By Eva Potter

A salt cave in Ellicottville? Sounds a little crazy, but once you experience it, you will no longer think so.

Daily stress adds up and creates an unhealthy state of being, and the new Ellicottville Salt Cave — New York’s first authentic European salt cave — owned and run by Tracy Draper, can help even the tensest person unwind. The business has been open by appointment since Nov. 26.

According to Draper, “it’s all about breathing good air,” and that’s exactly what this new salt spa will offer in the form of halotherapy, salt massage and exfoliation treatments.

Draper has been a massage therapist for more than eight years. While working in Ashville, N.C., last year, she was introduced to the concept of halotherapy, the use of salt vapor to treat a variety of physical ailments.

Salt caves have been used in holistic treatments in Europe for decades, dating back to WWII when people hid in the salt caves to escape the bombing. Now, halotherapy is practiced worldwide.

As a massage therapist, Draper felt the need to provide holistic and alternative healing therapies and, after much research, decided to open Ellicottville Salt Cave at 32 W. Washington St. in the village of Ellicottville.

“Halotherapy is good for the respiratory system. It’s anti-inflammatory, antibacterial,” Draper explained. “It’s good for allergies, asthma, sinuses and it’s calming for inflammation.”

Also, halotherapy benefits have been touted to treat colds, improve dermatological conditions and enhance sleep.

Draper has been working with a specialty contractor from Ontario, Canada, for more than two months to construct the salt cave using imported Himalayan pink rock salt — 10-15 tons of which was delivered by an 18-wheeler.

Draper distinctly remembers the delivery of “boulders of beautiful, healing, pure, pink salt imported from the Himalayan salt mines in Pakistan.”

Along with the delivery, came two construction experts from Poland.

“The language barrier created a fun guessing game with lots of laughs,” she said. “One day, I had to interpret a phone call from a frazzled Home Depot employee, who was not able to understand my workers’ request for a certain paint they were trying to order.”

Draper had planned to open a bit sooner, but last week’s massive snowstorm, which stopped the flow of traffic between Buffalo and Ellicottville for many days, delayed construction.

Describing the initial impressions visitors will experience upon entering Ellicottville Salt Cave, Draper said, “First thing you may notice when you walk in is the earthy feel of rustic barn wood. Straight ahead looms the spacious reception desk lit with rows of salt tiles. Then you notice the salt.”

She said salt is everywhere in all forms and sizes, including bath salts, candles, salt licks, cooking slabs, salt lamps and beautifully lit baskets filled with chunks of energy salt.

The spa includes four rooms — the salt cave, salt room, infrared sauna room and massage room.

Describing the 220-square-foot cave room, Draper said the floor is covered in 3 inches of salt. Salt rocks cover the walls and stalactites adorn the ceiling. A water feature uses salt rocks containing 84 trace minerals to create the brine vapor. Visitors are required to remove their shoes and wear paper booties to enter.

The cave temperature is maintained at a comfortable 70 degrees with 50 percent humidity. Gravity chairs, soothing fiber optic lights and Zen music lull you into a relaxed state to help your body de-stress and detoxify.

Don’t expect to take your cell phone and catch up on emails or Facebook while you’re there. Draper said there will be no electronics or talking. The cave room is a place to rest, relax and reflect as you inhale the soothing air.

She recommends the 45-minute salt cave session at $30 per person as a “great way to spend time with up to four of your friends or family.”

Describing the cave experience, Draper said, “Once the dark, rustic salt cave door opens, you will gasp at the magnificent boulder pink salt walls, the dim cave-like feel and smell. Gravity chairs beckon you to relax, be still, be at peace. Inhale the healing salt air created by a water feature trickling down a wall of slate.”

Currently, Ellicottville Salt Cave offers two packages. The Salt Life for Two is $250 and includes 30 minutes of salt room inhalation, 30 minutes in the infrared sauna room and a 45-minute warm salt stone massage. The Spice of Life package costs $100 per person and includes 30 minutes of sauna time and a 40-minute warm salt stone massage. Five 30-minute salt cave and/or sauna room sessions are specially priced at $125. And, unlike a traditional massage, there is no need to undress.

Gift certificates are available and make great holiday gifts.

For more information visit or call (716) 699-2068 for an appointment.