Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

Navigation

The Opposite of Cold

The Northwoods Finnish Sauna Tradition

2010
Author:

Michael Nordskog
Introduction by Arnold R. Alanen
Foreword by David Salmela
Photography by Aaron W. Hautala

The Opposite of Cold

A full-color history and celebration of Finnish sauna in the western Great Lakes

Beginning with the origins of Finnish sauna, The Opposite of Cold is an exquisite commemoration of the history, culture, and practice of Finnish sauna in the north woods. With stunning photographs of unique and historic saunas of the region Michael Nordskog and Aaron W. Hautala unveil the importance and beauty of sauna culture in modern Midwestern life.

The Finnish sauna is often a modest structure, made of wood and stone. Over time the wood rots, the stones crack, and finally all that is left are memories. But what memories! I can’t think of any human activity except eating that brings people together with such wholeness. Mind, body, and spirit are fused by the heat and steam, and we are collectively reminded of all the things that make us uniquely human. Author Michael Nordskog and photographer Aaron W. Hautala have created a fitting tribute to the great sauna tradition of northern Minnesota. The Opposite of Cold makes permanent the fleeting memories of the early Finnish immigrants and the generations that followed. This is an important work and it honors everything it touches.

Mikkel Aaland, author of Sweat

As many in the north country can attest, one of life’s great pleasures resides in the tradition of sauna—sitting in 180-plus-degree heat and throwing cool water on oven-hot stones to create a blast of steam (called löyly), followed by a jump in the lake, standing naked in subzero temperatures (or even rolling in the snow), or just relaxing on the cooling porch. To the uninitiated, there is a strange, alluring mystique to the art of Finnish sauna. But to an ever-increasing number of people—from their small urban saunas to backwoods and lakeside retreats—the culture and practice of Finnish sauna are as much a part of northwoods life as campfires and canoe trips.

Beginning with the origins of Finnish sauna and arrival of the practice to North America, and continuing all the way to contemporary design, The Opposite of Cold is an exquisite commemoration of the history, culture, and practice of Finnish sauna in the north woods. With stunning photographs of unique and historic saunas of the region—including the oldest sauna in North America, incredible surviving saunas from immigrant farmsteads, and the gorgeous contemporary saunas from noted architects—Michael Nordskog and Aaron W. Hautala unveil the importance and beauty of sauna culture in modern Midwestern life.

Richly illuminated by Hautala’s photographs of distinctive saunas from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ontario, and Finland, The Opposite of Cold is for people who grew up with Wednesday and Saturday evening saunas (or watched their steaming neighbors running toward the lake) and for those who dream of one day having their own. Through this book we see why Finnish sauna tradition is vital and enduring, from the warmest summer evenings to the coldest winter nights.

Awards

Minnesota Book Award winner

The Opposite of Cold

Michael Nordskog grew up in the heart of North American sauna country. He works as an attorney, writer, and editor, and he lives with his wife and three children in Viroqua, Wisconsin.

Aaron W. Hautala is the creative director and owner of RedHouseMedia in Brainerd, Minnesota. He has helped launch a variety of magazines and was the founding art director at Lake Country Journal. His photographs have appeared widely throughout Minnesota.

David Salmela is an award-winning architect practicing in Duluth, Minnesota. Considered one of America’s leading practitioners of critical regionalism, his contemporary sauna designs are highly recognized.

Arnold R. Alanen is professor emeritus of landscape architecture at the University of Wisconsin and the author of Morgan Park: Duluth, U.S. Steel, and the Forging of a Company Town (Minnesota, 2007).

The Opposite of Cold

The Finnish sauna is often a modest structure, made of wood and stone. Over time the wood rots, the stones crack, and finally all that is left are memories. But what memories! I can’t think of any human activity except eating that brings people together with such wholeness. Mind, body, and spirit are fused by the heat and steam, and we are collectively reminded of all the things that make us uniquely human. Author Michael Nordskog and photographer Aaron W. Hautala have created a fitting tribute to the great sauna tradition of northern Minnesota. The Opposite of Cold makes permanent the fleeting memories of the early Finnish immigrants and the generations that followed. This is an important work and it honors everything it touches.

Mikkel Aaland, author of Sweat

Not everyone believes in the benefits of a sauna or the joy of ‘loyly’ (that blast of steam from dropping water on the stones). Such skeptics may reconsider after spending time with The Opposite of Cold.

Lake Superior Magazine

This beautifully illustrated guide to the saunas of not only Minnesota but also Wisconsin, Michigan, Ontario and Finland celebrates a very old tradition while revealing its importance to modern Midwestern culture. . . . It’s a lovely tribute to North America’s ‘sauna belt.’

Chicago Tribune

Far from an ode to beer-guzzling, skinny-dipping cottagers, this compilation honours the alluring and enduring mystique of the Finnish sauna. Beyond describing the sauna’s architectural evolution from homestead log hut to contemporary lakeside retreat, the book tells the story of Finnish immigration. The accompanying photos by Aaron Hautala make a reader long for the hot steam and a quick dip in a cool lake.

Globe and Mail

This lovely, intelligent book examines sauna tradition in the United States (primarily in the regions around Lake Superior) as well as in Finland. Beautifully illustrated with every possible sauna photo you can imagine—interiors, exteriors, saunas on farms, along lakeshores, in cities, saunas in high summer, saunas in the snow.

Star Tribune

Fascinating, fun, and fabulously Finnish, this hard-cover book is worthy of any northern Minnesota coffee table, whether at home or in the cabin.

The Pine Journal

The Opposite of Cold traces in loving detail the history of the sauna —its arrival and practice in North America. The book is richly illustrated with black-and-white historical photos and enticing color images.

Lavender

The Opposite of Cold is a well-researched and entertaining commemoration of the history, culture, and practice of Finnish sauna. It’s a timely reminder of just why this fascinating tradition remains so vital and enduring.

Ely Timberjay

The Opposite of Cold is a choice photography collection for any collection with a focus on culture and Great Lakes America.

Midwest Book Review

It’s hard to imagine saying you’ve had the full sauna experience until you’ve read The Opposite of Cold. And you don’t even have to break a sweat.

Marquette Monthly

The Opposite of Cold is a masterfully written and beautifully illustrated overview of what still exists in the Lake Superior region. If you are a sauna lover — you need this book! You simply won’t be able to put it down.

Finnish American Reporter

Whether you're looking for a beautiful coffee table book, or an interesting, well-researched study of this part of Minnesota history, check out The Opposite of Cold.

Flyoverland

The Opposite of Cold contains a wealth of fascinating information.

Linda White, Minneapolis Books Examiner

This book is filled with such anecdotes and for anyone interested to learn more about the history of sauna practice and the architecture of these lovely buildings should check out this book. It is a book of great architecture, great storytelling, and great history.

The Broken Bookshelf

Michael Nordskog’s writing . . . provides rich context and good reading. Aaron W. Hautala’s photographs invite us in to the warmth and quiet of the Finnish sauna experience.

New World Finn

The Opposite of Cold is essentially a love song to the sauna, written in photographs and fleshed out with stories of Finnish-Americans and their steam-soaked lives. The reader leaves feeling convinced that not only is the Finnish-American story better told in light of the sauna, it cannot, in fact, be told without the sauna. The author has succeeded in writing a fitting tribute to the Finnish-American sauna tradition.

Material Culture

The Opposite of Cold

Contents


Foreword David Salmela

Introduction: The Sign of the Finn Arnold R. Alanen

Sauna in the New World

Immigrant Saunas in the Lake Superior Region

Finland’s Sauna Culture

The North American Lakeside Tradition

The Value of Heat

Keeping the Wood-Fired Sauna Tradition Alive


Acknowledgments
Notes
Index

The Opposite of Cold

WIN A COPY OF THIS BOOK AT POV/PBS until 8/15/11
(and check out the documentary STEAM OF LIFE)

 

BOOK TRAILER SERIES (3):