This American ICE SAUNA (with an Estonian HUUM stove) is now open on the shores of Lake Superior
“It was like being a kid again,” explains Minnesota-based sauna builder Justin Juntunen. “We were building the best snow fort of our lives and the whole process was a complete joy.”
His latest construction — a sauna with walls of ice 8 foot high and 18 inches thick— is no child’s play, however.
His team at Cedar & Stone Nordic Sauna in Duluth first spent a day harvesting almost 100 blocks of ice, each weighing 150 to 200lbs (70 to 90kg), from a nearby freshwater lake before transporting them to the shore of Lake Superior.
“Lake Superior is beautiful right now, but just too unruly for collecting ice,” smiles Justin.
The ice sauna was then built to the same high construction standards as all other (more conventional) saunas on their site with a wood-fired HUUM stove from Estonia, wooden interiors all custom built on site in Duluth, and ventilation carefully carved out.
“The ice sauna, though beautiful, only rivals the log sauna in its difficulty to construct,” explains Juntunen. “Natural materials harvested from the land are always more challenging to sustainably source and work with than manufactured materials. But like so many good things, the best quality takes a bit of work.”
Every element has to be more carefully planned out inside an ice sauna.
“Ventilation in any sauna is just as important as the type of heat source, height of benches, and many of the principles for a quality sauna. However, with an ice sauna they are commonly built a bit more tightly than that of a traditional sauna. This is due to the fact that when warm humid air passes by ice you see more melt. The more venting and air movement you have, the more receding of the glacial walls you get. That’s why ventilation should be focused around doors and wood frame elements for longevity. Trapping the humidity in the room to condensate and better control how the sauna is cooled.”
The entire northern world is experiencing a real winter right now (including us in Estonia). Justin and his team had to work in temperatures that dropped in the last few days to -10 fahrenheit (-23 Celcius) with a windchill of -25 fahrenheit (-33 Celcius).
The most important question though is what the sauna experience was like when they finally fired it up.
Ice saunas can reach temperatures of 140 fahrenheit (60 Celcius) with 80 to 100% humidity. However, they first plan to use it as a cool down room with temperatures around 95 fahrenheit (35 Celcius) for bathers to relax in-between rounds in the more conventional wooden saunas.
“The experience inside is uniquely beautiful. The ice serves as a translucent window to the world around. Light refracting, and making the sauna feel more spacious than most saunas of similar size.”
Cedar and Stone Nordic Sauna build and deliver quality saunas across the US, as well as HUUM sauna stoves and control systems in partnership with us here at Estonian Saunas. Their first batch of HUUM stoves made especially for the US sold out instantly, but much larger quantities are currently crossing the Atlantic ahead of the full launch of their HUUM store.
They also host sauna sessions for visitors at their workshop on the shore of Lake Superior in order to showcase their design and share their passion and knowledge about authentic saunas with more Americans.
You can book your visit here.
As for how long the ice sauna will be available, that depends on how cold winter is in Duluth this year.
“The ice sauna is a fleeting beauty much like winter itself,” explains Juntunen. “It will change with the season, melt, and we will await next years winter to do it all again.”
As part of the marketing, Americans will get to learn about Estonian sauna culture in homage to the country where the HUUM stoves are constructed. Even one of the adverts running in the US is in Estonian (with English subtitles), which you can watch on YouTube here.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, an ice sauna is known beautifully in Estonian as a jääsaun.
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