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Boreal Community Media

Sisu & Loyly Nordic Sauna to launch first mobile sauna in Cook County

May 01, 2023 12:40PM ● By Content Editor
All photos provided

By Laura Durenberger-Grunow - Boreal Community Media - May 1, 2023

Nordic saunas (pronounced sow-na, with ‘sow’ rhyming with how) have been around for centuries, and are an essential part of the culture. Activities such as meals with family and friends, relaxing after a day in the snow, or even giving birth all centered around saunas. 

Derived from the Finnish word “earth pit”, saunas utilize stones and steam (Loyly) to create the experience we know and love today. 

One place you can experience that in Cook County is Sisu & Loyly Nordic Sauna. 

The Lake Superior saunas at Sisu & Loyly use stone-based heaters that run on electricity. But wood fire stoves are another popular option to create sauna heat, especially if you don’t have access to electricity. This was a feature you couldn’t experience at Sisu & Loyly - until now.

Local and visiting sauna lovers rejoice: Sisu & Loyly Nordic Sauna is launching their new, mobile, wood-fired sauna this month.

Sauna beginnings 

Katie Usem was visiting a friend’s cabin with an on-site sauna a few years ago. 

“I get pretty claustrophobic and never really liked saunas for that reason. I always felt like I was closed in.”

But this sauna was different. 

“It was the first time I had experienced a sauna with a window, and it turned out to be a great time. I was hooked,” she said. 

Usem began to seek out other saunas to visit, research benefits, and learn about the traditions behind the practice.

Eventually, that love of saunas grew to the point where Katie and her husband, Sam Usem, were purchasing a property with an old fish house, a mechanics garage, and a house on-site in Grand Marais.

“As soon as I saw the property along Lake Superior, I knew it was the perfect place for a sauna. Lake Superior is such a healing body of water, and I wanted people to be able to experience that while they were enjoying the sauna.”

Construction began in 2021, with a grand opening in October of that same year. 

And yes, both of the Sisu & Loyly saunas have large, picturesque windows overlooking Lake Superior towards Artist Point. 

“I wanted to create a welcoming space for people of all sauna experience levels,” she said.

Now, with the newly acquired mobile sauna, even more people can potentially enjoy the Nordic sauna experience. 


The mobile sauna

With tall ceilings due to a Gothic Arch, a skylight, a woodfire stove, and lots of natural light, the newly acquired (and Cook County’s first) mobile sauna is a sight to see. 

The mobile sauna was handbuilt by Minnesota-based craftsman and wooden boat maker, Mike of Timber Arched, using wood from his family’s farm in Osakis, Minnesota.

Katie shared that she stumbled upon Mike’s projects while she was looking at options for the permanent, Lake Superior sauna location. 

“We connected online, and would occasionally keep in touch through social media over the course of a couple of years,” she said. 

Mike uses a steam bending technique to create his wooden boats and mobile saunas which creates a unique, eye-catching design. 


Katie shared that there aren’t any other mobile saunas in Cook County, and only one or two in Duluth. 

“We’re hoping to expand the sauna experience across Cook County, up the Gunflint, and along the North Shore. This is for people who want to sauna in their own yard, at their cabin, as part of a celebration - whatever the reason.” 

Because the sauna is wood-fired, people don’t have to worry about access to electricity. Katie shared that the sauna itself isn’t noisy and produces less smoke than a conventional wood-fired stove. 

Plus - the sauna is delivered to you.

The mobile sauna is available to rent for one night or longer, and someone from the Sisu and Loyly team will work with the renter to iron out specific details (land ownership, where to park, etc). Wood is provided. 


The mobile sauna debut 

The mobile sauna will have its grand debut the first weekend of May at the Larmon Cottages ‘Sauna Days’, a festival that celebrates Finnish culture and, yes, saunas. 

“This event will give people a chance to try out different saunas, learn sauna etiquette, and just hang around other sauna lovers.”

For Katie, it’s a chance to connect with other sauna business owners - including other women-owned sauna businesses. 

“There aren’t many women-owned sauna businesses in the state, let alone the United States”, she said. “We like to stick together and support one another.” 

For more information or to inquire about reserving the mobile sauna, visit: 

Warmth and Community at the New Sisu & Loyly Nordic Sauna in Grand Marais

Boreal Ship Spotter - larger view here