Extraordinary places can create extraordinary experiences, but it doesn’t happen by accident. More often than not, those experiential high points occur by design. That’s especially true when it comes to the unique setting and special challenges of hot springs properties.
Based in Denver, with offices in Durango, Carbondale, as well as in Bozeman, Montana, landscape architecture and planning firm DHM Design is making a name for itself in the geothermal niche. The firm is involved in multiple hot springs renovations across the mountain west. Within the last couple of years, Ouray Hot Springs and Glenwood Hot Springs Resort are two that have gotten the DHM treatment to rave reviews from both industry insiders and the public at large.
A municipal geothermal pool, Ouray Hot Springs dates back to the 1920s. For DHM, the design directive was to create a more natural atmosphere that blended with the mountain surroundings, while paying tribute to the original oval shape of the pool. DHM tackled the conundrum of maintaining the iconic silhouette while simultaneously upgrading the aquatic experience, by separating some pool features and incorporating new ones within the oval boundary.
Doing so proved transformative for the Rocky Mountain hot springs. In some areas, curvy, informal pool edges were added to create more deck space—a convenience for both visitors and pool staff. Thanks to the articulated shape, the design boosted bather capacity and created a cozier setting for guests. The lap pool, an essential fitness component, was separated from the soaking area entirely, in addition to a children’s area with a slide and climbing wall. Delineating the spaces based on use has helped to enhance and address the needs of Ouray’s varied visitors—families, fitness regulars and relaxation soakers.
To tie the pool with its natural surroundings, DHM added artful waterfall features and locally sourced boulders. The new layout of the pool offers 360-degree views of the mountains, with a special focus on Mount Abrams to the south. In 2018, DHM received a CCASLA Merit Award for the design.
Most recently, DHM Design helped usher in Phase I of a four-phase master plan for Glenwood Hot Springs Resort. The firm was tasked with exploring design elements that would provide enhanced activities for children and families while maintaining a uniquely Colorado experience with a European spa character. Balancing the site’s existing character with the goals for improved function and maintenance was key.
Design choices reflect both the practical needs of the space—such as pedestrian circulation, accessibility, shade, the on-deck and in-pool experience—and the crowd-pleasing creative elements that include a fast-moving adventure river ride, interactive play areas with rock walls and waterfalls and a multi-purpose fountain that acts as a splash pad by day and a signature show fountain at night.
The overarching goal was to respect the resort’s contextual and cultural history while updating it for the modern hot spring visitor. As an example, great care was taken to simulate the color, texture and feel of the local geology in the new aquatic features. Named “Sopris Splash Zone,” a historical reference to an early area explorer, the DHM-designed aquatic features opened in July 2019. The laughter and squeals of patrons of all ages can vouch for its success. While Phase I focused on family-oriented play areas, Phase II will embrace adult-oriented tranquil relaxation.
Meet and learn more from DHM Principal Walker Christensen and Senior Associate Jennifer DiCuollo at the upcoming Hot Springs Connection conference, on Nov. 4 -8 in Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs, California www.hotspringsconnection.com.
See DHM Design and other key industry partners here.