Ainsworth Hot Spring resort is located on the side of Highway 31 on the Western Shores of Kootenay Lake in the majestic Kootenay mountains. Owned and operated by the Indigenous people of the Lower Kootenay Band of Creston, this hot spring boasts that hundreds of years ago the Ktunaxa First Nations peoples used to bathe in the hot waters to relieve tired joints and muscles; cleansing their spirits as well as their bodies. Comparing Ainsworth's aesthetics to the other hot springs in the area, you'd have to agree that the facilities themselves are just not as nice. And, despite the beautiful mountain surroundings, the pools are so low, and the surrounding walls so high that you can only see the tippy-tops of the mountains nearby. For this reason, Braden and I initially nicknamed it "Ain'ts Worth" Hot Springs...as in, you guessed it, Ain't Worth It.
However, unlike some other resorts who operate under the "if you build it they will come" principle (a sound one if you're a hotspring), Ainsworth at the very least has made attempts to give it's guests a memorable and unique experience. In addition to a large swimming pool sized hot tub (often present at nearly every commercial hot spring you will visit), Ainsworth features a maze of cave like tunnels filled with waist deep, very hot water. With the exception of a few waterproof lights shining up from the depths, the grottoes are very dark, and in several places have small areas branching off from the tunnel in which perhaps two or three people can sit and soak as other guests wade by in the half-light. As you enter the tunnels, you are immediately encircled by the steam rising from the hot water; in this place you are in both a hot spring and a sauna. The effect is partially confining, partially alluring. I imagine on a less busy day, you might find amourous couples nuzzling in the dimly lit alcoves of the tunnels. At the entrance/exit to the grottoes is another smallish pool, which has room for about six or seven people to sit along its outer rim; the interior is filled with passers-by coming in and out of the tunnels. Near the entrance to the tunnels, a small cold plunge pool (fed with natural river water) sits empty. Its water was very cold and is NOT for the faint of heart. Very few brave souls ventured to dip their toes (or more seldom, their whole selves) into the icy water. We dunked, and although it was frigid (50F), the chill of the icy temperatures of a late fall mountain river was most welcome on our now tender, pink skin. The water here is so mineral rich that it leaves stains and residue on the side of the pools. At first glance the pools look filthy, but after reading a few signs posted around the pools about the source water, you learn that the minerals and sulphur are to blame for the yellowish walls of the pools and the tunnels. Fair enough.
In addition to the pools, Ainsworth is also a hotel, and has a restaurant which serves Canadian fare as well as traditional aboriginal cuisine. Although we were harsh critics initially, it can't be denied that we enjoyed several hours at this resort taking in the heat of the water and some downright good people watching, too (it was busy when we were there). If we found ourselves in the area on a chilly late fall or winter day, we would happily return for another soak...but only if the roads wouldn't allow us access into the more cost friendly - aka free - and stunningly beautiful Lussier Hot Springs...
Cleanliness - 3
Amenities - 4
Exclusivity - 1
Scenery - 3
Community - 1
Camping - 2