Families enjoy outdoor hot tubs

Sunday, June 12, 2005

The world may not revolve around outdoor spas, but many thoroughly modern backyard retreats sure do.

No longer an afterthought plopped down in just any old place on a deck or patio, hot tubs are the new backyard focal point to entertain, dine, or soak the day away in a steady stream of heated bubbles, cascading lights or favorite tunes.

This is not news to Erica Moir, director of marketing and design for Jacuzzi Spa Division. She's seen it coming for quite some time.

"The trend is definitely toward the creation of a three- or four-season outdoor living space that is integrated to the rest of the home," says Moir. People, she says, demand more and more features for decks and patios that are increasingly used all year long.

Spas seem to have turned a corner and gone mainstream, according to Moir. Once seen as little more than small hot tubs for swinging singles, spas are now accepted as in-home family getaways. And spas also appear to have accomplished the unthinkable: act as a conduit to get children and parents talking. Moir sees spas as another form of "interactive entertainment."

"Lots of users tell us it's the one place where families can talk together," says Moir. "Plus, when you're in the spa with the kids, you know where they are. That's a nice feeling." She offers another reason teens take to high-end spas: they see spas as cool.

Spas are one element in the pursuit of a total outdoor experience that includes grill areas and niches for conversation and entertaining.

Boomers have also fueled the surge in spas. Warm water jets, now positioned as hydrotherapy, are great relievers of aches and pains that come with age. In a nod to universal design and accessibility, handrails have been added as a steadying influence.

As deck uses have matured, so have spas. The boxy wooden contraptions of olden days, with a couple of high pressure nozzles, are passe. Now, state-of-the-art hot tubs feature 55 jets to massage backs, legs and necks, ergonomic seating, LED lighting, multiple water falls and surround-sound systems with pop-up speakers. Spa-goers in mid-soak can adjust water pressure and temperature, lighting, radio and music at the touch of moisture-proof remote controls.

There's another reason spas are outdoor centerpieces: the units can be quite large. Moir says Jacuzzi Hot Tubs offers models for groups of six or more as well as cozy units for two.

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