Google “sensory deprivation tank,” and you’ll find nearly 8 million results, ranging from first-hand accounts of terrified health writers (Men’s Health: “I Tried Floating in a Giant Sensory Deprivation Tank, and It Changed My Life”) to overly photoshopped Instagram images of bikini-clad Kardashians. Most popular on YouTube, there’s the NBA/Kaiser Permanente–sponsored video of Warriors superstar Steph Curry diving into his personal pod-shaped tank post-game, sinking into oblivion as the worries of penalty buzzers and critics’ commentary melt away as CGI-animated elongated hoops and nets and basketballs drift by like so many Salvador Dali clocks; the clip ends with Curry confidently emerging from a dark tunnel and walking toward the light of an arena, overlaid with the message: “Train the Mind. The Body Will Follow.”
Until late this summer when the Lodge at Vail installed the only Dreampod float tank west of Vail Pass, YouTubing with Curry (or passing out in a stairwell) was about as close as you could get to sensory deprivation in this resort town. But now that it’s here, here are some things you need to know. The science behind the fad—also known as immersion tanks, float tanks, isolation tanks, or sensory attenuation tanks—is hardly exact, but sensory deprivation has been touted as a remedy for a variety of maladies, from hypertension, anxiety, and depression to chronic pain and rheumatoid arthritis. The idea—developed during the freewheeling Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test era of the 1960s—is that bobbing like a cork in skin-temperature saltwater rivaling the buoyancy of the Dead Sea allows the mind and body to reset from the sensory overload of the modern world.
Anecdotally, that seems to have some merit. In the Lodge at Vail’s futuristic Dreampod, you float in 95-degree water saturated with 800 pounds of Epsom salts in complete darkness, or you can experience a kaleidoscopic effect of rainbow-hued lights that replicate the body’s energy chakras, hovering in a wakeful dream defined only by the soft glow of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. In either case, toweling off after an hour—or was it forever?—as if emerging from shavasana pose at the end of a yoga class, you’ll be basking in an afterglow of utter relaxation for hours.
But will a Dreampod session improve your skiing? After the Warriors defeated the Knicks last season, a sports reporter sidelined Curry and asked if his float tank sessions had helped his game.
“That’s a great question,” he said. “It’s the only place where you can go to get away from it all, the noise and light, and just be by yourself with your own thoughts. It’s pretty cool. I recommend everybody try it at least once and see what it’s like.”
You’ll likely be hooked. Tellingly, the Lodge charges $50 for a first-time float—betting that you’ll pay $75 happily every hour after (970-754-7828; lodgeatvail.rockresorts.com/spa).