British entrepreneur Chris Davies discovered his love of sauna after descending Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales.
Chris is an avid hill walker and mountain climber, but was particularly exhausted when he returned to his remote basecamp — the Pen y Gwryd hotel, which is infamous among mountain climbers around the world. This hotel was used as a training headquarters by Sir Edmund Hillary to prepare for the first successful expedition to the peak of Mount Everest in 1953. Much has been left unchanged and some of the equipment they were testing to improve their climbing abilities is still there. More recently though, the owners have added one more idea to help climbers: a sauna.
“I was so sore so I decided to give it a try,” says Chris. “Within 30 minutes, I was diving into the freezing cold mountain lake alongside the sauna and I was so relaxed and pain free that I decided this would be a great thing to keep doing.
Chris’ company, Agri Trader, publishes several advertising magazines for farmers across Wales and parts of England, reaching 21,000 farms every month.
“It can be a very stressful environment, especially when approaching deadlines and I thought a company sauna would be a fantastic way to manage the stress. Now, during the coronavirus crisis, we have a bit more time on our hands and preserving our health, both mentally and physically, is more important than ever. So we decided to start building our own sauna here for employees to use — while still social distancing for now.”
They’re currently constructing the sauna alongside a lake in their countryside location and have ordered a wood-fired HUUM stove from Estonia through EstonianSaunas.com.
Rising interest in home saunas
It’s a story that’s being repeated in similar ways across Europe, although smart electric sauna stoves are currently far more popular as an increasing number of people seek to install home saunas even without any suitable outdoor space, often in apartments.
“Some of our retailers are reporting that the number of enquiries and orders have grown rapidly in these past weeks,” says Helena Helendi, Marketing Manager at HUUM, Estonia’s top sauna stove maker.
HUUM had already begun adapting to the growing home sauna market, which is the normal way of going to the sauna in Estonia and the rest of the Nordic region but has been growing in popularity across the continent. In addition to their award-winning DROP and HIVE stove designs, they recently unveiled CLIFF and Steel, which are suitable for smaller saunas with smaller power input.
HUUM also has interesting data on how sauna usage has changed recently. Their electric stoves use a smart control system called UKU, which can be connected to a wall-mounted controller as well as a mobile app through WiFi. Despite to the popularity of home saunas, HUUM’s data shows that there’s been a clear increase in sauna usuage over the past few weeks since the crisis began as more people seek to unwind at home.
At EstonianSaunas.com, we have also experienced a sharp increase in enquiries and orders (including from Chris Davies in Wales), which is helping offset the far more significant loss of sauna tourism that we also served before this crisis. We have also heard the same reports from other sauna retailers and manufacturers.
There was a clear trend towards more people building saunas at home and we think this is accelerating now as people spend more time at home and think about both how to invest that time in renovations but also how to make life inside more enjoyable.
It’s unclear how long this can last in these times of crisis, but if the demand is there then we have a responsibility to meet that demand while maintaining safe social distancing measures. This is still an incredibly challenging time, but delivering these orders is not just good for our customers who like a good saunas, but also helps keep the economy moving as much as possible, which is vitally important.
Safeguarding production at HUUM
HUUM is based in Tartu, but their sauna stoves are made across Estonia using small suppliers due to the complexity of skilled metalwork required. Due to this small scale and isolated production process, the supply chain is able to function relatively normally without jeapodising the need for social distancing. Some materials are imported, but there is currently no interruption of supply and HUUM also has relatively large stocks, which were increased through their recent successful crowdfunding campaign through Funderbeam.
“We’ve introduced some contingency measures to protect staff and are considering how to mitigate future challenges, but we are currently serving our customers and partners as normally as possible.”
Cross-border trade continues
The export of goods from Estonia is also taking place relatively smoothly — despite the reintroduction of border controls. There are extensive travel restrictions, but the delivery of goods is exempted in order to keep trade flowing.
Our standard delivery times from Estonia can usually take up to about one week for the UK. We’ve seen slight delays recently, but not significantly.
Estonia is home to a tech started called Sixfold, which is Europe’s leading provider of visibility services for logistics. They have a live map here of truck border delays around Europe and their analysis concludes that on-time delivery has only dropped by 3 to 7 percent in the areas most heavily affected by the crisis.
Above is an overview of the continent right now with only a couple of red dots for significant delays.
After an understandably chaotic start, most border delays tend to be up to 10 minutes at most and are not significantly affecting deliveries. Chris’ wood-fired stove, for example, is currently on its way.
Thanks for reading
This Estonian Saunas blog is run by Estonian sauna explorers, Anni and Adam. We document weird and wonderful saunas around Estonia, and also export Estonian sauna design, technology, and traditions around the world. You can learn more at EstonianSaunas.com.
All our sauna tourism is now hold so we’ll be working harder than ever to keep exports going and we’ll continue to create content about Estonian sauna culture — but while exploring our own home saunas for the foreseeable future.
Please stay safe and stay home as much as possible.
In addition to our blog, you can follow our own adventures exploring and exporting Estonian saunas on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. You can also join our Facebook group for Sauna explorers / Sauna avastajad. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.