Warm soak, cool New Year’s party at Glenwood pool

PHOTO BY SPECIAL TO THE SENTINEL—Glenwood Hot Springs draws families beginning or continuing their own New Year’s Eve traditions, pool manager Brian Passenti said. The celebration includes holiday music, hats and noisemakers and a drawing for an annual pool pass during the countdown to the new year.

Communities welcome the new year in all kinds of ways.

The festivities might involve fireworks, a giant ball dropping, or a succession of music acts playing. But it’s safe to say there are few places in the world where a New Year’s Eve party has all of this: people in swimsuits, numbering as many as 1,000, outside in temperatures that can approach 0 degrees, but they’re still nice and warm, thanks to the fact they are soaking in what’s billed as the world’s largest hot springs pool.

For decades, the Glenwood Hot Springs has offered a decidedly unique form of New Year’s Eve celebration. It extends its closing hour until 1 a.m., hands out hats and noisemakers, puts holiday music on the sound system and counts down those final hours, minutes and seconds until the start of a new year. An additional moment of excitement comes at 11:30 p.m., when the pool holds a drawing for a free annual pass, worth $235.

It’s an alcohol-free evening, and to enforce that rule, pool staff check visitors’ bags before they’re let in. That makes it a family-friendly New Year’s Eve option.

“I think that there’s a lot of folks that find that to be a nice alternative and a cool way to spend an evening,” Glenwood Springs Police Chief Terry Wilson said.

He said he can’t remember police ever having calls, complaints or problems related to the event.

“I love it. I’m a big fan,” he said.

Pool manager Brian Passenti said the evening seems to draw less of a regular crowd and more of one that changes over time as families come for a few years at a time before their children have grown older.

“It seems like to me it’s usually a lot of families that are visiting the area for the holidays, and it’s a good (New Year’s Eve) alternative while they’re in the area,” he said.

Roxie Mallander, a front-desk agent for the Hotel Denver, a five-minute walk across the Colorado River from the pool, said a good number of the hotel’s New Year’s Eve customers come specifically to join in the pool’s celebration.

“It does definitely increase our business because they want to come count down the new year in the world’s largest hot springs pool,” she said.

Mallander said she has joined in the celebration herself in the past, and she enjoys watching the steam rise from the hot waters and gazing at the stars.

“You just have this great view. It’s a very magical feeling above you,” she said.

The best part is that bathers don’t get cold, despite the temperatures, she said.

As for the lifeguards and other employees who work poolside, staying warm is another matter, involving lots of winter clothing.

“It gets downright cold,” Passenti said. “I think I’ve worked 10 of the last 11 of them. I would say one night it was about 5 below or so, right around there.”

Even the toasty-warm soakers generally are ready to call it a night once the magic hour has arrived.

“We do the countdown, everybody blows their horns, they wait about five, 10 minutes maybe, and then they just pile into the locker rooms,” he said.

No reservations are needed for the pool’s big splash, although out-of-towners might want to inquire soon about hotel rooms, as Mallander said a number of activities draw visitors to Glenwood Springs for New Year’s Eve.

Admission to the pool is $13.75 for adults, $9.50 for children ages 3 to 12, and free for those 2 and under.


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