeable for our sulfur smell,” Shane Lucero, marketing director for The Resort Springs & Spa in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, said. “Whether you like (the smell) or hate it, sulfur is an anti-inflammatory, so it’s really good for people with arthritis. It’s really great for people who are training because it’s great for your joint health.” 

The minerals found in hot springs are also excellent for skin health. Silica is known to relieve dry, rough skin. Individuals that struggle with skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis may find relief for these conditions by soaking in these waters.

PEACE OF MIND

Aside from the physical benefits of hot springs, the mental aspect is just as important. Hot springs provide a peaceful escape. As our bodies begin to relax in the soothing waters, so do our minds.

“Sometimes you don’t realize how much your mind plays into it, so maybe it’s not your muscles that are sore or tired, but it’s just your brain,” Lucero said. “It’s something so simple that everybody forgets and is really necessary to body recovery.”

Sitting in hot springs also increases our body temperature, and when we exit the pool and our body temperature drops, the change helps us to relax and can improve sleep functions.

OUTSIDE THE POOL

Looking for other ways to unwind? Many hot spring locations also offer a wide variety of services — from saunas and massages to facials and yoga classes.

pagosa hot springs winter sports recovery
What better way to wind down after a long day of exploring the backcountry than with a soak at the local hot springs? Photo courtesy of The Springs Resort & Spa.
OUR FAVORITE SPOTS
  • Durango Hot Springs; Durango, CO
    Located near Purgatory Resort and the San Juan backcountry
    durangohotspringsresortandspa.com
  • Joyful Journey; Moffat, CO
    Located near Monarch Ski Area in the vast San Luis Valley
    joyfuljourneyhotsprings.com
  • Iron Mountain Hot Springs; Glenwood Springs, CO
    The perfect stop off the I-70 corridor
    ironmountainhotsprings.com
  • Mt. Princeton Hot Springs; Nathrop, CO
    Go snowmobiling or snowshoeing in the surrounding San Isabel National Forest
    mtprinceton.com
  • Ojo Caliente; Taos, NM
    A short drive from Taos Valley Ski Area; reopening early 2021
    ojospa.com
  • Orvis Hot Springs; Ridgway, CO
    A peaceful escape after climbing at the Ouray Ice Park; clothing optional
    orvishotsprings.com
  • The Springs Resort & Spa; Pagosa Springs, CO
    Relax and rejuvenate after a day at Wolf Creek Ski Area
    pagosahotsprings.com