Every year a magical sauna is built in Pyhäpiilo at Ruka, Finland but it can only be experienced in wintertime. And why is that? Because its main construction material is ice. The service provider RUKAN SALONKI received the quality certificate of Sauna from Finland on January 29, 2021 for the unique sauna experience.

The ice sauna has been part of the service selection for tourists in Pyhäpiilo for many years in a row. This extraordinary annual construction project and the service unity around it has been polished every year towards perfection. The certainty of an amazing sauna experience that comes through repetition and growing knowledge can be heard from the words of Marjo Määttä, the CEO of LSJ Group Oy that runs Rukan Salonki & Villa Veskaranta.

“We have the Ice Sauna for the 21st time now, so we really know how to build it”, Määttä assures.

Only natural materials

A sauna cannot be built solely of frozen water. For the sake of comfort and functionality other materials are also necessary. In Ice Sauna by Pyhäpiilo these other materials are also natural materials as an authentic Finnish sauna would have. The Ice Sauna is mostly built out of big ice cubes. For fulfilling the safety directives the roof is made of wood boards. The sauna benches are also wooden, so it is more comfortable to sit inside. The sauna stove is a traditional wood-burning stove. An ice sauna is a building just like any other and therefore one must apply for a construction permit. Määttä mentions that the application is worth all the effort. When you have the permit the sauna is eligible for insurance. It is best to always be prepared for all kinds of accidents.

Photo: Saara Rahkamaa

The specialty of the Ice Sauna does not end in the appearance and the construction material. In effect, it also offers many health benefits for sauna bathers. The air inside the Ice Sauna is incredibly soft and humid. This high humidity together with a lower temperature than normal (around 65 Celsius degrees) make breathing easier. The bather sweats a lot in the Ice Sauna. It is known that sweating energizes the surface blood flow and humidifies the skin momentarily. Therefore, ice sauna is also a skin-friendly experience, in addition to other health benefits.

The feeling of safety is an important aspect of a high-quality sauna service

Marjo Määttä emphasizes that their sauna experience is always guided. Customers are never allowed to enter the sauna without instructions or a guide. Sauna master stands always at the door of the Ice Sauna during the experience. They make sure that everything goes safely. Määttä says that they decided to apply for the quality certificate primarily to raise visibility for this unique sauna.

“We wanted to apply for the Authentic Finnish Sauna Experience UNIQUE Quality Certificate for our service unity so that this special experience that is good for the health would become more known.”

Like many other destinations holding the quality certificate, Määttä as well utilized the Authentic Finnish Sauna Experience Quality Handbook (Sauna from Finland, 2020) for the quality project. The book gives concrete and inspirational instructions from sauna building and maintenance to creating a good service unity. The book was published in English in the beginning of 2021. Now public saunas outside of Finland also have the chance to develop their sauna services into authentic Finnish experiences.

The service providers should follow the quality criteria of the handbook when developing the experience. Then, the sauna auditors approve the service to be a safe experience. In the end, the service provider receives the Authentic Finnish Sauna Experience Quality Certificate. The destination is categorized into either a NATURE & GARDEN, URBAN, SPA or UNIQUE destination, according to the theme, style and environment of the sauna. The experience destinations that differ from the typical Finnish saunas can get the UNIQUE certificate. The given sauna or its side services should be noticeably different compared to other Finnish saunas.

Photo: Saara Rahkamaa
Multiple quality certified saunas in Ruka

Another public sauna run by the family company and situated in the same area, the smoke sauna in Pyhäpiilo, and the Hitec smoke sauna in Rukan Salonki Chalet Village, both have had the NATURE & GARDEN Quality Certificate already for a longer time. Now, one can experience three amazing quality saunas in Ruka at wintertime. These saunas are also part of the SaunaTour Kuusamo concept.

Rukan Salonki is looking to productize the ice sauna for use of others as well. Vesa Määttä has made a big effort together with many companies in developing ice and snow building. Earlier mainly tourists from abroad loved the icy experience. Now it also attracts Finnish travellers craving for experiences during the exceptional times. Marjo Määttä believes that the popularity of this special sauna experience could also be something that interests other service providers. Therefore, LSJ Group wants to create the Ice Sauna into a vendible product in the future. This means that other sauna service providers and entrepreneurs could buy the production of the ice sauna from them.

Photo: Saara Rahkamaa

Join our mailing list!

We'll email you valuable sauna information.

Strategic partners

  • Harvia Sauna & Spa
  • Interbad
  • Visit Jyväskylä Region
  • Sokos Hotels
  • Sauna Capital Tampere