I’m about to head into the Salida Hot Springs Aquatic Center for a swim. Chris LeBlanc photo

SALIDA — The snow was sifting down outside the windows this morning as I swam laps in an 83-degree pool heated by a natural hot springs.

The water felt great after a couple of days zipping down the slopes at nearby Monarch Mountain, where I’m getting my ski legs back this week.

The Civilian Conservation Corps built the aquatics center in the 1930s. The naturally-heated water is piped (via insulated pipes) from Poncha Springs a few miles away.

Anyone can pay to swim laps in the indoor, spring-fed pool. Pam LeBlanc photo

By the time the water gets here, it’s stil toasty. The intake into the “leisure” pool is about 102 degrees. A cooler section is about 1 degree cooler. The lap pool temperature was hovering at 83 degrees.

As it turns out, it’s tough to swim at higher elevations if you live in Austin. I’ve been huffing and puffing just climbing stairs up here in the Colorado mountains, and a leisurely few laps raised my heart rate. Swimming a mile felt like swimming two.

To compromise, I swam a mile and half, then lolled around in the hotter leisure pool for a few minutes.

The Salida Hot Springs Aquatic Center is open daily for lap swimming and soaking. Pam LeBlanc photo

The guy behind the desk came out to say hi, and encouraged me to log my miles. Swimmers here are logging miles as part of a virtual trip around the globe. So far, they’ve made it all the way to Thailand; they hope to reach the Maldives by the end of 2020.

Of note: You can rent a private tub here by the hour, too. The private rooms, located a level down from the main swimming pool, have a deep tub which you manually fill with water, depending on the temperature you prefer.

The center is located at 410 W. Rainbowl Boulevard in Salida.  Admission to the center is $11 for adults, but if you come before 10 a.m. weekdays it’s only $5.

For more information go  to www.salidarec.com.

A sign at the front lists the current water temperatures in the pools. Pam LeBlanc photo




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