Spas: Cold Fusion

Swedish skin-care guru Kerstin Florian grew up in Stockholm, but the summers she spent at her family’s cottage in Värmdö, a Baltic Sea archipelago, proved formative for her latest spa therapy. There she embraced the solitude she found among the towering birch trees, and, just as significant, she first learned of the Samis, the native people who populate the Arctic Circle regions of Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Russia. Decades later, Florian, now in her 60s, spends every spring and early summer living among the Samis, eating cured reindeer meat off of wooden plates, listening to the Samis’ stories about spirituality, witnessing how they live in harmony with nature, and studying their healing rituals.


“The Samis are very spiritual,” says Florian, noting the cultural importance of the birch trees that as a child she found so comforting. The Samis anoint their newborn babies with birch-bud oil to cleanse their spirits, and before making an important life decision, a Sami will stand under one of these trees, holding a brass ring to his or her eye. “Three stones hang from this ring to remind them that they are not alone but surrounded by the earth, which provides for them, and the universe, which teaches them,” she explains, noting that the third stone represents the individual. “They use the ring to focus on what they need to see.”


The Samis also believe in the healing power of botes, stones polished smooth by the Arctic water and ice. Rose porphyry, in particular, is believed to rid the body of physical and emotional pain. The Samis collect the stones, warm them over a fire, and then rub them along areas of the body where they have pain.

Recently, Florian—who introduced European healing treatments such as moor muds and Hungarian mineral salts to the mainstream—developed a therapeutic spa treatment and product line based on Sami traditions. She debuted Sami Zen in Sweden at the Hotell Riksgränsen’s new spa, and just last fall, she brought Sami Zen to the United States, at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage, Calif., and at Florida’s Boca Raton Resort & Club.

Choreographed to haunting Sami jojk music, the treatment takes place in a room that, with reindeer pelts on the walls, is reminiscent of a traditional kota (a tepeelike house). The therapy begins with a cleansing chamomile and pumice body scrub, followed by a warm herbal bath in chamomile or melissa. Then birch-bud extract is applied to stimulate circulation and detoxify the skin. The session concludes with the same treatment that a Sami employs to cure his or her ills, a heated bote stone massage that may relieve pain but certainly instills a state of deep calm.


 “It is what it is,” Florian says of the Sami treatment, “very simple, and very authentic.”

Boca Raton Resort & Club



Hotell Riksgränsen



Kerstin Florian



Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa



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