Banff Upper Hot Springs

Visitors to Banff Upper Hot Springs can rent a retro-style swimsuit. Chris LeBlanc photo

Ever wonder what it was like to swim in an old-timey swimsuit?

Me too, which is why I took the plunge and rented one for a couple of bucks when I visited the Banff Upper Hot Springs last week. Even better, my husband did, too.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Slipping into a swimsuit that someone else has worn sounds about as sanitary as borrowing a stranger’s underwear. We did it anyway – the suits are laundered after each use.

The hot springs are tucked on a hillside at the edge of Banff, in Alberta, Canada. You can see the steam rising from them from afar on cold winter days. When I disovered the bath house, a designated a federal heritage building, rented suits patterned after those worn in the 1930s, I couldn’t resist. (Learn more about the history of women’s swimwear here.)

We paid the attendant, then ducked into our respective changing rooms. When I emerged in the outdoor pool a few minutes later, I found Chris standing there, a little sheepishly, in a full-body, navy blue suit that buttoned over one shoulder. I sported an identical suit in a smaller size. (They’re unisex. Don’t think too hard, but Chris said his was less than comfortable.)

Not surprisingly, we were the only two of the 50 or so people soaking like dumplings in the hot water that day who were wearing the vintage suits.

We got looks.

Banff Upper Hot Springs

Pam LeBlanc somehow talked her husband Chris into renting retro-style swimsuits at Banff Upper Hot Springs. Pam LeBlanc photo

More about the hot springs

Water temperatures hover between 98 and 104F in the pool, which is fed by naturally hot spring water rich in sulfate, calcium, bicarbonate, magnesium, and sodium. (During winter, when flow rates drop, it’s mixed with heated municipal water.)

Banff Upper Hot Springs are the only hot springs in Banff National Park that are open for swimming. The public isn’t allowed to get in other thermal springs, to protect the habitat of the endangered Banff Springs Snail.

We stuck around for about 20 minutes, taking in spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and providing a little entertainment for the other folks soaking.

My ruling? Fun. Not as fun as skinny dipping (what is?), but you can’t do this in public – if you can handle the bemused stares.

The hot springs are open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Entry is

$17.50 Canadian (about $13 US) for adults, $15.25 Canadian (about $13.30 US) for ages 3 to 17 and seniors 65 and up, and free for ages 3 and under. The swimsuit rental adds another $2.25 Canadian (about $1.75 US).





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