Drip Culture owners Shannon Hottinger and Nikki Neal.

Winter is near. And after shivering in Vermont’s frigid temperatures, folks probably wouldn’t mind sitting in a sauna for a bit. Enter Waitsfield’s new infrared sauna studio, Drip Culture.



On October 1, Warren-based Shannon Hottinger and Nikki Neal opened their studio in the Fuller House on Main Street. The space can accommodate roughly 11 people, with three saunas equipped with cold towels, essential oil diffusers, blue tooth connection for music and podcast picks, and overhead chromotherapy panels – colored lights that may address different health concerns, which sauna-goers can control with a remote.

Both discovered the joys of infrared saunas while undergoing “deep physical and emotional healing journeys.” Neale tried one in Florida and found it had “amazing effects,” while Hottinger’s Montpelier-based Naturopathic physician had one in her office, suggesting Hottinger try it to alleviate symptoms from chronic Lyme and other health issues. Opening a sauna studio “felt in line with what we were going through,” Neal said.


Infrared saunas produce heat like all other saunas, but they also emit various waves on the invisible light spectrum – in a sense, mimicking what the sun does, minus the harmful UV rays. Researchers say that each type of infrared wave may have different benefits to the body. A Harvard Medical School study from 2021 suggested that one of these wave-types (“far infrared”) may suppress the growth of cancer cells. Many other studies point to various positive health effects, such as improvement in cardiac function.

These saunas go back to 1891, when American physician and entrepreneur John Harvey Kellogg developed his Radiant Heat Bath, showing it at the Chicago World’s Fair. The idea then became popular in Germany where “Light Institutes” were set up and used by the elite. In 1965, a modern concept of the infrared sauna was revived by a Japanese doctor who patented the first ceramic far-infrared heater. 

And saunas are having an even more contemporary revival. The US sauna and spa market reached $3.7 Billion in 2021 and is growing at five percent, according to market research reports. 



Neal and Hottinger conceived of their business nearly six months ago, searching out a spot that would only need cosmetic renovations, which they completed with the help of their families. They decided on a space that was previously occupied by Bourne’s Energy, with three small rooms intact. “The bones were already there,” Neal said. They also liked that it was accessible on Main Street, near the Mad River and in a building occupied by several other women-owned and wellness-oriented businesses – Serenity  

Mountain Massage, Complexions for facials and waxing, and others.

Both said that Drip Culture is meant to be a space that is healing and social. Silence is not a priority – rather, people are free to talk in the saunas, mingle in the waiting area while drinking tea, and kids are welcome. “Covid showed us how vulnerable we are to social isolation, and we need these kinds of community spaces,” Hottinger said. 

That kind of model fits with Neals’ and Hottingers’ lifestyles and responsibilities, as women who want to care for their families and be entrepreneurs. “We met as homeschooling moms in The Valley,” Neal said. “We live here, and are parenting here, and that’s the reality.”

Drip culture is located at 4477 Main Street in Waitsfield.