Article by Marcia Darnell
Local Attractions – December 1998 – Colorado Central Magazine
GLEAMING WHITE TILE, hot mineral water and a sweeping view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. These are the hallmarks of Mineral Hot Springs Spa, where visitors can soak, sweat, sun, and relax in an atmosphere reminiscent of a Roman bath.
Mineral Hot Springs lies at 7,700 feet, south of Villa Grove. Its outdoor pools are 102º to 108º F, “the hottest around,” boasts owner Victor Summers.
Summers and his partner, Lotus McElfish, have transformed the property since they bought it in March 1996. Summers had been in the spa business off and on since 1977. A few years ago he and McElfish, who’s from Lakewood, were asked to run White Sulphur Springs in California’s Napa Valley.
The deal fell through, however, and the two, armed with resumes and a business plan, hunted around for another opportunity. They found Mineral Hot Springs through personal contacts and began as consultants in October 1996.
“It had been empty since 1971, as near as we can tell,” says Summers, “but it’s been a resort for over one hundred years.”
In the ’60s, the spa had a restaurant and rooms for rent. For a while, someone used it as a hog farm, parking over 100 non-rolling boxcars on the property. When Summers and McElfish arrived, crafters lived there, taking care of the property and creating artwork.
The building was a shell, the basement filled with water. The water tower was cracked and the property overgrown with weeds.
The pair remodeled the building, raised the ceiling and installed skylights. The white walls contrast beautifully with the blue of the San Luis Valley sky.
They added an 8-foot-square sauna as well as lockers, showers, and rooms for massage therapy. A private room with traditional tile-walled tubs rents for $10 an hour.
The sun-filled lobby offers snacks and beverages, soaps and botanical products. A gallery exhibiting the works of local artists entertains guests who relax in padded wicker chairs facing picture windows. The locker rooms are large and clean, featuring sturdy benches and communal showers. Shower chairs are available for people with disabilities and the new tile provides traction for wet, bare feet.
THE MAIN ATTRACTIONS, the pools, are outdoors, where they’re protected from the wind by plexiglass mounted on the fence. Chairs and lounges surround the pools on the sun-drenched patio. A water fountain and clock are at hand.
The waist-deep pool, the cooler of the two public pools, is exposed to the sun. It’s a good place to start soaking, before moving up to the second, warmer pool. That pool is neck-deep and partially shaded by a canopy that used to be the base of an old water tower. (The rest of the tower is now a gazebo at the spa’s entrance.) A third pool is surrounded by a privacy fence and is available for private rental.
The pools are 12 feet square and have built-in seats. They’re heated by a geothermal aquifer with a natural flow, so the water is constantly recycled.
“It’s very simple and natural,” said Summers. “Hot water comes out of the ground — a gift — and we share it with people and it goes back into the ground.”
The water is up to 150º in the travertine springs, with high amounts of boron and lithium. The water is first drawn into the bathhouse, where it’s used for heating, then mixed with cooler water to optimum temperatures. The minerals in the water draw people who soak for healing and relaxation.
The very hot water is what makes Mineral Hot Springs Spa different from other resorts in the area.
“It’s really hot water,” says Summers. “It’s the hottest around. We’re also the cleanest hot springs in Colorado.”
The resort also differs from Valley View Hot Springs in that bathing suits are required. The staff keeps extra suits on hand for people who confuse the two resorts (and their clothing policies).
Business has grown steadily since the spa opened 2½ years ago. The hot water and gorgeous setting drawing local residents as well as tourists.
As Summers and his partner celebrate three years of good work, they plan to extend the hours and days of operation next year. Landscaping is also on their to-do list.
As for now, Mineral Hot Springs Spa is open year-round, Thursday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Admission is $9.75 for the day, with a 10-punch pass available for $60. Massages, aromatherapy, wraps and other treatments are extra and should be scheduled in advance. The spa accepts Mastercard, Visa, and Discover.
In addition to bathing suits and towels, visitors should bring locks for the lockers. Food and drink are allowed, but no glass containers. For more information, call Mineral Hot Springs Spa at 719-256-4328.
When I treat myself to a day at the spa, I bring reading material, a towel, sunscreen and an insulated mug of something cold to drink. I also bring a friend to do the driving back to Alamosa, because after a few hours of sun, sauna and soaking I’m too relaxed to drive.
May the same fate await you at Mineral Hot Springs Spa.
Marcia Darnell lives, writes, and recreates in the San Luis Valley.