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A Tale of Two Hot Tubs...

By Christy Heitger
Published: August 1, 2006
Photo by Wendell Shiffler
Why I Love My Simple, Rustic, Wood-Fired Hot Tub

When Wendell Shiffler first asked his wife Judy what she thought about buying a hot tub for their Fairbanks, Alaska, cabin, she pooh-poohed the idea.
Then Judy was invited into a friend’s wood-fired hot tub, and she immediately changed her tune. “We’ve gotta get one of these!” she exclaimed like a giddy teenager.
With no electricity at their remote cabin, a tub heated by wood was the ideal choice. In addition to the appeal of wood-fired heating, the Shifflers loved the look and feel of the tub. Made of 100 percent Western red cedar that’s both rot-resistant and knot-free, the classically simple design blended in beautifully with nature’s landscape and was easy to use.
Scraps of lumber, split firewood, fallen branches and limbs, and cut-up wooden pallets can all be used to heat the tub.
The hassle-free maintenance was a bonus. Because it requires no chemicals, the Shifflers simply fill the tub with lake water and release it on shore after several days of use.
Many folks place their tubs on a deck, patio, porch or in a garden. The Shifflers’, however, sits on a floating platform that is moored to the dock.
In the absence of whirring jets and gurgling bubbles, they quietly sit back, inhale the rich aroma of cedar, and take a tub-side seat that is intimately close to nature.
They watch as muskrats swim past and moose wander by. And each fall the Shifflers eagerly anticipate the return of the redneck grebe who religiously builds its nest in the reeds just 30 feet from the tub.
The Shifflers, who use the tub year-round with family, friends and neighbors, don’t let thick ice in the heart of winter keep them from enjoying a soothing soak. They simply use a power auger to drill a hole through the five feet of ice on the lake and then pump lake water into the tub.
Judy adores sitting in the tub on a frigid night and gazing up at the Northern Lights.
“After getting out, it’s a cold dash back up to the cabin,” admits Judy. “But boy, is it worth it!”

Photo by Courtesy of Cal Spas
Why I Love My Deluxe 93-Jet, Contemporary Hot Tub

After several hours of browsing around a home show, Larry Canoso knew exactly what he wanted in a hot tub: the maximum number of jets possible, a volcano in the bottom for foot massage, and a dynamite heating system. Plus, with three grandchildren frequently underfoot, top-of-the-line safety features were a must.
Among Larry’s most cherished features is the ability to regulate the forcefulness of each of the jets, thereby personalizing the tub experience. For instance, he likes high-powered pulsating jets pounding out the kinks in his lower back while his wife Vicki prefers a gentler massage. Both use the tub daily to relax and socialize. In addition, Vicki, who suffers from chronic knee pain, enjoys the soothing benefits of water rehabilitation. But ambiance may be the best part of the hot-tubbing experience.
“My favorite time to sit in it is when big, puffy snowflakes are falling from the sky,” says Vicki. “It’s so pristine, so peaceful, so perfect.”
The Canosos’ home sits on a mountaintop in Draper, Utah. The hot tub is installed on the deck, just a few feet from the back door.
Larry purchased a customized spa that seats eight (perfect for when the grandkids hop in), plus the option of doubling the number of jets (he chose the maximum: 93). Larry had a ball customizing his tub with fun, fancy upgrades such as LED waterline lighting, LED-lit waterfalls and wireless spa monitor – which enables him to view the tub’s jet, light and temperature information from inside his home.
“Basically,” he says, “I wanted to get the biggest and best bang for my buck.”

Freelancer Christy Heitger longs for a hot tub soak after vigorous games of water volleyball at the family cabin.


• Snorkel, (800) 962-6208,

• Cal Spas, (800) 225-7727,

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