When traveling around North America, have you ever stayed at a place and thought: “wow, this would be a great place for a sauna.” Well, how about visiting a place with 7 saunas? Welcome to Varjola Resort!
Day 4 of Finland trip. After a busy travel day 3 and interview with Dr. Jari Laukkanen, world leader in sauna research, Glenn checks in to the Varjola resort, with all eyes on one of the smoke saunas along the shoreline, heated and ready for action. He is entertained by 5th generation owner Marcus, who offers a few savu sauna instructions for this American amateur: “otherwise your ass is black after this moment.”
In this episode of Sauna Talk we are visiting with the staff at Varjola Resort in Central Finland. A long relaxing savu sauna the night before, then a breathtaking morning hike, amongst old growth forest with trees reaching high to the sky, Glenn was able to relax in the dining room during an impromptu employee lunch with Riikka Ruunaniemi Marketing and Sales Manager (Markkinointi- ja myyntipäällikkö) and Hannu-Pekka Haakana, Activities Director at Varjola.
Some Sauna Talk episodes are scripted and some Sauna Talk episodes are spontaneous. This episode is spontaneous. This was day 4 and I figured it to be a recharge day. My car was packed. I intended to have a quick visit with the staff, open my notebook and be on my way with a few Varjola facts and quotes.
From a Sauna Talk perspective, I had already hit the Trifecta. 3 days into my trip, and you are able to hear from three very important people in the world of sauna. (how lucky could I be?!)
- Jarmo Lehtona – sauna expert
- Risto Elomaa – President, International Sauna Association
- Dr. Jari Laukkanen. World leader in sauna studies.
It’s like, all on the same team, we have Patrik Laine, Mikko Koivu, and Teemu Selänne (in his prime).
So, I had day four in my head as a breather. But travel is full of surprises. The Sauna Talk hockey team keeps recruiting great players. After my hike, as we ate together and visited, our casual conversation kept opening up. Both Rikka and Hannu were offering some great Sauna Talk, which I think you will appreciate. It’s one thing to write down a quote, but to hear it from their voices (with accents) is so much better! After one too many thoughts of reaching for my recording equipment instead of my pen and notebook, I finally got up and said “hold that thought please!” and ran out to my car, grabbed my recording gear, and said, “ok, can we start again?”
This is the result of my effort. Finland: A land of 5.5 million people and 5.5 million sauna experts. Yet Rikka and Hannu have an inside track when it comes to sauna, as Marketing Manager and Activity Director of the 230 year old iconic, active, sauna infused Varjola Resort.
A few notes from our interview as follows
Adventurous and peaceful activities for guests. Safaris, Rafting, white water rafting, hiking.
A treasure that we have here in Finland. Everyone can move freely everywhere, both private and public land.
There are some restrictions, such as even though you can camp, you may not light an open fire on private land.
You can walk, ski, on any land in Finland
Company related activities
Team building, award. A typical day: meetings first, then an activity such as, in winter: snowmobiling, arctic floating, sleigh rides, and in summer: hiking, rafting, quad bike safari. Christmas parties are expected in Finland
Sauna is always included in company parties
Sauna is never cut back. It is always part of the activities. In tough times, companies may cut back on activities at Varjola, or the amount of free booze, but never the sauna.
7 saunas at Varjola
Electric and wooden saunas. Two smoke saunas, an outdoor tent sauna. Saunas are used almost daily at Varjola. If it is very cold outside, the stove is lit 4-5 hours before sauna. The bigger sauna has 900 kilos of stone. We use 1 meter long logs to heat the smoke sauna. 30 cm lengths (12 inches) of wood is regular length.
Birch and Elder wood are burned in the smoke sauna, but never pine as the pitch creates much soot inside the smoke sauna. People prefer birch as hit has the highest heat value.
Ladies groups come to Varjola for pampering themselves. bachelor parties are popular. They usually always involve sauna.
The rules of sauna
There are no rules with sauna. If you want to wear a bathing suit, you may. Finnish people sauna naked. It is very common. You tear up your rules and titles in sauna. And for the most part, also your gender. You should stay in the sauna hot room as long as you are comfortable.
The elements of a savu sauna
No chimney, a pile of natural rocks. Approved as a savu sauna. People don’t care what kind of sauna you have. You can have your own. The sauna is the character of the person, and how you use it.
We like to believe that the savu sauna gives the best kind of heat. We are using only natural stone The smoothest Loyly is from natural rock. We learn about the Aito stove. A hybrid of the good sides of both the constantly heated stove and the smoke sauna. A hatch allows for the smoke to escape. A good combination of the smoke sauna and conventional sauna. You can adjust the heat as you are in the sauna, unlike a savu sauna. The loyly hatch helps contain the heat. Borrowing the technology of a conventional, continuous burn sauna.
We welcome all to enjoy the freedom of sauna at Varjola Resort, in Central Finland.