WHITE SUPLHUR SPRINGS — Montana holds the record for coldest temperatures in the lower 48, but for braving the cold Mother Nature also gives our state a warm reward.
"They just feel good," says Dr. Gene Gudmundson. "Once you're in the hot water up to your chin and it's 100 degrees, the whole world just feels better."
Gudmundson and his wife, Annie, are the owners of the Spa Hot Springs in White Sulphur Springs, and it was the magic of hot water on a cold winter day that convinced Gudmundson to build on his practice on the hot springs foundations.
"I'm a chiropractor, and I had returned from China where I had done some extensive study in acupuncture and was looking to relocate back to Montana. I was born and grew up in Miles City," Gudmundson said.
Gudmundson toured Montana towns looking to establish a practice and stayed in the Spa Hot Springs Motel while visiting White Sulphur Springs.
"I just fell in love with the place," Gudmundson said. "Within a couple of months I had bought it and have been here ever since. That was 1988, so I've been here about 35 years."
Spa Hot Springs consists of three pools ranging from 100 degrees to 105 degrees, cabins, and motel rooms.
"Anybody can walk in as long as we are open. We are open every day seven days a week, every day of the year, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.," said Annie Gudmundson. "We drain our pools every single night."
For hundreds of years before the Gudmundson's arrival, White Sulphur Springs has attracted travelers - a visual story portrayed in stunning murals visitors can interpret as they soak.
"It's a very special hot springs," Gudmundson said. "Native Americans have a history of using them that goes a long way back. It was one of the first commercial hot springs in the entire state established in 1872. Montana didn't even become a state until 1889, so this hot springs was here before Montana was here."
On the coldest days of winter, you'll still find people seeking refuge here.
"It's truly a Montana experience when you can go to the ski hill and freeze your toes off all day long, come back and within a few minutes you're up to your chin in 100-degree water. You just can't do that many places in the world," Gudmundson said.