It’s ice cold, but whole body cryotherapy (WBC) is one of the hottest health trends to hit New York City and Los Angeles over the past few years, and, now, the notorious nitrogen chambers are everywhere in between.
After a grand opening in June, The Fix is the only place in Aspen to get your freeze on, operating the town's first-ever open-topped “cryosauna” for the cutting-edge treatment, which was developed in Japan in the late 1970s to treat arthritis. (The treatment is also newly available at Fahrenheit Body Spas in Basalt, which opened this spring.)
Since then, WBC proponents tout the healing powers of frosty air (between –184 degrees F to –292 degrees F), claiming that it activates a response from the body that can reduce inflammation, increase energy, loosen muscle tension, boost metabolism, increase collagen, improve mood, slow aging, reduce stress, and solve insomnia.
Sold, right? Or, you’re thinking, “Um, I'm not interested in early-onset frostbite.”
Since it has exploded onto the pages of beauty magazines and on celebrity Instagram accounts, and been installed in the homes of pro athletes like LeBron James and Cristiano Ronaldo, WBC has also gotten a bit of a bad rap. There was a time when a tech overdid it while self-administering the treatment (she died) and the FDA came out with a warning against it just this month, but industry leader CryoUSA is working toward approval with official research. As with any type of alternative non-medical treatment, always have a chat with your doctor before you try something new.
The Fix owner and longtime local Denise Searle had her doubts, too, when she first started to hear about WBC, but that quickly changed as soon as she learned more.
“I remember people starting to talk about it two years ago, and I thought it was just crazy. But it kept popping up, and I started looking into it. My dad had rheumatoid arthritis, and, of course, it wasn’t accessible anywhere—so in the beginning it was about me trying to find help for him,” she says. "We know it's not a medical device. It's all about wellness, and this truly makes your body feel useful again. Especially in a town like Aspen, this can be a huge recovery tool for athletes at any level."
Searle tried it herself just over a year ago in Dallas and was instantly hooked, recalling, “I felt great—and had never felt anything like it. I went four times in the three days I was there, got back to Aspen, and made it my mission to bring it here.”
As the owner of Pilates and Gyrotonic studio The Art of Fitness for the past 15 years, Searle already had the health and wellness background to open a second business quickly. Aside from the $50,000 WBC machine from CryoUSA, The Fix offers a full menu of exclusive services, including cryospot and cryofacial treatments, infrared therapy, NormaTec and Squid compression therapies, and Feldenkrais, as well as massage, cupping, acupuncture, oxygen therapy, meditation, TRX training, and yoga.
But back to cryotherapy. Like Searle, I had started to hear about it from friends in big cities who tried it and quickly turned into devotees, so I had to see for myself.
Feeling the Freeze: What to Expect
I arrived at The Fix and was greeted by Janette McKechnie, one of Searle's technicians, each of whom has undergone onsite training and is CPR/AED certified. After filling out an in-depth health history, I headed to the WBC room, where I was given a quick rundown of what to expect, along with a pair of wooly mittens, People socks, and fleece slippers. Women stand in the cryosauna fully nude, while men wear underwear to protect their vital parts.
As I stepped into the chamber and onto a rotating platform, I told myself, “You can do anything for three minutes” as the door of the giant can-shaped machine closed behind me. The starting temperature of about –70 degrees Fahrenheit began to drop as the liquid nitrogen began to rise. During a session, your head is exposed, but it's not affected by the intensity of the cold. My attention was captured by decorative clay faces on the wall—a deliberate distraction from the big, red temperature display hanging overhead. For first timers, the lowest the temperature will go is –220 degrees Fahrenheit, but each session is customized to the client.
Only after I passed the two-minute mark did I start to feel the freeze (mostly in my legs), which sent me into a weird tailspin of imagining some stranded mountaineer facing the elements. Then it was over. I stepped out and started to readjust to room temperature with the help of a cup of beef bone broth that The Fix serves immediately afterward to help spark the warmup process and also recommends as a regular dietary supplement, thanks to the broth's rich healing compounds.
While I have yet to experience the benefits that would likely come with a regular routine of freezing, the euphoric feeling I left with lingered until the next morning and had me craving another session, stat—despite the hefty price tag ($85 for three minutes). Appointments are recommended, but walk-ins are welcome.
Look for The Fix in our roundup of unique health and wellness treatments available locally in Aspen Sojourner's midsummer issue, out now.
The Fix Body Therapy
501 Rio Grande Place, Suite 105, Aspen