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Pooled resources of Banff

(hilary nangle for the boston globe)
January 25, 2009
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BANFF, Alberta - For more than a century, travelers have taken the waters at Banff Upper Hot Springs, a hot mineral pool on Sulphur Mountain in the Canadian Rockies. In a resort town renowned for spectacular scenery and fancy spas, the springs let those on a budget soak in the experience, without getting soaked, and after a morning skiing or hiking, little feels better than lounging in the 104-degree waters.

It was the discovery of hot springs by workers building the Trans-Canada Railway that eventually would lead to the creation in 1855 of Banff National Park, the country's first. The current bathhouse was constructed in 1932 from hand-hewn logs and stone from Mount Rundle, which looms in the distance. It was restored to its Queen Anne Revival appearance in 1995. In keeping with the setting, it's possible to rent (or purchase) heritage bathing suits - a plus, for anyone trying to cover a few, ahem, body flaws.

The views from the outdoor mineral pool take in Mount Rundle and other craggy, snow-covered peaks. The pool is large enough for a leisurely paddle.

While a soak alone is heavenly, combining it with treatment at the Pleiades Massage and Spa is divine. There's no confusing the facility with the area's frou-frou hotel spas, but the prices reflect that. A one-hour massage is $85. Also on site are a cafe and a gift shop. One tip: Visit before 2 p.m. to avoid the apres-ski crowds.

Banff Upper Hot Springs, adults about $5.80, 3-17 or 65 and older about $5. 800-767-1611; www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/ab/banff/index_E.asp. Pleiades Massage and Spa, 866-760-2502; www.pleiadesmassage.com.

HILARY NANGLE

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