Hot, naked and steamy? Just another day in North America’s "sauna belt."

Each day leading up to the April 16 announcement of the Minnesota Book Awards, we highlight one of the thirty-two finalists. Today, we feature 2011 General Nonfiction finalist:

The Opposite of Cold: The Northwoods Finnish Sauna Tradition
Michael Nordskog, photography by Aaron W. Hautala
University of Minnesota Press
sponsored by Minnesota AFL-CIO:


An excerpt from The Opposite of Cold: The Northwoods Finnish Sauna Tradition:

Without fail, our sauna was heated every Saturday evening, except when we occasionally went to a neighboring farm. A sauna during the winter months served as our humble spa, a place where the glowing fire in a dimly lit room warmed us before we spent the next week in a drafty farmhouse. Equally meaningful were the daily sauna sessions throughout several weeks of the summer. After pitching hay and lifting bales in a confined and stuffy barn loft, nothing could surpass a sauna for removing accumulations of hay dust, grime and sweat and for relieving sore muscles.

The Opposite of Cold is a commemoration of the culture, history, and practice of Finnish sauna in the Northwoods. Guiding the reader through the origins of the Finnish sauna to current modern design, this title exposes one of the North country’s greatest pleasures. With stunning photos of saunas of the region – such as North America’s oldest sauna and saunas dating back to immigrant farmsteads – the book unveils the importance and beauty of sauna culture in modern Midwestern life. To become a fan of the book, check out its Facebook page.


Michael Nordskog was raised in the center of North American sauna country. He is an editor, writer and attorney.


Aaron Hautala is the creative director and owner of RedHouseMedia in Brainerd, Minnesota.


“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

“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

“This wonderful book tells you all you would want to know about this Finnish tradition if you only knew what to ask, starting with the proper pronunciation of sauna (despite what Alex Trebek thinks). Understanding is enhanced with Hautala’s breathtaking photographs of saunas and practitioners in the Northwoods and Finland which invite you to participate. For Finns, this is a book to be proud of and for the rest of us, one to savor.” – Minnesota Book Awards Preliminary Judge


Aaron Hautala’s video blog kicks off the first of many excursions with writer, Michael Nordskog in the exploration and documentation of Finnish saunas for The Opposite of Cold. Click through and watch them all – the scenery is spectacular!

Book Trailer: 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 just relaxing on the cooling porch.

In this video, writer Michael Nordskog and photographer Aaron Hautala recount their adventures in northern Minnesota and in Finland to compileThe Opposite of Cold: The Northwoods Finnish Sauna Tradition. In this first of three videos, Nordskog and Hautala talk about the history and romance of sauna, and why being able to publish a book like this is so significant. Oh, and why you should never, EVER call it “sah-nuh.” (Attention newcomers: It’s “sow-nuh.”) Again, be sure to click through and watch all three parts.


Award winners will be announced at the 23rd Annual Minnesota Book Awards Gala on Saturday, April 16, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, in downtown Saint Paul. The opening reception begins at 6:30 p.m.; followed by the awards ceremony at 8 p.m. Tickets are $45 and are available by clicking here or calling 651-222-3242.

Each year in the weeks leading up to the Minnesota Book Awards gala, all Minnesotans are invited to take part in voting for the Readers’ Choice Award. Vote online now through the end of March at Please, only one vote per person.

Have you read The Opposite of Cold? What are your thoughts? We welcome your comments!

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