My entree to unique sauna experiences was an unlikely one: American football, which is a thing in Finland. My boys, who were 12 and 14 at the time, came with me to Finland. When we arrived, they signed up to play for the Jyväskylä Jaguaarit youth team. There, they met a gregarious Finnish boy whose father works for Harvia, the Finnish sauna manufacturer. It was through them that we had extraordinary sauna experiences.
With the boy and his family, we visited a rustic country sauna at Ranssi and floated on Jyväsjärvi (Lake Jyväskylä) on a sauna boat (saunalautta). They directed us to the Rauhaniemi public sauna in Tampere. One of my boys took a sauna at Harvia headquarters in Muurame. Emboldened by these experiences, we explored an island sauna (Lehtisaari) on our own and said “Yes!” when we were invited to a smoke sauna at a summer cottage near Jyväskylä. Luckily when my husband visited us in Finland, he had some of these sauna experiences too.
When I returned to Colorado and my job, I craved sauna. My body and mind needed the stress release and relaxation induced by the alternating heat and cold but I couldn’t find a “good” sauna experience. Our local recreation centers have saunas but they are lacking: they don’t get hot enough and they have the incredulous “Don’t Throw Water on The Rocks” signs.
"We took the first sauna in our backyard during the week of Thanksgiving 2019. We have been thankful ever since."
As I bemoaned the dearth good public saunas in the Boulder area, my husband suggested that we build one in our backyard. He has construction experience, likes a project and we have the space. It was an easy decision and he went to work. We took the first sauna in our backyard during the week of Thanksgiving 2019. We have been thankful ever since.
Promoting Finnish sauna culture in Colorado
All this led me to ask why a good sauna experience doesn’t exist in Boulder. Boulder is a hub for health and fitness. It has been on the vanguard of health and organic food movements in the U.S. Olympic and elite athletes flock here to train at altitude. Coloradoans love the outdoors: skiing, hiking, camping, rafting, kayaking, running, biking. Sauna should be here and on this list too.
Then I asked “Can I provide the good sauna experience?” that I craved. Serendipitously, I connected with a former neighbor who is obsessed with sauna too. He worked for a Finnish company for 15 years and has visited Finland at least ten times. As we discovered our mutual love of sauna, we brainstormed ideas for a company and Silver Birch Sauna was born. (Silver Birch is the national tree of Finland and provides a nod to Finland that we think is important.)
"We need to get the word out and educate people about how to sauna like a Finn, alternating "rounds on the bench" in the hot room and cooling down with cold air or icy water."
We have a long way to go before we are up and running. We bought an old horse trailer and are transforming it into our first mobile sauna. We need to get the word out and educate people about how to sauna like a Finn, alternating "rounds on the bench" in the hot room and cooling down with cold air or icy water. Regulatory agencies in Colorado are stumped when we ask about licensing for a mobile sauna business.
As a family, we can’t imagine living without a sauna and love both the solitary and social sauna experiences we have with it. We sauna alone and together and with friends, neighbors, and teammates. The boys have returned to Finland to visit the gregarious Finn and he has visited us in Colorado.
I never anticipated it, but sauna has changed our lives in unimaginable ways.