A bit of local news if you live along the Peak to Peak Highway, or plan on visiting soon!
In the coldest, darkest months of the year, mountain folk dream of vacations in the Bahamas – lying on the warm sand, soaking in the sun. But coming back to winter land with sunburn doesn’t sound like a happy ending to an expensive trip. But now, residents along the Peak to Peak Highway have a safer and cheaper alternative to shaking off those winter blues.
Alternative Sun salon opened January 2015 above mid-county liquors in Gilpin County. It is the only place on the Peak to Peak Highway to get a tan and sweat it out in a state-of-the-art full-spectrum infra-red sauna. Additionally, Nederland’s own Tracy Tyrer is also offering full-service hair care at Alternative Sun.
What piqued my interest about Alternative Sun is the full-spectrum infra-red sauna. The concept of sitting in a really hot room and working up a good sweat has been around for thousands of years. Sauna therapy is used for health maintenance, detoxification and spiritual awakening. A PBS special called “Steam of Life” reports Finland has been using saunas since the 12th century. These ancient saunas are heated by hot rocks and steam and can reach temperatures up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Some theories propose that temperatures over 130 degrees Fahrenheit are too uncomfortable and potentially dangerous for exposure over 10 minutes, while the health benefits of working up a good, deep sweat don’t kick in until 30 minutes in a sauna. An infra-red sauna, on the other hand, warms the body to produce more sweating at a maximum of 110-120 degrees.
Infra-red is the warming component of sunlight. Any substance emits infra-red when heated (hence infra-red technology called ‘thermal imaging’) from rocks, earth, car engines, and living organisms. In a way, all saunas are infra-red, relying on various means of generating heat. While traditional saunas heat the air around you, however, infra-red saunas heat you “from the inside out”.
How does this work? Infra-red (IR) wavelengths are isolated and projected within the sauna to set specifications. The IR sauna at Alternative Sun has options for “full-spectrum” IR wavelengths: near, mid and far. While most commercial IR saunas are “Far-Infra-Red” (or FIR) only, Jan Petersen, owner of Alternative Sun, did her research and decided that near and mid range wavelengths were equally as important. “That means it covers more spectrum of your body for healing.” Jan explains, “for example, mid IR helps with pain relief, weight loss and circulation.”
Sweating is not only a body’s way of regulating temperature; it is one of the most important ways our bodies get rid of toxins. When sweating is induced by sitting in a hot environment, the human body responds as if it were exercising to work up that sweat: the heart rate and blood pressure increase, endorphins are released, and fat cells are mobilized to provide extra calories. The same precautions apply to IR saunas as traditional saunas: drink extra fluids and electrolytes, avoid alcohol and other depressants before a session, and ask your doctor if sauna therapy is right for you.
Sitting in the infra-red sauna at Alternative Sun “is relaxing and comfortable so that it penetrates the deeper layers of tissue and organs, mobilizes fat cells so that you can sweat out your toxins. It’s easier to lose weight because the fat cells are mobilized, [the heat] mobilizes everything in your body so you can sweat out toxins, gets rid of lactic acid that builds up in your joints.”
Jan Petersen should know. “I used to have a really bad rotator cuff,” she told me, “I was going to a chiropractor once a month and I thought I had to get surgery. When he started popping my arm it would hurt so bad I felt like I broke my arm…since I’ve been using the sauna, I have full range of motion…I was really a mess and this has changed my life.” To get a jump start on healing, Jan used sat in her full-spectrum IR sauna three times a week for 30 minutes per session. Then, “for maintenance” she started sitting in the sauna once a week to keep the pain at bay. “Now that I have it here I use it for stress relief.” When her chiropractor noticed she was coming in less frequently, he asked what she was doing different. When Jan told him about the IR sauna therapy, he put one in his office.
Alternative Sun is located at 17218 Highway 119 (in the same building as Mid-County Liquors). First time customers receive a 25% discount, tanning bed is $2/min and sauna is $1/min. Package deals offer significant discounts. Sessions are by appointment only (it takes an hour to warm up the sauna) by calling (303) 570-4956.