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Minnesota Sauna: An Interview with Glenn from Saunatimes.com

Before starting The Saunatarian I did some research on other sauna blogs.  One of the few that’s comparable is Glenn Auerbach’s great site www.saunatimes.com.  Glenn is a proud resident of Minnesota and an active thermovangelist in the region.
Like The Saunatarian, saunatimes.com embodies sauna appreciation in full, glorious detail – but Glenn also spreads the good heat through education and outreach.  I contacted Glenn and he invited me to do an interview at The Saunatimes (read the interview here).  I’m reciprocating by continuing the conversation here at The Saunatarian.
Glenn building a sauna

Glenn building a sauna

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1. Hi Glenn, thanks for talking to The Saunatarian.  You have a great story about how you discovered sauna.  Can you tell us?

It was the summer of 1985.  A friend and I were hitchhiking around Europe.  It was an especially cold, wet summer.  Our clothes were soaked, our sleeping bags wet, we were hungry, tired, and we were out in the middle of nowhere where the only sign of life was a thick swarm of extremely aggressive mosquitoes.  I don’t know how things could be any worse, but thankfully, they got better very quickly.

A lone Volvo appeared on the horizon, the first car in hours.  Amazingly, it stopped to pick us up.  I was ecstatic.  Finally out of the cold drizzle rain and away from the mosquitoes!  I remember squashing with pleasure the few extra aggressive ones that had followed us into the car.  Upon hearing of our lack of agenda, dry clothes or any common sense, the husband and wife brought us to their home.  He was the dentist in town.  His practice was on the main street, their house in the back.  Above his office, facing the street was a quaint apartment, conveniently vacant and seemingly ready for our arrival.

Upon hearing of our lack of agenda, dry clothes or any common sense, the husband and wife brought us to their home.

After a welcome tour of the apartment, the wife pulled out a couple bathrobes and with a smile and a heavy accent said “you can enjoy a warm sauna before dinner in a couple hours”  With that, she turned a timer on a wall and excused herself down the stairs.  I looked at my friend John with a look of “can you believe our fortune?” and began unravelling my soaked clothes from my bag.   He was busy scratching his mosquito bites.  This was to be my first sauna.  After a few minutes of the stove clanking away it felt mighty warm, which is all the encouragement I needed to shed my wet clothes and hop in the sauna room.  The first blast of dry warm air felt wonderful against my clammy skin and as my tight muscles started to loosen up,  I quickly realized that I just found heaven on earth, in a small cedar lined room in a little town in the middle of nowhere.  After a couple 15-20 minute rounds, showering between, I felt clean, refreshed, and as an even unfathomable bonus, all our mosquito bites were miraculously gone.  Gone!  You know a sauna is great for your skin if it can get rid of mosquito bites! 

2. Sounds pretty amazing!  What a nice dentist.  Now can you tell us when you started www.saunatimes.com and what you hope to achieve?

I started saunatimes 9 years ago.  2006.  At that time I didn’t know what a blog was, and to this day I’m not really a fan of the term nor its self indulgent connotations. But I had a strong desire to share with others the things that are great about sauna and to help others build their own saunas.   This mission is as clear today as when I started. And if anything my drive is greater too.

Since I started saunatimes, I’ve built 10 or so saunas myself and have helped several dozens build their own saunas.  Authentic saunas.  To me, this is a big achievement and I’m very proud.

home sauna

Glenn Auerbach, sauna builder.  Notice the saunatimes.com sign – great thermovangelism!

3.  You should be proud!  Great stuff.  Can you also tell us about the sauna community around you?  It seems like you have a good network of sauna people in Minnesota, including the 612 society.  Can you tell us about that?

Sauna in Minnesota is as close to beer in Bavaria or tango in Argentina.  It’s in our culture.  We have lots of Scandinavia immigrants.  It could be argued that Minnesota has the ideal climate for sauna: it’s cold November to April.  And we have a ton of lakes.  There are 2 million people in Minneapolis/St Paul and 2 million everywhere else in Minnesota.

Sauna in Northern Minnesota is deeply rooted in tradition and function.

Sauna in Northern Minnesota is deeply rooted in tradition and function. Being so connected to nature – by lakes and trees – sauna is interwoven in the landscape.   In Minneapolis, however, there seems to be a disconnect. Saunas are at people’s cabins. I tried to bridge the gap. I built a wood burning mobile sauna 10 years ago and brought it around to events and gatherings in Minneapolis.  It was a blast but I was a one man band and then I sold it.  A couple years ago I was contacted by John Pederson.  Wildly sauna passionate just like me, but 20 years younger.  He founded the 612 sauna society.  He has been a catalyst towards bringing sauna folks together.  Not just virtually through Facebook, but through sauna gatherings and a budding mobile sauna culture.  Today, thanks to Molly and Andreas Little Box mobile sauna, we have the ability to bring sauna to cool places around town.

4.  Sounds fantastic!   Now tell us about your sauna.  What are the specifications, including heater and amenities?

I’ve built a bunch of saunas including the two I own. One is in my backyard in Minneapolis and the other at our lake cabin on Pine Island in Northern Minnesota.  They are similar in that they are cedar lined hot rooms.  Kuuma wood burning sauna stoves.  Both make use of ample changing room space allowing for temperate zone chilling out between rounds.

The differences: the cabin sauna has the most beautiful view and you can hear the waves lapping on the shore.  And when I close my eyes, sitting outside my backyard sauna, I can imagine being up there and I smile.

Glenn's cabin sauna – pretty special view!

Glenn’s cabin sauna – pretty special view!

5. Beautiful.  When is your favourite time for a sauna?

I sauna three times a week. I suppose one of my favorite times for sauna Is the Friday happy hour sauna.  I’ll wrap up my work for the week, fire up the sauna, go for a run or a bike ride, come back to sauna and maybe be joined by a friend or two.  I find this time slot even extra magical.  Most others maybe still be at work or battling traffic or onto their second drink at the bar. But for me I’m totally recharging, resetting, restoring with sauna and having an awesome time doing it.

Another one of Glenn's saunas

Glenn’s cabin sauna – beautiful, rustic, serene

6. What is the most memorable sauna you’ve been in?  A shortlist is also fine.

My two saunas are most memorable as they are so much apart of me. But a sauna that comes to mind is my buddy Toms, along the rocky shores of Lake Superior North of Duluth MN.  Every inch of that place feels right.  Hot room is a perfect size.  Changing room has an awesome comfortable open feel to hang out in.  The outside wrap around deck is a good size.  The lake is fucking cold 365 days a year. It’s a perfect sauna and in very proud to have built it.

Rolando Sauna

Glenn’s buddy Tom’ s Sauna: “the lake is fucking cold 365 days a year” – now that’s my kind of lake!  Summer Sauna Party!!!

7. Great answer – I’d love to visit those saunas!  Finally, do you have any fun tips or tricks to use in the sauna?

 One tip: completely cool down before going back in the hot room.  The rubber band theory works.  Many think sauna is the hot room but the hot room is only a part of a good sauna session.   Another tip is to drink a shitload of water before you start or at the beginning of your sauna session.

A third tip is that there are few rules to sauna.  When you’re hot – leave.  When you’re cold – go back in.  It’s simple freedom.

Another one of Glenn's saunas – another beauty

Another sauna built by Glenn – a beauty!

Thanks for your time Glenn:
may we sweat together soon!

 

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