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Mobile sauna at Fortune Bay Casino will be bringing the warmth to Northeastern Minnesota

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Fortune Bay Resort and Casino sits along the shores of Lake Vermilion, arguably, and most agreeably, one of the top 10 most beautiful lakes in the Continental United States.

Lake Sunset captured between sauna rounds

Interestingly, the area is also home to many Finnish and Scandinavian immigrants.  Nearby Embarrass, MN, as example is home to many native Finlanders, even to this day.  The combination of great Nature and sauna cultural heritage is a great nesting ground for this exciting mobile sauna project.

“We anticipate the sauna as being able to open up lots of exciting things for our guests” says Garrett Lamppa, Director of Hospitality at Fortune Bay.  And Garrett knows plenty about AUTHENTIC sauna.  In addition to his duties at Fortune Bay, Garrett is a 4th generation sauna stove maker.  His Great Grandfather emigrated from Finland to the United States and began building sauna stoves a century ago for friends, neighbors, and family members within a 20 minute drive of Garrett’s office.

The pillars to this project are:

  1. Health & Wellness: After golf at the Wilderness (rated one of the top couple public courses in Minnesota) or a hike or cross country ski, on sauna days, guests will be able to relax, reconnect, and unwind in this authentic wood burning sauna.
  2. Cultural Heritage: Folks from the community who have grown up with sauna as part of the tapestry of their upbringing will be guest Saunameisters at the Fortune Bay mobile sauna, sharing their stories and methods for “good sauna” for guests familiar and new to sauna.
  3. Fun: Apres Ice fishing, snowmobiling, or skiing in Winter, or how about after a chilly round of golf or hike in Spring and Fall, Imagine stepping into round one of this spacious wood burning sauna, ready to restore and rejuvenate with friends and kindred spirits.  This mobile sauna asset will be strategically deployed amongst Nature to help spread the fun for guests visiting Fortune Bay.

Saunatimes is proud to be a key designer to help ensure that “any Finn exiting the hot room shall do so with a smile.”  And the pressure is on, because up here in 218, you don’t have to hit a golf ball too far to find someone well familiar with “good sauna.”

A word about this sauna build:

We are embracing the “phase build” concept, where key decisions (hot room dimensions, window & door placements, etc.) are being made using field verification.  This method has been embraced by the build team, executives at Fortune Bay, as well as Saunatimes.  We all make better decisions collaborating and imagining the functionality of the space.

Fortune Bay Mobile Sauna build, phase I
Fortune Bay Mobile Sauna build, phase II

Here is  short walk through illustrating the sauna build in process (phase II: shell stage).



We are facing the surround around the sauna stove with rock.  It is not hard to do.

First, we screw durarock to our studs.  Then we apply the cultured stone to the durarock.  Two types of cultured stone for this application: 1) mortared decorative stone or 2) mortarless manufactured stone  We chose #2.  This provides an air gap between the stone and the durarock.

And check out Fortune Bay Casino article here.

Yes, this is a mobile sauna, but adding manufactured stone against the durarock is not creating a massive amount of weight.  Our sauna trailer can handle it.

Stone behind our sauna stoves not only looks great, but is a thermal mass enhancer.

Stone behind our sauna stoves is aesthetically pleasing, complementing earthly elements (rock, wood, steel from the Iron Range).  Additionally, the functional benefit for the sauna bather is an increase in thermal mass, providing a dense, intense heat that gets to our bones on an arctic cold winter evening (while trailered out onto 4 foot thick ice on Lake Vermilion).

Stonework behind the Fortune Bay Casino wood burning sauna stove.

No, this is not a savusauna.  The stove pipe set up is incomplete during this phase.  We are measuring for the steel plate which will support the sauna stove against the underneath framework of the sauna trailer.  (Mobile sauna building tip #7).

An another thing, cultured stone, mortarless stone, decorative stone is stone.  In all our research and experience, this stone can get very hot, and does not off gas or do anything weird.

UPDATE: September 6, 2018: It’s been fabulously warm and calm this late summer season.  We decided to come visit the sauna build by canoe.  Great progress as we work towards the Finnish line:

Let’s take a tour:

And here we are, just weeks after pounding the first nail, wearing our Troxers by the shores of Lake Vermilion, enjoying our first sauna session.

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13 thoughts on “Mobile sauna at Fortune Bay Casino will be bringing the warmth to Northeastern Minnesota”

  1. Plans were already in the works to stop overnight at Fortune Bay next winter on our snowmobiling trip, sure hope we’ll be able to use it.

  2. Hi Glen. Huge fan here. I’m considering building a mobile sauna similar to the one you built for Fortune Bay. My primary concern is my vehicle’s towing capacity. Do you remember about how much the Fortune Bay sauna weighed including the trailer?


  3. Hi Asa:

    The Fortune Bay one is a bit of a beast, close to 5,000 lbs. if memory serves. I can suggest going with a modified version for lighter weight. Aluminum studs, spray foam, etc. Please email me as we can talk more, and please let me know where you’re located. saunatimes at gmail dot com

  4. Hey Glenn,

    I’ve been chipping away at a sauna build this winter, and your e-book has been a great resource. I like the look of the mortarless stone veneer and the added thermal mass in this Fortune Bay mobile sauna. Did you tape or mortar the cement board seams behind the rock? Did you overhang the stone a bit as a pseudo trim where it met the cedar paneling? Any other lessons learned to pass on to others considering using the cultured stone?

    Thanks, Shane

  5. Hi Shane:

    Glad the e-book has helped you along.

    Regarding the Fortune Bay mobile sauna, the mortarless stone veneer came out great. That product, as you know, is funky in that it has metal framework behind it, and you screw each section to the wall, to complete your stone surround.

    We did not mortar the cement board behind the rock. Matter of fact, we prepped the area with plywood instead of cement board*. Then we foiled over that. Then we had a good surface for the stone veneer to take.

    Where the stone meets the cedar paneling: That’s actually still janky. We need to rip some 2x cedar trim to “Finnish” off that area.

    Any other lessons: Yes. I hope this product sticks around. It must be super labor intensive to manufacturer, and it is arguably less easy to apply (vs. cultured stone), yet the (unintended?) benefit of this product for sauna use is that once applied, we have an ideal air gap between stone and wall.

    Just typing this makes me want to order a bunch and use it for a future project. I see no negatives, Shane. Lemme know how it rolls for you.

    *We checked the product sheet. Plywood has a service temperature rating 250°f. And 270°f. is top line heat of the front face of the stone near the Kuuma. Behind the stone, the air gap reduces surface temperature against the foil vapor barrier against the plywood big time. All is cool.

  6. Hi Glenn,

    I love the idea of using ClipStone and am hoping to use it for my own Sauna project but I want to make sure I’m understanding the installation properly. Is this order of installation correct starting from the studs? Faced insulation, foil vapor barrier, Durarock, and finally Clipstone.

    Additionally, how high would you recommend installing the stone for a small Kuuma stove? I see in your video that it does not go all the way to the ceiling which I assume is ~7 feet.

  7. Hi Hannah:

    Pretty close to the order you outline, but instead of Durarock, we went with 3/4″ plywood so that the screws for the ClipStone have good “meat” to hold. Now there may be some concern as to how plywood will hold up to the heat, and moisture, in which case, you could go, starting from the studs,
    Unfaced insulation (avoiding a double vapor barrier).
    Plywood (just at the surround).

    This would create a thermal envelope between the stone and the plywood, with an air gap between for good heat transfer resistance, steady state solution, avoiding localized hot spots with maximum deflection (how’s that for lingo?).

    How high to go: good eye, Hannah! Kuuma clearances for a 7′ ceiling call for non combustibles on the ceiling. For the 612 sauna, we applied a 3’x3′ piece of Durarock up there. For my saunas, instead of Durarock ceiling surround, I have paneling above the Kuuma which is technically out of code for a 7′ ceiling but good for a 7’6″ ceiling and beyond. So, if setback compliance is the mission, you can do the Clipstone up to the ceiling and cement board on the ceiling.

    Now, here’s the thing. We built the Fortune Bay Casino sauna a boat ride away from Daryl Lamppa’s dock. And Daryl’s son Garrett helped make this sauna happen. So how’s that for Cobbler’s Kid’s shoes?

    Not making too much light of this, as building saunas safely is priority #1. Good Lämpömassa priority #2, and the cool thing is that these two work hand in hand.

    Good sauna to you, Hannah!

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