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Tub Time

Pagosa Springs combines serious soaking culture and good eats with deep powder and uncrowded trails. Where are you? 

By Jill Adler

The creators of the2010 film Hot Tub Time Machine were definitely onto something in the category of skiing. A hard day of shredding with friends followed by serious soaking, a fine drink, and some beautiful people to ogle—fight me if that isn’t the perfect winter après cliche. 

But what if all that was second fiddle to pain relief, rejuvenation, and healing? Substitute the chlorinated swill of your condo hot tub for the natural mineral hot spring water that decorates many of the mountains surrounding your favorite resorts, and you just may find something more intriguing than cleavage and beer… the fountain of youth. 

According to Dr. Marcus Coplin, a primary care naturopathic medical doctor, and director of hydrothermal medicine for the Balneology Association of North America, the thermal water found in hot springs—buoyed by minerals like zinc, iron, manganese, fluoride, silica, and magnesium—not only acts as an anti-inflammatory pain reliever but an immune and circulation stimulating catalyst. 

“No one drug can give you the benefit that you can get from a 20-minute soak in thermal mineral water,” says Coplin, who has taken up residency in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, as the new medical director at The Springs Resort. “Activating so many different biological pathways all at the same time creates an amplified effect on the body. [Soak] again and again and again and it re-regulates the body’s defenses. The benefits are cumulative.”

The Springs Resort in southwestern Colorado has been around since the 1950s when it was first The Springs Inn, a retreat for weary road travelers, and later a haven for “hippie dippers” in the 1970s. More recently, however, The Springs Resort and Spa has embraced the science of hydrothermal wellness.

Coplin and the resort team have found a way to tell a holistic story that puts “hot tubbing” front and center of a winter day instead of where it currently sits: as the naughty little brother. Printed handouts tell day visitors and hotel guests how to best use the pools for therapeutic soaking, detox, and even sleep improvement. There is also a free guided “contrast bathing” (warrior plunge) experience that starts with soaking in 100+ degree water to open your blood vessels and increase oxygen-rich blood flow to your organs, tissues, and toes, and then stepping into the 40-degree San Juan River to shock your blood vessels and force blood to your core and internal organs, which will help push toxins from your system. Coplin says the constriction also passively exercises your smooth muscles and blood vessels to encourage their elasticity.  

Further, hotel guests can also participate in aqua yoga, sound baths, mud baths, guided meditation, and a gratitude ceremony around the Mother Spring–the deepest geothermal pool in the world–which seeds its 25 offspring around the property.

You may have ventured to Pagosa Springs to ski the deep at Wolf Creek this winter, but be careful if you stay at The Springs Resort. As soon as you check in, you will struggle to wear anything other than your robe and bathing suit. Plus, as Hot Tub Time Machine made evident, there really is no better feeling after a robust winter day than being with fine friends while shrouded in the misty steam of thermal waters—or, yeah, sitting in a hot tub.


Featuring 79 rooms and suites that come with 24-hour access to its 25 hot pots, daily wellness activities, and unlimited robes and towels, The Springs Resort and Spa is ski bum nirvana. Splurge on the Magnesium Muscle Melt treatment for an unforgettable scrub and massage that incorporates one of the most potent elements for tension relief and energy generation.


Colorado’s consistently deepest skiing is located just 23 miles east of Pagosa Springs. Wolf Creek Resort  sees more average annual snowfall than any other ski area in Colorado (430 fluffy inches) and yet the place has remained understated and authentic. The relaxed pace, prices, and inbounds terrain keep families returning annually, and the steep-and-deep goods keep the faithful coming back. The place to be on a powder day is the Alberta lift, which accesses 1,000 acres of steeps, trees, and stashes. But it’s the hiking that’s the real highlight here: Bonanza Bowl, accessed from the top of the Treasure Chair, is barely a hike and pays big dividends. Horseshoe Bowl is a much longer hike from the top of the Alberta Chair, but well worth the effort and a good place to hunt for freshies post-storm.


The Springs Resort hosts a casual cafe for morning crepes and acai bowls and the Barefoot Grille (no reservations or shoes required FYI) for healthy salads and burgers. For something more memorable, take a short drive to the Ole Miner’s steakhouse set in an historical-themed ranch house/mine or the sophisticated Alley House Grille. Don’t miss the margs and shrimp tacos with wicked-hot habanero sauce at Kip’s Grill and Cantina.


Come back during May 15 through Sept. 30, when you can join a guided hike at Chimney Rock National Monument to visit the homes of ancestral Puebloans and learn about their culture, as well as that of the Ute people. After all, these are their ancestral lands.

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