Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Old-school spa luxury

Spa 901 adds to ski town's hip heritage vibe

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FERNIE, B.C. -- Public schools and pampering have never been associated with each other, but they are now comfortably intertwined at Spa 901 in Fernie, B.C.

The 901 reference is to the spa's address at the end of the shopping and dining district on the Rocky Mountain ski town's Ninth Avenue -- which just might be one of the hippest main streets east of Nelson, B.C.

As if we needed another reason to visit laid-back Fernie, a city of 5,000 that attracts hundreds of visitors every weekend to its mountain-framed setting in the Elk Valley. Plenty of Albertans and others already make a beeline for the snow-blessed ski hill, dining at dozens of restaurants from grassroots to gourmet or checking out the mountain gear shops, cafés and quirky retailers.

Add Spa 901 to the list of quirky spots. But it's only unusual because of what it once was -- a public school built in 1908, when the city was a coal-mining and forestry hub. The spiffed-up red-brick exterior and other touchstones of the old school have been carefully restored. The once rundown building has been rejuvenated into a comfy place to retreat at the end of a mogul-busting day on the slopes or a bone-rattling day on the bike trails. Or for no other reason but to treat yourself.

Shelly Macgregor, a registered massage therapist who owns several clinics in Calgary, took over the Spa 901 space in 2011. It offers customized pampering treatments, unlike her therapeutic massage clinics in Calgary. Last summer, she went to Fernie for a bike race and met some people who told her the space was waiting for a spa to be developed. She jumped at the chance.

Step through the large doorway and it's hard to imagine school kids kibitzing in the hallways or bursting out of the doors for recess. The building, anchoring at the far eastern end of Ninth, fits well with Fernie's hip heritage vibe.

Many of the buildings were erected after the city was razed by fires in 1904 and 1908. After the blazes, the city decreed fireproof materials such as brick and stone must be used when constructing buildings downtown. What arose were handsome structures in the "simplified Italianate" style, including the building that houses Spa 901 on the main floor.

Within the entire development, known as 901 Fernie, there are 44 stylish one- to three-bedroom condo units for rent or purchase. Think floor-to-ceiling windows looking out to the Lizard Range of snow-capped peaks, exposed brick walls, high ceilings, granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances. There are a couple of penthouses with two- or three-bedroom options, a homey place for a family or a group of friends to stay for the weekend. That literally makes 901 a destination spa.

-- Postmedia News

What to expect at Spa 901

The look: High ceilings and soothing wall colours play off the exposed brick walls and reclaimed wood floors, giving the spa a warm, welcoming feel, respectful of its historic roots. The curving staircase to the lower level, made of reclaimed fir, leads to a meandering space, which includes a lovely lounge with a fireplace, five treatment rooms and full-body infrared saunas. Outside, there's a hot pool.

Signature treatments: Owner??? Shelly Macgregor says skiers will love the "blissful feet" massage, a 30-minute massage of the feet and calves using hot-compress towels. Another special treatment is the "intention scrub," a 90-minute full-body moisturizing massage ending with a rain shower.

Packages: Spa 901 offers four packages, including the "weekend warrior widow" ($360), 31/2 hours of spa indulgences that include a two-hour massage, a facial and more. There's also the "old school pampering" package ($160), a trio of offerings: facial, pedicure and manicure.

More information and rentals: Go to for treatment bookings. Condo rentals are available year round. Guests can use the spa's sauna and pools for $15. Sample condo rental rates in April and May range from $185 a night for a one-bedroom to $335 a night for the three-bedroom penthouse. Other condo units outside the Schoolhouse building have private entries and can also be rented.

Go to or call 1-800-622-5007.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 17, 2012 D5

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